To Count It All Loss

He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me
(Matthew 10:37).

I am not from a Catholic family, but I have some relatives who are Catholic. Some of their rituals fascinated me when I was younger. It seemed quite strange that anyone did church different than the way I had grown accustomed to. I remember that once a year, my cousins would give up something for what they called "Lent." It was something I thought was kind of funny and strange that my cousin often gave up chocolate zingers or the like. But I guess what really stands out in my mind is how each year they were learning how to sacrifice some things that pleased them--giving them up for a period of time if for no other reason than that it seemed to them the right thing to do.
I really do not know what it meant to them to give up something for Lent. I have no idea what kind of thoughts went through the minds of my aunt and uncle as they gave up something each year, and also led their children to do the same. I have never asked them what it means to them, but I look forward to the next time I see them so I can ask them that very question. It is always interesting to know why people sacrifice the things that please them, even if only for a season.
True sacrifice is not something that is easy to make, but it is something that is made because the benefits from the sacrifice are seen to be greater than the sacrifice itself. Within my own denomination there is often an emphasis on giving tithes and offerings, and an encouragement to give sacrificially. Occasionally, the pastor might call the church into a church wide fast to take place on a particular day, in which he encourages the congregation to be in prayer regarding a particular issue of importance. And there is the occasional sacrifice of time to go to the church on "work day" or to do something else for the church or community. But in our efforts as a denomination, not to become ritualistic I do believe we have succeeded. For there are very few, if any, rituals of any kind that are performed any longer. Rituals with all intents and purposes of drawing one's thoughts toward God, or regularly making sacrifice of something more from our lives than a tenth of our income or a Saturday church work day. Outside of Sunday morning, it would seem that we do very little else to draw our thoughts toward God as a whole. The times we come together to fellowship have become social gatherings most often designed toward recreation and entertainment than toward drawing our thoughts toward God. And, in most cases, our worship has become the dry and empty ritual that we have tried so carefully to avoid.
"The 40 days from Ash Wednesday until Easter observed by Christians as a season of fasting and penitence." That is one dictionary's definition of the word "Lent." What long periods of time have we set aside to focus on our need for God, to hunger for Him and realize our need to draw further away from our selfish and sinful state?
What if our pastors were to get behind the pulpit this coming Sunday, and to tell us that God is calling us to sacrifice some of the pleasantries in this life, so that we could draw closer to Him? And what if the pastor began to define some of those things, to include things like TV or movies, or perhaps types of music that we like? How soon do think it would be before the church asks him to resign? But the fact is that Christ has already asked us to give up everything, and has told us that if we are not willing to give up all of it--then we are not worthy of Him. Clinging to our precious earthly treasures is keeping us from drawing closer to Him, and therefore keeping Him from drawing nearer to a world that needs Him. For we say that the world needs Jesus, and rightly so, but God cannot do His work through us in this world because we do not draw near to Him. We say we want to draw near to Him, but we cling to the earthly treasures. Because of this, He cannot draw near to us, and therefore cannot bring the thousands of lost souls into His Kingdom. Are we willing to count it all loss--to look at what we desire from this life as something to be sacrificed--just so one person might come to know the Love of God in Christ? How long will be continue to be blinded by our selfish wants?

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served. . .in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).

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