And I for my part have made you today a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall, against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you. [Jeremiah 1:18-19]
We are in the second full week of Lent, one quarter of the way through our journey. When I began this effort to post a daily reflection, I have to confess I wasn’t so certain that I would be able to do it consistently.
Admittedly, it’s a lot easier in retirement to be consistent. I have few if any other events to distract me. But I also have to keep in mind that those distractions do emerge from time to time, and I still may stumble. But I continue with confidence that even if I miss a day or two here and there, I will simply move on without beating myself up about it. I realize that may disappoint those of you who look forward to these daily words, but should that happen, I beg your forgiveness in advance. I don’t mean to sound insensitive about it, but I know I serve a God who forgives, and allows us to begin anew each day.
The Old Testament readings from today until Holy Week will be taken from the book of the prophet Jeremiah. Yesterday being Sunday, we didn’t post a reflection. So I included the first ten verses of the opening chapter in today’s link above, and I encourage you to read the lesson before going on.
By way of background, Jeremiah was young when God singled him out to become a prophet. Like most prophets, Jeremiah objected to the call, but God had a purpose for Jeremiah, just as God has a purpose for each and every one of us.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations,” God says. [Jeremiah 1:5]
And God would not be deterred.
As I’ve said in a previous reflection, Lent is a time when we seek to grow closer to God. God enters into a relationship with us, at God’s initiative, not ours. We simply respond to God’s grace.
Lent is a time when we take an inward look at our lives, to do an honest assessment of our relationship with God and to repent of those things that are distancing us from God – to turn away from those things.
But, how certain are we of God’s goodness, mercy, and salvation? How sure are we about God’s ability to walk alongside of us?
When we ask ourselves these types of questions, they ultimately lead us to the ever-important question about who God is. We come to know that God is trustworthy, merciful, steadfastly loving, and one who desires a relationship with us. God’s reputation to provide is firmly established.
The journey of faith isn’t some kind of religious experience for a select few, it’s the glue that helps hold all of our lives together.
But faith is only as good as its object. If we trust people, we get what people can do. If we trust money, we get what money can do. If we trust ourselves, we get what only we can do. If we trust God, we get what God can do.
I don’t know about you, but I’m putting my trust in the God option.
Faith in God is knowing God and entrusting our life into God’s hands, trusting that God will lead us and guard us no matter the situation nor the circumstance.
But following in God’s ways isn’t easy, even for the most faithful Christian. The world does not encourage us to tend to our inner spiritual life, in fact, it does everything it can to distract us from such efforts. Sociologists have established that the key question Americans use to evaluate life is, “What’s in it for me?” God’s truth challenges that line of questioning.
Like Jeremiah we need to be reminded that we are more than what we say we are. We have been chosen, set apart and appointed by God for God’s purpose – to be God’s people chosen to proclaim God’s wonderful deeds.
The ways of the Lord call us to reach past our own wants and needs to care for the world God loves, to work tirelessly – even when we’re tired – for justice for God’s children (all of them, not just some, and certainly not just for us), to risk and to share and to love, to change ourselves and the way the world does things.
Our spiritual practices and disciplines during Lent prepare us to walk a long and sometimes lonely path. But if we follow them, those spiritual practices will shape us, mold us, and fashion us into more faithful people.
Each week in the season of Lent we are reminded that God’s paths led Jesus on a journey to Jerusalem that ended at the cross – a life-changing event for all humanity.
Keep in mind the words of God who reassured Jeremiah with the words: Do not be afraid…for I am with you.” [Jeremiah 1:8]
Lent is a time to choose who we will be, and whose we will be.
If Lent inspires us to focus our energy and attention on our relationship with God, perhaps we will indeed draw closer to God. And when Lent is over, we can be confident that the Lenten journey will have a good ending, because not even death could hold the Lord of mercy and grace.