You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Lent’ tag.

“…you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground…
…and you shall put it into a basket and go to the place
that the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his name.”
Deuteronomy 26.2

It does, at first sight, seem quite odd that the season of Lent…
 – a season of giving up and doing without…
 – should begin with a reading about a big basket of goodies…

The offering of a basket of ‘first fruits’, began as a Canaanite harvest festival…
 – a thanksgiving for the grain and grape harvests…
 – but which, when adopted by the Israelites, acquired an added new twist…

As part of the ritual of offering that basket of ‘goodies’…
 – the person making the offering was required to PAUSE…
  – and to REMEMBER…
 – and to recite a little bit out of their oral history…                                  Dt.26.5
  – “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor;
  he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number…”
 
 – to PAUSE and to REMEMBER a time when there were no ‘goodies’…
  – when life was not so easy…
  – when life involved affliction, toil and sorrow…

It can be easy, when times are good, to forget the times before…
 – times that may not have been so good…
 – times we would like to forget…
 – times that are now long gone and behind us…

It was important to the Israelite that they should PAUSE and REMEMBER…

In Lent we do the opposite…
 – we deliberately ‘do without’, in order to…
  – well, in order to do what…?

 – what are we doing, when we give things up in Lent…?
 – and why are we doing it…

 – to make ourselves feel bad, perhaps…?
 – to make ourselves uncomfortable…?
 – to raise our awareness of our own bounty…
 – to remember the poverty / disadvantage of others…?

Well, I suppose it is all of that…
 – but it is, above all, an opportunity to PAUSE and to REMEMBER…

The temptation of Jesus is not just a story of the victory of virtue over badness…
  – of good over evil…
 – it is designed to pull us up short…
 – to make us PAUSE and REMEMBER…
  – to pause and remember some of the fundamentals of Christian living that   so easily get lost in our rich, bountiful, and abundant world we now live in…
  – despite the recession…!

To PAUSE and REMEMBER…

“One does not live by bread alone”                 Lk.4.4

We are not to be driven solely by our physical needs and desires…

Money and goods are not the measure of our authenticity as human beings…

Life is more about seeking the depths within…
 – than it is about acquiring material things…
  – or attaining celebrity status…

We are SPIRITUAL, as well as physical beings…
 – and we neglect that inner being at our peril…

To PAUSE and REMEMBER…

“Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”                                          Lk.4.8

Much of the good things that we have are GIVEN…
 – through chance, through genetics, through the generosity of others…
 – none of us are entirely self-made…

Recognition of the grace of God in our lives…
  – the ‘givenness’ of much of what we are and have…
 – and the way we respond to that in ‘service’ to each other…
  – simple humanity towards each other…
 – is a first step upon our journey to becoming who we truly are…
  – children of God…

To PAUSE and REMEMBER…

“Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”                                                  Lk.4.12

Satan tempts Jesus with invulnerability…
 – throw yourself down, God will save you…!
 – that will prove to everyone that HE IS who he says he is…

But Jesus knows that VULNERABILITY, not INvulnerability, is the key…
 – that living by frail faith…
 – that living with uncertainty…
 – that living the ‘gifted’ life of faith, hope and love…
  – is worth more that any proof, or certainty…
  – and opens up a deeper relationship with God
   than we could ever ‘make’ for ourselves…

And so we pause and remember…
 – that DEPTH and GRACE and VULNERABILITY are where we find our true selves…
 – and where we reap our richest bounty…

Advertisements

“The promise that he would inherit the world
did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law
but through the righteousness of faith.”
Romans 4.13

St Paul had a ‘thing’ about Abraham’s faith – it’s his most quoted theme from the Old Testament – it’s central to his understanding of the Christian faith and the basis for his fundamental doctrine of ‘justification by faith’.  You know it: Abraham had faith in God, and we share in all the promises that God made to him by sharing Abraham’s faith.

If we read the New Testament in its various English translations, a slight confusion often arises.  Sometimes we read that ‘Abraham put his FAITH in God’, sometimes that he ‘put his TRUST’ in God, and sometimes that he ‘BELIEVED’ in God; all three of those capitalised words being translations of the same Greek word.

The problem is that as languages develop they seem to ‘unravel’.  What Abraham, Paul and the other biblical writers had as only ONE word (in their respective languages), has now ‘unravelled’ as THREE words in English: BELIEF,  FAITH  and  TRUST!

All three words are right, in a way,  but none of them tells the whole story on its own.  BELIEF and FAITH and TRUST are all bundled up together in one biblical idea, a biblical idea so important that it might be helpful to try to unravel the meanings of those three words, because each gives its own shade/colour to the overall meaning.  So here goes.

Abraham BELIEVED God

So often these days BELIEF is contrasted with DOUBT: ‘believers’ verses ‘doubters’.  In this sceptical age people are not prepared to believe anything
that can’t be proved or demonstrated, so that ‘belief’ almost equates with ‘certainty’.  But, in fact, it is ‘certainty’ that is the opposite to ‘belief’, not ‘doubt’!  And doubt and belief are part of the one thing.

The English word ‘belief’ comes from an old word that means ‘willingly’ or ‘gladly’; and that reveals the true characteristic of belief: something that we hold willingly and gladly.  And so we cannot be persuaded to believe anything – or forced, or cajoled, or bribed.  But belief IS something that can be encouraged and supported, provided that it is accepted willingly and gladly (along with all the doubts and uncertainties that are part and parcel of belief).

Abraham accepted gladly and willingly the hope that God offered to him.

Abraham also TRUSTED God

Trust is another thing that is going out of style these days.  We live in a world of guarantees and safeguards and assurances and risk assessments – most people don’t like to take risks these days.  And yet ‘trust’ is all about taking risks.  It’s about putting our lives into someone else’s hands.  To live without trust, without taking risks, is to live timid, limited, stilted, fearful lives.

The English word ‘trust’ comes from an old word that means ‘strength’ (think ‘truss’, a beam that hold a roof up!).  To live with trust adds strength to our lives, and allows us to stride out freely and confidently.

That is not to say that our trust may not be betrayed now and then, especially if we put our trust in other frail human beings like ourselves.  But to live trusting lives is to live in the belief in the ultimate strength and providence of God.

Abraham gladly and willingly put his life into the strong hands of his God.

Abraham had FAITH in God

Faith brings with it a personal element.  We can put our ‘trust’ in a well-built roof (solid trusses!), but we usually talk of putting our ‘faith’ in another person.

The faith of Abraham, as also the Christian faith, is not about ideas and theories.  It’s not about philosophy or metaphysics.  It’s not like Marxism, or Socialism, or Capitalism.  In fact, it’s not an ‘-ism’ at all, it’s a ‘-ship’: it’s about friendship, fellowship, relationship, partnership.

Faith is a two-way thing, linking two people, or even two peoples, together, gladly, willingly, strongly.

The God of Abraham is a Covenanting God, and covenants are also two-sided things.  We can only discover what that really means from the inside.  ‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating’ – and the proof of faith is found only when we reach out in faith to the one who has faith in us.

Abraham was old and weak, well past his sell-by date, when God reached out to him in faith.  And yet by responding in faith, to faith, Abraham found God’s promises fulfilled in him.

Abraham believed the Lord, put his trust in the Lord, had faith in the Lord, and it ‘was reckoned to him as righteousness’   (Romans 4.22)

Questions for reflection this Lent…

  •  what do we really believe in…?
  •  where do we really out our trust…?
  •  and who do we really put our faith in…?

img_0179

 My desk, 6.00 pm yesterday, supposedly my day off, what a mess!

This clearly calls for some Benedictine decluttering – roll on Lent.

The only consolation is that I made a cracking steak and kidney pie just an hour later:

img_0180

 Don’t suppose I shall be having too many of those in Lent.

Blog Stats

  • 12,833 hits