Today's Lectionary Text
The Lord said to Moses, “Go, leave this place, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, and go to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, or I would consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”
When the people heard these harsh words, they mourned, and no one put on ornaments. For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, and I will decide what to do to you.’” Therefore the Israelites stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.
I know that not everybody loves Lent, but I relish this season. I learned a long time ago that I need a structured time to really sink deep into meaningful self-examination. As an angsty, bohemian teen, I indulged in far too much navel-gazing that led to nowhere. Part of growing up -- for me -- was learning to turn my focus outward from my own self-absorbed ruminating. When I discovered the liturgical calendar, Lent grabbed me. It was beautiful, metaphorical, soulful … and structured. I returned with a healthier understanding to the practice of reflection and confession.
The Israelites were well into their own desert journey. The wilderness offered way too many opportunities to navel-gaze, no doubt. I relate to the Israelites so many times when I read their stories. Their recurring sin was stubbornness and smug self-assuredness. I feel that in my bones. I never had those “glamorous” sins -- sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Nope, I struggle with good, old-fashioned “stiff-neck”edness.
But here we are in Lent, with a set apart time to reflect on my own shortcomings and ego trips, the ways in which my dogged insistence on my way has blocked my ability to hear and experience the God who journeys with me. Like the Israelites, there’s something in the stripping down to the bare bones that brings our attention to what really matters. Getting rid of all that glitters, distracts, and dresses up my life makes it clear where I’ve pressed my soul to the margins of my day-to-day life.
This wilderness is both beckoning and intimidating. But the invitation is there to journey further, to empty ourselves of what confuses the ego with what is real and confront our own stubborn hearts. There is peace on the other side.
Spiritual Life and Discipleship Director
Lincoln Trinity UMC
Prayer for Reflection
Prayer: God of this journey, soften our hearts and turn our heads to hear you. In this Lenten season, bring us to a sense of ourselves that is honest and ready to be transformed by your love. Amen.
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