Saturday, January 19, 2008

Lenten Devotional Guide 2008

An annual tradition at my church is a book of devotions authored by the parishioners and inspired by the scriptures read on each day of lent. What follows is my submission for this years guide - before it hits the press.

In the Genesis reading, we begin to learn of the story of Joseph, the one made popular to the mainstream as the basis for an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. Two key themes of the story are jealousy and forgiveness.

On jealousy, I suspect we have all seen first hand the damage that jealousy can lead to and I suspect that many of us have had such feelings and such repercussions. Think about that which you may have felt this painful emotion. Think of other emotions that jealousy feeds; none of them are positive. Worse yet, it is not uncommon to act on jealousy and in doing so, cause irreparable damage and often unwarranted. In my own life, I have destroyed personal relationships because of jealousy. Reading the Genesis story and seeing the actions of Joseph’s brothers, and where those jealousies lead, it’s real and it is dangerous. Fortunately, this particular story ends in one of strength and courage because of Joseph’s ability to forgive what may have seemed to most as unforgivable.

On forgiveness, as Christians, we have no greater example than that of Jesus Christ himself who even forgave those who crucified him. Are any of you able to forgive at that level? For me personally, forgiveness is one of the hardest things for me to grasp – I’ve never been able to let go so easily, it’s something I have always struggled with. Imagine forgiveness without conditions, does it even seem possible? I often question how I can summon the courage to ask forgiveness when I find it so hard to give.

I will close by offering a quote by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr that puts it all into a prayerful and meditative context:

Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime,
Therefore, we are saved by hope.
Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any
immediate context of history;
Therefore, we are saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone.
Therefore, we are saved by love.
No virtuous act is quite a virtuous from the standpoint of our friend
or foe as from our own;
Therefore, we are saved by the final form of love which is
forgiveness.

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