March 3, 2009

MARCH 3 – WAITING PAIRED WITH PRACTICE

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By Amy Showalter, a senior Bible and religion major from Harrisonburg, Va.
SCRIPTURE: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 (NRSV) Scroll down for complete Scripture.

DEVOTIONAL: I didn’t grow up celebrating Lent in the traditional sense of giving up or taking on something for 40 days in preparation for Jesus’ resurrection. It has only been since high school through friendships with Catholics and exposure to the liturgical calendar that I have explored what waiting paired with practice might mean.

My practices have varied. I have given up candy when it was free, I have given up Facebook, and I have taken on more intentional reading of the Bible and practicing of prayer. Sometimes my choices of Lenten focus have been selfish, sometimes I’ve cheated and sometimes Lent has been an excuse to do something that I should be doing anyway. Usually, it’s a combination of all three. I’m not very good at Lent.

But it doesn’t matter. Because there is something essentially important about living into this time, believing that God will be present and working in whatever is to come. What I choose as a discipline for the 40-day period that culminates in the joy of Easter morning is really less important than the place and belief I am trusting to God.

Abram and Sarai enter into an everlasting covenant with God that changes them. They become different people, Abraham and Sarah. Likewise giving up unhealthy foods or technology and active engagement in spiritual practices changes us. We live into Lent with the same faith that Abraham and Sarah eventually claim (following a 99-year-old’s laughter at the idea of finally becoming a father). And God dwells in our midst.

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SCRIPTURE: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 (NRSV)

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.’ Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’

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Comments (14)

  1. I love the honesty in today’s devotional as it touches on how we all have, at one time or another, approached Lent. Often stemming from convenience or that which has the highest probability of producing in us “success,” we elect our sacrifice. How contrary this is to those sacrifices God outlines in scriptures as they were usually those with the least probability of producing obvious good and yet, ultimately good for us they were.

    I also like to consider for Lent not just the giving up of things, but the giving in to things – committing to things – things which we should already do, but have as of yet, failed to do. For me, I am going to commit for Lent to read the physical bible everyday – not just an online verse or quote or thought of the day, but the actual printed, written word. In this day and age of spiritual technology, my own discipline is lacking.

    Thank you for giving me great food for thought.

    Tamara McMillen March 3, 2009 |
  2. I very much enjoyed the candor and practical wisdom in this devotional. It is always God who gives the victory and so often we don’t accomplish what we intend to. Still we are loved and precious and Easter comes.

    Susan March 3, 2009 |
  3. Amy hit home with me. I also “do not do Lent” vey well. My goal is to be postive and not talk negative. I find it hard when all aroud me is “negative” talk. I don’t even want to talk to people! I do fall, but I realzie that each time I resist the temptation to join in I am a step closer to God. When I do fall I need to pray not to make the mistake again. About technology – the daily email is a great way to make me take 10 minutes out of the day to respond to what is really important.

    Jeanie March 3, 2009 |
  4. I agree, Amy, that while we want to perfect the practice of making a sacrifice, the most important thing is our desire to learn and grow in trust and renewing the fellowship we enjoy with our living God. Well said.

    Ruth Hochstetler March 3, 2009 |
  5. It’s a strange thing how I can feel called, or even that a certain thing may be an ordained into my life, but when it does not happen or become real in my time I given up and think I have missed God again.

    This passage reminds me that I am not the only one who may laugh at what God shares with him. The thing I am looking forward to is seeking God because He is God and worthy of all praise and not because I think He chosen or ordained my life for certain things.

    Korey P. March 3, 2009 |
  6. As a child, this verse made me happy and giggle. If God could make of Sarah and Abraham great nations of people, at their ripe old age, I might look forward to all kinds of amazing things in and for my life, too. Nothing would be impossible. And so it’s been.

    diana graber March 3, 2009 |
  7. Thank you for shedding a new light.

    Emily Jantzi March 3, 2009 |
  8. This week I am preaching at United Mtehodist’s Wesley House at the University of Montana. This meditation fits well with my theme, “From Rainbows to Resurrection.” I agree that it doesn’t matter how one chooses to keep a Holy Lent. What matters is the end of the story. Just as the Noah story is not so much about the ark, or rain, or flood, as it is about the rainbow; so the lenten story is not so much about what we do or do not “give up” or add for Lent, but is about the resurrection – Christ died that we may live and love.

    Tish Herries March 3, 2009 |
  9. Amy, awesome job with your devotion this morning. What a challenge we have, to live through Lent what we should be doing every day. Your piece read pleasantly and reminded me that it’s not as much what we give up but the act itself — discipline is a discipline, no? -sheldon

    Sheldon C. Good March 3, 2009 |
  10. Hear, hear and huzzah, Amy! I was encouraged by your meditation — you’re touching on something profound with your comment about “living into Lent.” Sometimes I think I risk falling into the trap of spiritual pride when even Lent becomes something to “succeed” at or “do well.” What on earth would that mean?

    I take hope from your gentle reminder that it doesn’t really matter how I well I do. You remind me that perhaps the main thing is to just do it anyway, whatever it is. And to trust that in God’s hands it will be enough.

    Cathleen Hockman-Wert March 3, 2009 |
  11. Oh Amy, what a wonderful thought! For Lent this year, I decided to do something a bit different. “Giving up” things never went very well with me. So I’m trying to create something instead. Poetry is a great love of mine, so I decided to write a Lenten poem focused on each of the devotions provided here.

    But I’m finding that even that is hard. With classes, homework, friends who want to talk and all of my other obligations, it is hard to find the muse/mood/strength of will to write something. (Especially without sounding corny.) Its good to know that, even if I don’t quite reach 40 poems, reflecting on the themes is enough to create a change.

    Mary Mapes March 3, 2009 |
  12. Thank you, Amy. Your comments were very
    meaningful to me.

    Frank Moore March 3, 2009 |
  13. I was touched by LENT being God’s Action —
    like the covenamt with A&S…..
    so trusting in God is MORE IMPORTANT than our Lenten practices;
    hopefully the practices can become the expression of our trust in the God who transforms us.

    Joe March 3, 2009 |
  14. Amy – this is a lovely reflection on both the season of Lent and the text. Though I can’t claim to have shaped you, as your pastor in Harrisonburg, I want to say, “I’m proud of you”, and to ask your permission to possibly use some of what you have said in this Sunday’s sermon on that text. Let me know,

    Meg
    the church email is cmchurch@ntelos.net

    Meg Wightman March 4, 2009 |