Third Sunday in Lent, March 7
Do not use the Lord your God’s name as if it were of no significance; the Lord won’t forgive anyone who uses his name that way. (Exodus 20:7)
After we are aware of God’s presence, we must become open to God’s guidance. It is a radical and cross-cultural action to stop treating God as a perpetual vending machine in the sky, a being that dispenses blessings upon request and therefore is dependent upon our own actions, thoughts, and spirits. It is powerful to speak of God’s presence in the world, and it is a righteous thing to point to God as the source of all good. But when we only speak of simplistic blessings, we ignore entire aspects of God and manage to sidestep that our Lord doesn’t only dispense blessings—God guides us in every area of our lives.
This translation of the third commandment frames how we tend to speak of God . . . and calls us out for it. How many times have you willfully and intentionally made a poor decision in your life? And how did you sidestep your awareness of your poor decision-making by telling yourself that God offers blessings or that God wants you to be happy? When we turn God into a blessing dispenser, we get to conveniently ignore God’s guidance.
This Lent consider what you need to come clean about around this tendency.
Prayer: God, help me to stop deceiving myself.
Monday, March 8
Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy. Six days you may work and do all your tasks, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Do not do any work on it—not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your animals, or the immigrant who is living with you. (Exodus 20:8-10)
Work can glorify God. Work can also become its own god in our lives. An unbalanced life—even when created in response to one’s faith—is not pleasing to God.
The nature of work has changed substantially in the past few years. For those who work remotely or outside of the home, there is a relentless edging toward constant availability and an “always on” work culture. For those who spend their time either managing a household or raising a family, or both, the ever-growing array of tasks that must be attended to simply does not stop. And many of us hold both of these roles in visible and invisible ways. Taking a sabbath feels like a radical action—and an action that will simply leave us further behind tomorrow.
But our spirits were not designed to simply work and toil. Even God delighted in and rested on the seventh day. If we think that we can “push through” day in and day out, aren’t we putting ourselves above God? Consider how God is guiding you into rest, sabbath, and silence—and consider whether this Lenten season is an invitation to finally take your sabbath seriously.
Prayer: Divine Leader, I will listen when you tell me to rest.
Tuesday, March 9
Heaven is declaring God’s glory; the sky is proclaiming his handiwork. One day gushes the news to the next, and one night informs another what needs to be known. Of course, there’s no speech, no words—their voices can’t be heard—but their sound extends throughout the world; their words reach the ends of the earth. (Psalm 19:1-4)
The phrase “what needs to be known” has an abundance of layers. Have you ever been in a situation where an awareness about a problem or a relationship simply appeared to you? Some speak of experiences of justifying grace, when God’s love and care became suddenly and fully present at a specific time in one’s life. Looking back, God had always been present, but this new awareness and warming of the heart could be seen as heaven “declaring God’s glory” and informing the world of what needed to be known—that God’s grace is sufficient.
God’s grace is a form of guidance. Allowing ourselves to consider that God wants to guide us (and not punish us) opens up new ways of encountering the Holy Spirit. What would change in your life if you truly embraced the guidance of God in your life? Would you pay more attention to what the Holy Spirit may be telling you in any given day? Would you consider that the voices of loved ones and strangers may be a way of God guiding you in your life?
Prayer: May your guidance, O Lord, be welcomed as direction and not as punishment.
Wednesday, March 10
The Lord’s Instruction is perfect, reviving one’s very being. The Lord’s laws are faithful, making naive people wise. The Lord’s regulations are right, gladdening the heart. The Lord’s commands are pure, giving light to the eyes. Honoring the Lord is correct, lasting forever. (Psalm 19:7-9)
Faith is often stereotyped by the assumption that a faithful person lives a rigid lifestyle following a stringent set of rules. Christianity does have a multitude of guidelines to consider when living a faithful life, yes. But rule-following is not the point of Christianity.
The psalmist writes of God’s “perfect instruction” for living a faithful life. The joy found in God’s law is not about blindly following direction, but about being open to how God’s guidance can help us become wise. God’s guidance shapes the mind and the heart, “giving light to the eyes.” This expansive understanding of the goodness of God’s guidance calls us to ask harder questions when we are faced with pain or injustice. What is God’s guidance in this moment?
In this Lenten season, what is the guidance God is pouring into you? In what ways are you being nudged to consider how you live your life?
Prayer: Redeemer, help me to follow your guidance in a way that honors you.
Thursday, March 11
Clear me of any unknown sin and save your servant from willful sins. Don’t let them rule me. . . . Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:12-14)
The Christian journey is one of continual growth, and God’s guidance includes opening our eyes to our own shortcomings. Just as we became aware of God’s mercy, presence, and promises over time, we also become aware of our own shortcomings.
It has been interesting to see how social media can help bring awareness to brokenness in the world, as well as to those who have committed their lives to eradicating brokenness. Racism, sexism, classism—all the “-isms”—aren’t new, but our society’s access to information has brought them into light as they’ve never been before.
Unknown sin is oftentimes the most challenging sin to face. When God makes us aware of how humanity is interconnected and how we are often complicit in the brokenness in the world, it is humbling. And yet, through God’s mercy, presence, and grace, we are offered guidance in how to respond.
Prayer: Push me to see as you see, Gracious God, and guide me to respond.
Friday, March 12
Jews ask for signs, and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, which is a scandal to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But to those who are called—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom. This is because the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:22-25)
The point of this scripture is not to scapegoat a group of people, but to symbolically show how the message of the cross goes against any rational understanding of power and authority. As we edge closer to the cross in this Lenten season, we are reminded that a criminal’s death on the cross is the ultimate humiliation for someone who had been lifted up as the Son of God and the One who would save humanity. The death on the cross makes no sense for those who proclaim that following the rules would lead to salvation—and safety.
A “rule breaker” is so antithetical to our understanding of what it means to be a good person that we often gloss over how many rules Jesus broke in his ministry. He talked to women, touched the unclean, crossed racial boundaries, broke economic rules, and generally caused a lot of disruption wherever he went. Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom. What does it mean for you if God’s guidance is pushing you to upend the status quo and live your life in a way that makes a difference for Christ?
Prayer: Teacher, embolden me to question “how we’ve always done things.”
Saturday, March 13
It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple those who were selling cattle, sheep, and doves, as well as those involved in exchanging currency sitting there. He made a whip from ropes and chased them all out of the temple, including the cattle and the sheep. He scattered the coins and overturned the tables of those who exchanged currency. He said to the dove sellers, “Get these things out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a place of business.” (John 2:13-16)
It is so very easy to engage with the world in a way that helps make your life easier. After all, God wants us to be happy, and God gives us abundant life, right? But what happens when we let the desire for profit, ease, and power guide us, rather than the desire to live a Christlike life?
We see an angry Jesus in this scripture, and rightfully so. Technically, the money changers in the temple were not breaking any rules—they were simply taking the opportunity to make a bit of profit from those who needed their services in order to practice their faith. But Jesus was not on board with using those at the bottom to line the pockets of those at the top—and we see his reaction clearly.
Following God’s guidance means going deeper than just “following the rules.” We can follow every rule we are given and still live an unfaithful life. God’s guidance pushes us to go deeper and to open our eyes to how we may be benefiting from others while simultaneously pushing them down.
Prayer: Convict me, God, when I benefit from the misuse of others.