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What ... No Gold Stars?

“Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.” (Matthew 6:1 MSG)

 

One of the things I distinctly remember about first grade is a poster that hung in the front of the classroom with a list of rules on it: Be quiet. Stay in your seat. Do not talk to your neighbor. Raise your hand. Do not run. Wash your hands after you go to the bathroom. And so on. There was also a chart hanging next to it with the names of all the students in our class listed down one side and all the days in the grading period listed across the top. Our teacher made it clear: follow the rules on the poster and every day that you do, you will get a gold star next to your name. Earning gold stars became a competition of sorts.

 

The church my family attended when I was in elementary school seemed to reinforce the whole notion of earning stars. There was a poster in our Sunday School room listing the Ten Commandments:  “Love God more than anything else. Don’t make anything in your life more important than God.  Always say God’s name with respect. Go to church and rest on Sunday. Honor your mom and dad. Never hurt anyone. Always be faithful to your husband or wife. Don’t take anything that isn’t yours. Always tell the truth. Be happy with what you have.”  Ah ha! The Bible brought another opportunity to follow rules and earn gold stars!

 

My six-year-old understanding of following Jesus toppled, however, by the time I got to high school, and came across what Jesus said in Matthew 6:1: “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding.”  What? No gold stars from God for going to church, reading the bible, following the commandments, or being nice to people? Then what was the point of faith?

 

Fortunately, I was surrounded by adults and other youth who helped me understand that what God wanted most was to be in a real relationship with me: a heart-to-heart, spirit-to-spirit, relationship. I ended up learning that the point of worship and prayer and bible reading is not to earn heavenly stars but to stay connected to the God who loves us.  I ended up learning sin is not so much the breaking of a rule as it is moving out of a relationship with God. I ended up learning that following the Ten Commandments and The Great Commandment was not to avoid eternal punishment, but to live God’s dream for all of us. 

 

The Season of Lent is a wonderful opportunity for us to intentionally spend time thinking deeply about our faith. Who are we? Why are we here? Why do we do what we do? What does God want from us? How can we deepen our relationship with God?

 

Join us at Holy Trinity this Lent as we explore these questions and more!

 

Blessings!

Pastor Becki

 

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