Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lenten Thoughts

"The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:8-9)

"The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart"--this phrase jumped out at me this morning. I love its concreteness and physicality. What is more near to me than my own lips, my own heartbeat? My God is that near! My faith is as real as my own belief (with more than that as its basis, and yet as simple as that). My own confession of Christ's lordship in my life re-invigorates my faith each morning and gives my life direction. It's as simple as a quick prayer to commit my day to Him.

***

Well, we're coming up on Holy Week, and the homestretch of Lent, and I'm hanging in there with my disciplines. I have not been as faithful in reading the Daily Office as I intended--though I haven't missed more than two days in a row, and I have been able to catch up the days I've missed. I haven't blogged about these Lenten scriptures as often as I intended, due to lack of time. And I sure miss dessert, though I've broken even that intention on a couple of social occasions. (Although I must say, it took incredible willpower to walk away from my favorite kind of donut that the nice man at the bank offered me on Saturday when I was starving! I hardly ever eat donuts, and this one looked like it was from a really good local bakery.)

Am I closer to God? Am I stronger spiritually? I'm not thinking in those terms, actually. I feel like this Lent has been about not striving, just resting in God. One idea that has remained at the forefront, for me, is that Lent is not about self-improvement. I think in the past, I have recognized that, and at the same time, have thought, why not make it an opportunity to try to do exactly that!

But this year, that idea was extended so helpfully. A couple weeks ago, one of the men at our church spoke on this topic at one of our Wednesday night prayer services. He said, "Lent is not about self-improvement...it's about the opposite of that! We meditate on our own mortality, our sinful natures and our inability to save ourselves, and we recognize how many aspects of life are completely beyond our control."

All of us nodded. Looking around at the small group, everyone there knew about "beyond our control." A cancer diagnosis, financial reversals, career upheaval and failure, sales bottoming out, teenagers, toddlers...and ourselves. In fact, the Scripture passage he was speaking from was in Romans, where Paul exclaims, "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing." How we can all relate!

So we trust in God, not in ourselves. We walk with the Spirit, rather than trying to improve our flesh. We rest in Him and what He has done. We remember how much of life is beyond our control...but the life of the Spirit is right there "near you, on your lips and in your heart." We can't go wrong if we cling to Him!

4 comments:

Heather said...

Are there different versions of the daily office? If so, which version do you use?

Amy @ Experience Imagination said...

I'm sure I've heard this before ... well, maybe not, having come to appreciate the liturgy late in life. In any case, I really needed to hear it again, or for the first time. Thank you.

At A Hen's Pace said...

Heather--

I own a little 2-volume book set that has all the readings printed out by day--it's in the RSV. But the Scripture references for the Daily Office readings are in the Book of Common Prayer, and can be read in any version you choose.

Also, I often use the online version (I think it's RSV, too). In my sidebar, at the bottom, under "Links," there is one at the bottom for "The Daily Office (Morning Prayer)." It includes all the readings, including the Psalms, and other Scripture songs called Canticles. I most often just read the OT, the NT, and the Gospel readings, but it's all good, if you have time!

~Jeanne

Sherry said...

we recognize how many aspects of life are completely beyond our control.

This fact is exactly what God is teaching me right now, and it's a hard one for me. I want to fix things that I can't fix, particularly with my children, some of whom are no longer children and no longer under my control, if they ever were.