Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Lenten Reflection for March 14, 2013

“No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” (John 6:44-45)

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)

It is interesting how we think about the ways that we approach God. We are an independent, free-will kind of people, and we know how to make our choices. So we choose to get up on a Sunday morning and go to church. We choose to take a particular seminary course because it fits our schedule. We choose to come forward to take communion, even though we’re not sure we really need to.

I’ll bet that Moses thought that way when he approached the burning bush. But he didn’t choose to be on holy ground—God summoned him there and then told him to take off his sandals.

I don’t believe in free will anymore. Will, yes. But not free will. My will just isn’t all that free. It’s polluted by all kinds of outside forces that have formed me over time and is influenced even now by voices and events around me. There is no purity of will to be had.

So I don’t think I can approach anything having to do with God as though I am a being with pure, unadulterated will. And perhaps, like Moses, when I think I am choosing in my freedom to engage with God on some level, I am actually responding to his summons. And by the time I realize where I am, he tells me to take off my sandals.

In all our fussing and worrying about choosing what will please us and stressing over things like our devotional life, it might be helpful to stop and consider that we don’t come to anything related to Jesus except that the Father has drawn us. And in our weak lives of prayer, it is the Spirit of God who steps in and intercedes on our behalf, not condemning our weakness, but carrying us through it.

The God of the Bible is not an abstraction. He is engaging, summoning, participative, purposeful. And having been summoned by him to worship, serve, learn, pray, love, and dine, how do we respond? Do we keep our sandals in tact because we choose to do so? Or do we remove them in obedience to the One who has always been calling us to stand at his flame?

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25-26)

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