Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Lenten Reflection for March 7, 2013

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?
My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?”
These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God. (Psalm 42:1-6a)

While leading an illegal, underground theological seminary just under the Nazi Gestapo’s radar, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about Christian community:

“It is true, of course, that what is an unspeakable gift of God for the lonely individual is easily disregarded and trodden under foot by those who have the gift every day. It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us . . .” (Life Together)

Like the psalmist, who reflects sadly on a time when he had the freedom to worship along with his companions, Bonhoeffer came to know what it meant to long for Christian community. When the gift of fellowship was easily accessible it would go unappreciated. Abundance can be the enemy of appreciation.

When I read the beautiful words of Psalm 42 that describe a thirst and longing for God, I am troubled. There are too many times when I lack such longing, as though the drink that is God is unnecessary to my well-being. It is the same difficulty that I have when I read the words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day, our daily bread.” I don’t ask for my daily bread, nor am I always thankful for it. I have plenty to eat. There is an abundance in my cupboard and more at the grocery store when it runs out. It is hard to be grateful for something that comes to me so easily and abundantly.

I do not desire to go hungry or to live in isolation. However, sometimes I wonder if it would take some severe stresses of life to enliven my longing for God. Certain garden plants should be deprived of water for a while in order that they would suffer stress and strengthen their roots. Could it be that lack of stress causes our roots to diminish? Has our abundance produced a lot of leaves but no fruit?

Perhaps the unwanted stresses will come, and in the lack of abundance we can cry out with the psalmist, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.”

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