Psalm 32, the Lenten reading for this week, can best be summarized by the oft-heard maxim: “Confession is good for the soul.” The Psalmist describes the deep feelings of guilt and shame that all of us have felt one time or another for things we have done wrong. The Psalmist is tortured, cannot eat and cannot sleep. He’s a time bomb ready to blow. But then, he “confesses his transgressions before the Lord” and receives God’s gracious pardon. A huge relief pours over him. He captures his joy in the opening couplet, twice saying how happy he is that his slate has been wiped clean, his sins are forgiven. Oh, what a relief it is to… Let. It. All. Out! Whew! Psychologists tell us and studies show that the great relief we get from the act of confession can be so exhilarating that it can lead in some cases to false confessions that are later proved wrong by DNA and other irrefutable evidence. The confession-relief cycle is real.
Mahatma Gandhi tells a childhood story of how he lied and stole from his family in order to buy meat (a big taboo in his vegetarian household) and cigarettes for himself and a friend. Like the Psalmist, he lived in anguish. He couldn’t eat or sleep. He too felt like a time bomb ready to blow, until one day he wrote out a confession to his Papa. His father never said a word, but with tears streaming down his face, tore up the note as an act of gracious forgiveness toward young Gandhi. Gandhi was so relieved, he made confession part of his daily prayer and political calling. He later said, “confession of errors is like a broom which sweeps away the dirt and leaves the surface brighter and clearer. I [always] feel stronger for confession.”
If Lent is about anything, it is a season of confession. It is that time of year in the liturgical calendar when we kneel before the God of steadfast love, the God who forgives our every wrong, to… Let. It. All. Out! And happy are those who do so!
Welcome to Goshen College’s online devotionals for the 2014 Lent season! Our theme this year, taken from the Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada worship resources found in Leader magazine, is “Encountering God: What Have We Witnessed?” Every Monday an author will introduce the sub-theme, and on the following weekdays authors will reflect on a specific Scripture passage. The theme for this week, Lent 1, is “Grace abounded.”
Lent is a season of renewal through reflection on the life of Jesus, including his suffering and sacrifice. Today we know that in encountering the story of Jesus, the resurrection has already happened. The season of Lent ends in celebration of that reality as we move into the Easter season. The biblical stories we will encounter display God seeking after flawed people and people meeting Jesus for the first time.
“Encountering God.” Is this something we do, or an adjective describing an attribute of God? Perhaps both. As you read the biblical texts, ask yourself: What are ways each of the characters looked for Jesus? What are the ways Jesus encountered them? “What have we witnessed?” also has a double meaning of what we have seen (been witnesses of) and what we have told others about (witnessed to). Pay attention to what is happening in and around the characters, as we do the same in our own lives so that we may share with others our encounters with God.
I can recall several profound moments in my life where I encountered God’s grace – two times involved my daughter, Mira Susannah, named after her two grandmothers, “Miriam” and “Susan.” In the first instance, when she was nearly three, I am convinced God spoke directly through her to me as God prepared me to open my eyes to God’s power when I was in the Pit. The second instance was a year later when God again spoke through Mira while we were on a bike ride. This time the message I received was, “Bob do you still have no faith even after what I did this past year?” The Hebrew meaning of “Mira” is “bitter,” but the Latin meaning, “wonderful, marvelous,” better describes her personality. “Susannah” means “graceful lily.” I have encountered God’s wonderful and marvelous grace through my daughter, and I praise God for her and her ability to witness to me at such a young age.
Encountering God, you who seek after us in unexpected ways, help us be attentive to your movement and give us the courage to witness to your marvelous graces.
Goshen College again offers an online resource to help believers make time and space in their hearts and minds to reflect during the season of Lent.
Beginning March 5 (Ash Wednesday) and culminating on April 20 (Easter), Goshen College students, faculty and staff will provide weekday reflections based on the Sunday’s upcoming lectionary Scripture passages. Many writers will reflect on the theme: “Encountering God: What Have We Witnessed?,” taken from church-wide resources published in the binational Leader magazine, a joint initiative of MC USA and MC Canada.
The devotions will reflect honestly on the Scriptures and offer words of assurances of faith. The spiritual offerings will include poetry, personal stories, reflections and prayers, all intended to more closely examine the call to change and follow Christ.
Since 2001, Goshen College annually celebrates special seasons of the church calendar, particularly Advent and Lent, with online devotions.