This is God's good world
March 5, 2022
Grace Episcopal Church (Nampa, Idaho)
This week we begin another season of Lent, a season of sacrifice, as it were. We have come through a long, long winter of Covid and seem to have stepped abruptly, not into spring, but a season of war. The phrase from scripture, “there is no hope in us” is too often apt. It is hard not to get caught up in this dark veil of fear and uncertainty that seems to encompass all. We are unsure whether to spend our days paying solitary attention to that which threatens us or to ignore current events all together. I suspect, whatever our choice, we still find our spirits unsettled, our minds unclear. It seems to be more and more difficult to see the path ahead and strike out boldly. And it is Lent.
Lent, for most of us, has been a time to pause and reflect. A time to take stock of our faults and failings, and, if we are honest, to imagine the suffering of others, of Christ, in the world. This year we were already paused. We have been paused for much too long and find it difficult to access the energy we used to take for granted. And as for suffering, there has already been too much of grief and death and now our lives are filled with women and children running from war while their men stay behind to fight a battle they have little hope of winning. And there is the renewed threat of nuclear war. What then, is Lent, in this dark and difficult time?
For me, the first clue is Sunday’s Hebrew scripture. Here Moses sets before the people all that God is giving them. He reminds them of God’s saving action in the past, how they have come from slavery into freedom, from being nobody, “a wandering Aramean” to being somebody, “a great nation”, living in a land “flowing with milk and honey”. Moses reminds the people gathered that they had nothing. They were nobody. And now, through the generosity of God, they are a free nation in a land of abundance. We don’t often begin Lent by marking our abundance. We don’t often make inventory of just how much we have. We mostly take it for granted. But maybe we should take the words of Deuteronomy to heart. Maybe we should start by taking stock of all that we have. Then, Moses tells the people, you need to offer a sacrifice of what God has given you. You need to remember what God has done for you, and “celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given you.” We are called, it would seem, to taking inventory, and giving thanks by celebration and sacrifice.
But there is what we have and there is who we are. Jesus is alone in the desert. He is alone, fasting for 40 days. He has absolutely nothing. He is, I suspect, unsure about who he is. And so the devil comes to tempt him. How does he tempt him? By offering to give him what is lacking. “How about bread?” the devil says to a hungry man. “How about power and riches? I will make you somebody!” he says to a man searching for purpose and identity. “Or better yet,“ he continues with glee, to a man weak from hunger and all too aware of his fragile mortality, “I will make you invincible! You need never worry again---about anything or anyone!” Now there, it would seem, is a way out of fear and confusion! There is some light in your darkness!! Who could say “no” to that? Jesus.
Jesus, in his forty days of fasting and prayer, found his way our of fear and darkness and uncertainty. He found his way past the worldly concerns of what he did or didn’t have, who he was or wasn’t. He found his way to the narrow path which God had set before him where he could stride boldly forward, because he had come to know the truth, that with God, he not only had enough, but he was enough.
We are now offered that same 40 days, that same opportunity. We are asked to fast and pray, to take stock of what we have and who we are and to be thankful. We have more than enough. We are more than enough. We wait in humble expectation, therefore, for God to show us the way.
Your prayers. . .
Friends, we are living in uncertain times. People across the world are protesting against governments who have had unprecedented power during the pandemic, we seem to be on the verge of war with Russia, and we seem uncertain how to even think about coronavirus these days, never mind know what to do about it. In times like these we are advised to pray. We are asked to pray without ceasing and to put our attention to the care and nurture of one another. We need to listen deeply, to be more patient, more forgiving, more discerning and even more hopeful. This is God's good world and in these uncertain times we must endeavor to abide even more deeply within the heart of the Kingdom.