1 March 2017
‘Now, now – it is the Lord who speaks –
come back to me with all your heart,
fasting, weeping, mourning.’
Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn,
turn to the Lord your God again,
for he is all tenderness and compassion,
slow to anger, rich in graciousness,
and ready to relent.
Who knows if he will not turn again, will not relent,
will not leave a blessing as he passes,
oblation and libation
for the Lord your God?
Sound the trumpet in Zion!
Order a fast,
proclaim a solemn assembly,
call the people together,
summon the community,
assemble the elders,
gather the children,
even the infants at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his bedroom
and the bride her alcove.
Between vestibule and altar let the priests,
the ministers of the Lord, lament.
Let them say,
‘Spare your people, Lord!
Do not make your heritage a thing of shame,
a byword for the nations.
Why should it be said among the nations,
“Where is their God?”’
Then the Lord, jealous on behalf of his land,
took pity on his people.
2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2
We are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God. For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God. As his fellow workers, we beg you once again not to neglect the grace of God that you have received. For he says: At the favourable time, I have listened to you; on the day of salvation I came to your help. Well, now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation.
Jesus said to his disciples:
‘Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you; this is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win men’s admiration. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing; your almsgiving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.
‘And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them; I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.
‘When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they pull long faces to let men know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.’
Come back to me with all your heart
For those of you who have read my reflections in Dec 2016, I shared that I had been ‘doing’ too much. Between running and executing a full calendar of fund-raising activities for my parish, serving at 4 retreats and my music ministry responsibilities, I was pretty much ‘burnt out’ by December. What started out as life giving, was sucking the life out of me. There was no longer joy in what I did and I found myself getting angry and frustrated. The last straw was an incident that happened within my cell group – which left me angry and further disillusioned.
So in January, I made my New Year’s ‘resolution’ – to step down from ministry work – ‘on sabbatical’ as my ministry puts it. They gave me a 2-month break. By the time you read this reflection, I would have completed my last parish project and I will be ‘off the hook’. I feel that my life was a complete and utter mess and I needed to step back and recalibrate. How can I possibly continue serving if I my heart is not at peace?
To begin my 2017 set of reflections on Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent is very significant. Especially during this phase of my faith journey. Doing the Lord’s work these past 3 years has been very edifying and has taught me to trust in the Lord. But I also let the ‘doing’ consume me, leading me to ask “So where are you Lord? Are you listening to my prayers? Is this what you give to those who love you? No wonder you have so few friends!” Complete utter silence, I could hear a pin drop. I am struggling with my prayer life and my faith is waning. Yes, I am throwing a tantrum. I have decided to step back from all things ‘churchy’.
Reading today’s readings gave me a sense of hope and comfort. Come back to me with all your heart…..Let your hearts be broken….. turn to the Lord your God again…
The Lord affirms me that He is waiting for me and you….in our emptiness, brokenness, weakness and sinfulness. A book I am reading says ‘He permitted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to step into a fiery furnace, but He met them there…. He will meet you in your furnace of affliction. He gave Peter the opportunity to walk on water – He is calling upon you too. But you’ll have to trust him. That’s what He’s after…. Your trust in Him. He’s after your heart…. The one that’s breaking.’ Only that we have to make a decision – the decision to trust him. Many times a day, hour or minute to trust Him. The choice is ours. So each day, I make that same decision. Over and over again. Yes, I fall many times. But I choose to remain in Him.
The walk in Christianity is not easy. The paradox of our faith is that the strongest Christian is the weakest Christian. His silence does not mean He is not listening or has abandoned us. God knows that through this journey of life, we will need to trust Him in everything for us to experience peace and joy. He has allowed in His wisdom the situation we are in, of desperation and hopelessness, to teach us something deeper about Him. He has brought us to our knees so that there is nowhere to look to but towards Him.
So if today is the day where you are thinking that you can’t possibly walk another step, if you feel the world is caving in around you, if you are tired and hurt so much from life’s situations, if you feel like giving up; then we have to make the decision to trust Him. The Lord might just be waiting for us to turn the corner, to take that last difficult step before we see what wonderful and awesome plans He has for us.
At a favourable time, I have listened to you; on the day of salvation I came to your help.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)
Prayer: Lord Jesus, grant that we return to you as we begin this season of Lent. Forgive us for our wrongdoings, and let us live in relationship with you. We pray for trust and deeper faith. Fill us with the Holy Spirit that we might follow you all the days of our lives.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus for your patience, your love and compassion. Thank you for waiting for us, despite how many times we choose to walk away from you.