Lent: Call to an Altared/Altered Life
12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (The Message)
Second Sunday in Lent
Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.
Lent is about re-Altaring and re-Altering our lives. Worship (Altaring) and our response (altering) go hand-in-hand.
-Hands and feet will follow our hearts. -Hands and feet will follow our hearts.
“What God does for us” (Altar) and “Embracing” (Altering) that is the characteristic pairing of grace. God does and, thus, we can do. Paul is right. This is “the best thing we can do for (God).”
To treat God as God is the fundamental duty and the profoundest delight we have as his creatures. Kenneth Grahame in his find story The Wind and the Willows brilliantly captures both the duty and delight Paul knows and counsels his readers to experience themselves. Mole and Rat were seeking the source of an alluring song calling them to come to it. And they arrive where the voice is.
"Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror--indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy--but it was an awe that smote and held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near. With difficulty he turned to look for his friend. and saw him at his side cowed, stricken, and trembling violently. And still there was utter silence in the populous bird-haunted branches around them; and still the light grew and grew.
"Perhaps he would never have dared to raise his eyes, but that, though the piping was now hushed, the call and the summons seemed still dominant and imperious. He might not refuse, were Death himself waiting to strike him instantly, once he had looked with mortal eye on things rightly kept hidden. Trembling he obeyed, and raised his humble head; and then, in that utter clearness of the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fulness of incredible colour, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that were looking down on them humourously, while the bearded mouth broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in majestic ease on the sward; saw, last of all, nestling between his very hooves, sleeping soundly in entire peace and contentment, the little, round, podgy, childish form of the baby otter. All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.
"`Rat!' he found breath to whisper, shaking. `Are you afraid?'
"`Afraid?' murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. `Afraid! Of HIM? O, never, never! And yet--and yet-- O, Mole, I am afraid!'
"Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and worshiped."
This is the life-blood of Christian faith. The presence of God. The point of Lent. Following Jesus to the cross we do indeed meet God. On a cross. Dying. Dead and buried. Yet this is God! This is the one we are to embrace in his dying for us. “Only a suffering God can help,” said Bonhoeffer. And here, where he has summoned us, we meet God and embrace this dead man as our deity. With the Roman centurion we cry out, “Surely this man was the son of God.” Here lies the mystery and majesty of the God we worship and serve. And this will change everything for us as Paul will lay out in the remainder of our Lenten text.