(Jesus said,) "Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God."
The Jews answered him, "Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?"
Jesus answered, "I do not have a demon; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and he is the judge. Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death."
The Jews said to him, "Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, 'Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.' Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?"
Jesus answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, 'He is our God,' though you do not know him. But I know him; if I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad."
Then the Jews said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?"
Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am."
So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
When I was a child, each member of my family would give something up for Lent. Usually, it was cookies or candy, despite us kids trying to give up peas and broccoli. When I became an adult, instead of giving something up, I often commit to eating more vegetables and fruit. Making better choices leaves less room for the not-so-healthy ones. For the past two years, the busyness of graduate school has put a strain on both body and brain, especially being 250 miles away from my beloved husband and country home. I have put on some extra pounds and pulled out my stretchy pants.
This year, I attended an Ash Wednesday service near school after a long six hours of lecture. There’s something about a new space, fresh faces, and different voices that readies the heart for the word of God and new discoveries. As I prayed to be made steadfast in my Lenten commitment, instead of feeling an encouraging sense of “I can do better,” I was burdened by guilt. The demons I carried were self-loathing and disgust.
But then, there in the quiet candlelight, I was filled with the dawning that God requires no scourge, only repentance. I knew that I was made in God’s image and that if I failed to love myself, no matter how I have strayed, I would fail to honor God, for I have been created in God’s image. Instead of giving in to self-deprecation and guilt, I committed to embracing the gift of body and spirit given to me by God. This Lent, I will wake up in the morning, and look at the face of God in the mirror and name it to be good. I will give thanks for the opportunity each day to make choices that nurture and strengthen this body and soul, honoring God my creator.
Gracious God, we are of you and we are yours. You have called us “good.” Help us to see your face reflected in our own and in the faces of all those around us. By accepting all the many gifts that you have given us, and pledging to do better, we give honor to you. Amen.
Melissa Calvillo is lay leader of Carthage First UMC and a Deaconess candidate.