This devotion is the written accompaniment to a video Lenten message that can be viewed on our YouTube Channel by clicking HERE.
Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24 (Inclusive Bible Translation)
I am the one who has known grief under the rod of Most High’s anger. I am the one who was led away – left to walk in the night, far away from the light. The hand of God has been turned against me again and again, both day and night. God has torn away my skin and muscle and broken my bones. God has surrounded and besieged me with bitterness and calamity. God has cast me out into the darkness like those long dead. God has walled me in – there is no escape- and has weighed me down with shackles. Even when I call out for help, God ignores my plea. God has obstructed my path with huge boulders and blocked my ever step. I remember my woes and wanderings – the wormwood and the gall. Those memories are so clear to me, and they fill me with despair. Yet it is because I remember all this that I have hope. YHWH’s favor is not exhausted, nor has God’s compassion failed. They rise up anew each morning, so great is God’s faithfulness. “YHWH is all I have!” I cry. “So I will wait in patience.”
It feels like we are so close to the end. Maybe some of you have already been vaccinated. Maybe you have slowly begun to venture back towards “normal” life. Maybe you have your vaccine scheduled. Maybe you are looking ahead and making plans to when this is all over.
Tomorrow is Easter. We are so close to the joy of resurrection, the elation of the risen Christ, the glee of the conquering of death!
But it is not yet.
It is not yet Easter. Easter is tomorrow.
And if we anticipate things will go back to “normal” after this pandemic, then we are missing out on the truth that the world is forever changed. If the early followers of Christ had anticipated that things would go back to “normal” then Easter would not have the power that it does.
Like the writer of Lamentations, I imagine they felt they (Paraphrasing here) –“ Have you felt great grief? Have you felt led away to walk in the night? Have you felt as though God’s hand was turned against you again and again? Have you felt walled in – with no escape! Have you cried out for help and felt ignored?
If you have, then you might be ripe for resurrection. You might be more capable of fully living into God’s new life. To live into new life, we have to go through death, and then choose resurrection.
The focus of Lent this year – the fast we choose – is so important because for us to fully live into this season of Lent, this time of change in our lives, we have to choose how we move forward. We may feel as though we’ve already been giving up so much in our lives – we haven’t been able to have church like we normally do, celebrate weddings or births, have funerals, go to work or school – nothing has been normal for a long time and we have been “fasting” from our way of life for over a year now!
These fasts, however, have largely been involuntary.
So then, what is the fast we choose? Not what more do we lose or give up, but what is the fast we choose? Can we choose fasts like the one brought up in Isaiah – fasts to share food and resources with What of the fast mentioned in Isaiah? It is not to give up, but to take on – what if we choose to share food and resources with the hungry and the poor? To loose the chains of the oppressed? If we choose these fasts, then Easter comes to us every morning, and we move closer to ending not only this current pandemic, but the ones of racial and economic injustice that plagues us as well. We have to choose though, and we have to choose today before we can expect Easter tomorrow.
The poet of Lamentations knows – “It is because I remember all this that I have hope. YHWH’s favor is not exhausted, nor has God’s compassion failed. They rise up anew each morning, so great is God’s faithfulness. “YHWH is all I have!”
Prayer: Oh God, May we wait in patience, but as we do so, may we acknowledge the despair of this season. Although we know you do not cause or create our pain, may you be at work in our lives to transform it into bringing about new life and new hope. O God, it has been a long night, and there are many more long nights to come. But as this night comes to an end, may tomorrow morning be a blessed one. Amen
Rev. Alan Dicken
Regional Program Director