God gets dibs, which, in case you don’t know, is basically another word for when children “call” shotgun for a ride in the car (regardless of how long the drive will last, of course). God gets dibs on what love actually is, as well as all our possessions, and even on the entirety of our life. God gets dibs on all the above!
For starters, on this Valentine’s Day, the four letter L-word will be used haphazardly by many, and for others it will be meant with all the charged emotions behind it; whether that be during dinner or on Hallmark cards or through dozens of roses. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that, but God gets to call what love actually is in the grand scheme of eternity, and that’s what this season of Lent is meant to make us Christians realize from the start.
We often think the season we went through only a couple months ago is when love is at its height. Christmas is supposed to bring out the best in humanity: begging us to be more kind to one another, donating time and money to charitable causes; because of the precious lovely moment of a baby boy in a manger. Again, there’s nothing wrong with those sentimental thoughts, but Lent truly reveals us to us the depth of God’s love through Jesus Christ.
Because what happened in Bethlehem was only the beginning, setting the stage for our Savior to not only come into our world, but to immerse Himself into our life: to love us so much that He will dedicate His time to responding to the cries of the needy, listening to those in distress, making the blind see, raising the dead, and ultimately to give His very life for the same humanity that criticized, bullied, and tormented Him to the point of death.
So yes, God gets to define what love actually is in the grand scheme of eternity, because even with such a sacrifice of eternal proportion, Jesus never intended to make us feel guilty (since, of course, our human love could never impact humanity the same way). Also, Jesus never desired to control or manipulate our life through His actions. Jesus never wanted wealth or to win any kind of popularity contest. Jesus simply, beautifully, gave up His life, and along the way gave up so incredibly much, which humanity continues to covet to this day.
With that in mind, Lent also reminds us that God most certainly gets dibs on all our possessions, much like how Jesus lived throughout His ministry, never wanting extravagant anything, including amounts of money, because His time was about increasing the wealth of life in its joys and fulfillments in God. So the first reading we heard this morning, as our journey of Lent is just beginning, is rather appropriate to hear. Long ago the Israelites harvested the land, they would take a portion of the first fruits from the harvest and bring it to their house of worship, for God to use for the community at large. Not the leftovers, the first fruits of the harvest. How much of a difference it would make on our life of faith if we envisioned our offerings, our talents and gifts, our time with God, not as whatever we have left to give at the end; but as what we do to begin with. God gets dibs on all the above, because without God none of it exists at all.
From a simple change of mindset, we see worship not as, “If I feel up to it at the end of our weekend, I’ll make an effort to come;” but because we are blessed with all the time of the week ahead, we will first and foremost give our time to worship and give thanks to God. We will also give the first fruits of our income to God, not because we feel guilty or feel obligated to do so because of some pastor or a Scripture passage, but because we love this God Who is our all in all, and we know that God will find a way to use our gifts to impact our neighbors and beyond. And certainly we will take advantage of opportunities to use our talents, first of all, for the sake of others, just as God envisioned when we were claimed through the waters of baptism. God gets the first fruits on all the above, because without God, none of the above exists to begin with.
But back to the gift we so often take for granted as Christians, our baptism, that we usually only appreciate when it comes to the end of life; that baptism will get us into the heavenly realm. Except, baptism is how God gets dibs on our entire life, on claiming who we are for the entirety of our time on earth. We are children of God. We are made one with Christ, sisters and brothers with one another in this precious family to care for one another, lifting each other up time and time again.
We are children of God even before we’re Americans. It is our first and most important identity! Because before there was St. John’s, or Michigan, or the United States, or even this entire planet, there was God; and there was this love that envisioned a humanity that would be saved by the one and only Son. So whether we like it or not some days, God has dibs on us, on all that we have, on all that we are. God has a claim on us and this entire world. And this season of Lent will remind us time and time again that that love that was shown for all of us on the cross can never be taken away from us, and for that we give thanks to God indeed. Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Dennis Smith, Interim Pastor
Office: Tue - Fri: 9 a.m. - Noon