SECOND WEEK OF LENT FEBRUARY 25
Change My Heart, O Lord
Scripture: Isaiah 1:2-20, cast as a prophetic lawsuit in which the Lord brings his case against Israel. It is a devastating case. Reading it during Lent, we place ourselves at Israel’s side, knowing our culpability before the Lord. Like deer in car headlights, Israel and we are caught and paralyzed in guilt.
We may wonder where did some of these accusations come from, and then we vaguely remember. When we have gossiped or took advantage of another, we have acted without regard to morality or God’s way. When we tell others what they ought or should do, we may lack not only charity but also empathy to understand. Often we make matters worse.
In the lawsuit, the Lord does not seek retribution, but a change in heart and behavior.
The important attitude for us to bring to action is to recognize the interests of those who are not fortunate, who struggle to survive and who are easily taken advantage of by others more fortunate. These interests are as important as ours. Our future depends on the success of that society often criticizes. May our reasoning together not be filled with hate and endless accusation, reflecting our own perspectives and working for our own advantage—all of which is the spirit of the age. This Lent, let us move from being deer caught in the headlights to those who trust in the gracious and righteous Judge. May we reflect in our attitudes and actions God’s love.
Prayer: Gracious God, I thank you for confronting us with judgment, your forgiveness and for opportunities to serve. Amen.
Open my eyes that I may see
Scripture: Matthew 2:16-18
During the early 1990s, I traveled extensively, working independently. While I had ongoing core activities, I always made it clear that I was open to discussing new opportunities. One of these came from a logistics firm, the leaders of which suspected that employees were stealing goods in shipment.
My exploration would eventually prove that poor administrative practices were actually to blame. Consignments comprised of multiple packages had individual boxes misplaced at transshipment terminals, or an item from one bill of lading would be accidentally delivered to the wrong merchant. I was able to clearly demonstrate this and then recommend a solution.
Prior to this discovery, my task was to enter the favela just outside of the pier and find the missing merchandise there. This shantytown was a place of extreme poverty, and I witnessed the suffering of those whom I had been sent to catch red-handed. These migrants were primarily from the Dominican Republic or from Haiti. The local government routinely deported these people, and yet there were always more arriving in small boats.
I recall destitute children begging, clothed in rags and without shoes. There was no running water, and orphans were living in cardboard boxes mired in filth. The missing cargo would have had no value in that place. Today, this very day, there are children all over the world suffering because of the indifference, hatred, and violence that can often rule the human heart.
It sometimes seems as though King Herod has left his own legacy, yet Jesus was born into the harshness of our world for the sake of our world. Our current practice of giving up some luxury or convenience for Lent seems superficial and hollow to me now.. A failure to perceive this may be omitting a key component of the meaning of the cross.
As followers of Christ, we must care about the children in harm’s way, both close at hand and across the sea. Rachel is still weeping, and by means of our prayers and our action we can join with her and support her.
Prayer: Lord, prepare me to care for the suffering and needy of our world by thoughts, prayers, and actions. Amen
Strength to Keep Praising God
The Lenten season is a time for deep contemplation. Jesus taught his disciples how to live according to God’s wishes and now Jesus is about to be crucified fulfilling Isaiah’s prophesy—but wait, that is not the end! On the third day, Jesus rises, conquering death and giving all of his believers the promise of life everlasting.
As Christians, we all find “the strength for the living of each day” in our own way. For me, it has been through hymns. In times of confusion or frustration “Dear Lord and Master of mankind, forgive our feverish ways” restores calm to my day. In times of great happiness, “Joyful, joyful, we adore thee” expresses a heart filled with gratitude and contentment. Overwhelming sadness is soothed by humming, “Beneath the Cross of Jesus”. For me for every circumstance, there has always been a consoling or strengthening hymn.
I have a had number of serious surgeries and always on the top of my hospital bag there have been printouts of my favorite hymns, some petitions, and others are songs of gratitude. At age 96, I am daily more aware that “all I have needed thy hand has provided”. For the past 20 years, Lima Church and the friends I have made here have been one of those gifts granted me.
Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to praise the Lord with singing or with the lute, or with the lyre, the piano, or the trumpet. Amen