Luke 9:51-53

51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.

Right here we experience a shift. Until now in the ministry of Jesus it is easy to see Him in him Isaiah’s prophecy of Savior as Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace: Miracle worker, preacher, and teacher.

Here is the shift. As Jesus sets His face toward Jerusalem, we begin to recognize another of Isaiah’s prophecies: Jesus the Suffering Servant. The Son of Man resolutely sets Himself for Jerusalem and the Cross.

We will examine this shift all through Lent as we focus on the hard teachings of Jesus Jerusalem ministry and ever ramping up intensity of Jesus last week before the crucifixion.

This was the sermon I was going to preach, tonight. Stay tuned. This is what we explore over the next six Sundays.

But tonight and for the next forty days of Lent, the Lord has called me not so much to explore Scriptures, but tonight and this Lent, I need to explore my heart.

In my preaching I use a lot of personal stories, but I always leave an opaque wall between you and my soul. Tonight, I feel called to let you see in – just a little.

I am wearing one of my son, Matt’s jerseys tonight on purpose. These reflections begin with a time last summer he and I were shooting our bows together. When teenage Matt made one errant shot, he stomped around, shook his head and made a fuss.

A few minutes later, I made one of many errant shots. I turned to him, and asked, “Isn’t it like looking in an emotional mirror? I am feeling as angry and frustrated as you, but as an old guy, I am just quieter about it.”

Yesterday, I proved that I am not always quieter about it. If I were better at Photoshop, at this point I would display a picture of a grizzly bear on its hind legs, claws extended in full attack mode with my fiercest face. That about describes me yesterday morning.

I was just so angry. I knew it was irrational. Part of my mind was wondering who is this animal barking, growling, and snapping at those closest to me?

The rational part of my brain was looping the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:15, I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. But, it didn’t seem to matter. I was just a bear.

And I tried to tell myself it was justified.

I’m overworked. I am no busier than I was last week or the week before.

My health insurance company bugs me. Yesterday was nothing new.

I have so much running around to do, actually, yesterday there was hardly had any at all.

It was just an irrational anger. It was like I had to be angry, and so I was. Have you ever felt that way?

As I am feeling all of that, I kept remembering Lent was about to begin. Is this any way to get ready? So I was mad at me about that!

Lent, 40 days of preparation for the death and resurrection of Jesus. Forty days when we traditionally give something up – make a sacrifice in preparation of remembering Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice. 40 days when we traditionally take something up to get our souls ready to face the cross and grave.

I knew was not ready – I felt / feel unworthy. I felt / feel unlovable. Why would the Son of God die for this old grizzly bear?

Great, just what I need now! A crises of identity as a Child of God at the beginning of this holy season.

I expected to get angry about that. But curiously, that not where the Lord sent me.

Instead of getting angrier, I was led to ask for forgiveness. I sat down with friends and family and said, “I’m sorry.” I tried to make up for being so lousy. That’s called atonement, repairing the damage my behavior caused. I apologized to the people around me and to my God.

The apologizing to God took the form of an old, old prayer I learned in the second grade. It begins with the words, “Oh my God, I am heartly sorry…” And includes the words, “With the Help of Thy Grace…”

If I ever get the guts to get a tattoo I would have those words printed on my arm. If I ever write an autobiography, that would have to be the title. With the Help of Thy Grace. I can be better than who I am. I recognize I don’t deserve love, and the life giving salvation the death and resurrection of God brings. But with the Help of Thy Grace, Oh Lord… this old bear can keep trying to be better than who I am.

In a minute, we will be branded in ashes with the cross. We will literally live out the Bible verse Jesus commands of us – “Take up your cross and follow me.” Taking up our cross is giving something up for Lent. Take up your cross. Take up something for Lent.

The brand cross on your forehead means we are children of God’s grace. Let’s you and I try to believe it for ourselves these 40 days and with the Help of Thy Grace, Oh Lord let us be better than who ae are right now.