March Madness is here! I’m fascinated with the best of the best competing at that level. Two world leaders, U.S. President Barrack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron were criticized for postponing weightier matters for front row seats at the kickoff match in Dayton, OH. We can anticipate 68 teams, 67 games, in-depth character studies and lots of trivia. Univ. of Kansas sets a record with its 23rd appearance since the games began in 1908. Duke comes in a distant second with 17 visits. Excitement and hype are guaranteed, over winners and losers, through hope and heartbreak.
Fasten your safety belt because now I’m turning a hard right from March Madness into being “madly” in love! I know, kind of free flowing….or as my kids would say…RANdom, but this has to do with our “journey” during Lent. Our journey to the cross with Jesus, that is, thinking about His Words, examining how we live those out, or not.
What do you think when you hear “madly in love?” Maybe your first “crush” or being crazy about someone. Perhaps unconditional love or a love that “drives your bus,” as they say about what motivates you. I know a man who confesses he’s still madly in love with his wife of 50 years! On the subject of “madly in love, “ Thomas Aquinas, the 13th C Roman Catholic Priest/Philosopher commented on living in harmony. I quote, “First we need to know we are all madly in love with the same God!” “Madly in love with the same God!” Unlike March Madness, “madly in love with God” has no losers, only winners!
Here are two examples that go beyond the Lenten season in following the way of Christ. They make all the difference in the world….and in the world hereafter! The first “madly in love with God” journey is the Children’s Christian Concern Society. Based in Topeka, KS, this worldwide outreach is a recognized service organization of the LCMS. 40 years ago they began with 11 children. They’re now blessed to reach 25 THOUSAND children through 241 sites in 25 countries. Education leads children out of poverty. For 30 years, Concordia Day Care Center has provided a haven for the children of the BangNa [BongNaah’] Slum on the edge of Bangkok. Every day, 45 children as young as two years old come to this bright and engaging preschool. They learn Thai and English letters and numbers with regular Bible lessons and prayers. In the afternoon 15-20 school age children come to the center to use the computers to do their homework.
In 2010, a fire destroyed ten dwellings in the slum, putting its 1780 inhabitants in danger. Miraculously, no one was killed or severely injured. Gifts of clothing, household goods, and building materials from Christians distributed through the Day Care Center showed this Buddhist community that God deeply loves them. When CCCS staff visited the site just a few months later, homes were already being rebuilt. To learn more visit cccskids.org
The other “journey” I love to tell about is Lutheran Church Charities under the direction of Tim Hetzner in Addison, IL [lutheranchurchcharities.org] This mission brings the comfort, compassion, Presence and proclamation of Christ to those in need. They connect with needs in creatively brilliant ways! Their K-9 Parish Comfort Dog ministry, for example, sends trained dogs and their trainers into not only churches and Sunday schools, but also disaster areas, like Haiti, New Orleans and recently to tornado ravaged areas in Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and this week in Michigan. One dog I heard about visited a high school counselor’s office to meet a student who had not spoken to anyone for 3 months after witnessing the murder of his friend. When the counselor left the room and came back, he found the student on his knees talking to the dog and the gates for healing were opened. LCC also offers Biblical educational resources, daily email devotionals, soup kitchens, parish nurse, deaf and ethnic ministry support. Maybe one of them is speaking to your heart. Both organizations, Children’s Christian Concern Society and Lutheran Church Charities are donor supported and rely on volunteers and the prayers of those of us who are “madly in love with God.”
Why cite such organizations during Lent? Because they bring it home about our “journey” with Christ to the cross. They compel us to respond to Jesus’ sacrificial love for our greatest need, being lost in our sin and apart from God without Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. How can the world tell you’re madly in love with God? If you’re looking for a way to show it, ask Him to point it out to you. He will! It could be through one of the journeys I told you about today.