Lent Reflections @ CEC 2021 3/11/21
Lent is a time of going very deeply into ourselves... What is it that stands between us and God? Between us and our brothers and sisters? Between us and life, the life of the Spirit? Whatever it is, let us relentlessly tear it out, without a moment's hesitation."
- Catherine Doherty
Devotion & Scripture focus: Jonah 1: 11-16
The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So the sailors asked Jonah, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” “Pick me up and throw me into the sea, he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried to the Lord, “O Lord, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O Lord, have done as you pleased.” Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this, the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.
A dramatic conversion
Imagine that you are one of the sailors in this story. A man aboard your ship whom you don’t know has just told you that the only way to save your life and that of your crewmates is to throw him overboard. As a seaman, you know means his certain death from drowning, exposure, or the fearsome creatures that live in the sea. In other words, you would be complicit in his murder. What a terrifying decision to have to make!
The sailors decide that they would rather not be responsible for Jonah’s death, so they do everything they can think of to avoid following his instructions. They had already thrown their cargo overboard to lighten the load; now they row furiously to try to get the ship back to land. Finally, they realize that Jonah’s god must really be God; there is no way out of their perilous circumstance except to stop incurring his displeasure and toss Jonah overboard. Throwing themselves upon God’s mercy, the men confess their reluctance to comply with his direction; however, they also recognize the necessity of obedience. When the sea immediately grows calm, the men, new converts all, worship the Lord with awe and acts of devotion.
I find many parallels between the crew of Jonah’s ship and our modern selves. When God prompts us to action beyond our comfort zone, don’t we sometimes come up with excuses or try to find ways to avoid following through with the task? I am sure that many of us have experienced reluctance when we have felt God leading us to witness in a manner that stretches us. Perhaps we have ignored opportunities to join a community/accountability/fellowship group or to participate in a ministry that we fear might possibly inconvenience us in some way. We may try to reason with God that we are in the midst of the “terrible toos” - too busy, too stressed, too tired… Perhaps we try to appease God by offering an alternative way of serving. We may even pretend that we really haven’t heard God’s call at all.
Although he certainly could choose to do so, and has done so on occasion, God rarely puts people at the mercy of the wind and waves as a means of providing an opportunity for a dramatic conversion. But what if those of us who already call ourselves Christians periodically find ourselves in need of a different kind of conversion, a turning of the heart toward God and away from distraction? The Lenten season offers us this chance, a time in which to meditate on Christ’s sacrifice and to ask for grace and wisdom to discern what God would have us do in obedience to his leading.
Continue to turn our hearts toward you, and away from all things that take away our focus. Please show us how to obey your leading in our lives - leading us to transformation into your likeness.