Are We Willing?

A Sunday Reflection for the Second Sunday in Lent.
The lectionary readings for today are here.

On this second Sunday in Lent, I’m drawn back to the invitation to Lent we read on Ash Wednesday: “I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.” (Book of Common Prayer, pg. 265).

In our weekly Bible Study group*, we’ve been reading through Genesis and Exodus and inevitably our conversation turns to all the things God does that we label as ‘bad’ or ‘angry’ or ‘mean’. As we look at these ancient texts through our 21st century lens, it makes us uncomfortable to watch others face the consequences of their chosen behavior. In an attempt to make ourselves feel better we get upset with God rather than taking an honest look at what the people have done. In looking at how God’s people behave we have to then turn the examination on ourselves and ask how do we behave in the same way? How do we choose to do our own thing and just expect God to be available to us when life gets difficult or when we get into more trouble than we can handle or when it’s convenient to us?

Self-examination is difficult work. I can’t say I really did any serious self-examination before my early 40s. And because of the circumstance in which I found myself, I’ve spent a lot of the last two years in self-examination (some folks took up bread making in the pandemic, I did self-reflection, I’m just kinda odd that way). I’ve discovered somethings about my behavior I’ve been working with God to change and I’ve discovered a lot of ‘me’ that is good. And, most importantly, I’ve grown more deeply into my relationship with God. For me this is the greatest benefit – and perhaps even the intended purpose – growing into the command to love God with all of our being and to love our neighbors as ourselves, and coming to know that it is what we are created for.

In our gospel reading for today, Jesus laments, “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” He’s talking to the people of Jerusalem. He’s talking to all people throughout history. He’s talking to us. I say it over and over again, God’s greatest desire is US. God seeks us, came to us as one of us, so that we can choose to be in right relationship with God and live as we are created to live. Are we willing?

Are we willing to practice the activities we are invited to in Lent (self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word) not just for 6 weeks a year but always? Are we willing to risk discovering somethings about ourselves we want to change for the benefit of others? Are we willing to risk discovering all that is good within us? Are we willing to accept that God is God and we are not? Are we willing to experience being loved fully and unconditionally by God so that we can learn to love others and ourselves better?

Lent isn’t about obsessing over how bad we are, it is about discovering Whose and who we are as God’s beloved children and growing deeper into our relationship with God, each other, and ourselves. Are we willing to step into the most exciting and amazing journey of our life?

*If you don’t yet know of, I highly encourage you to check them out! I know you’ll be glad you did. We are having a lot of amazing conversations around the parish (not only during the scheduled Bible study time either!) about the stories and meaning and application of our holy scriptures.

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