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 A big thank you to Rev. Diane Langworthy at United Church of Christ, New Smyrna Beach, for sharing this Lenten devotion:

Devotion in the time of Lent and Coronavirus

March 26, 2020

Today’s reading from Deuteronomy includes the ten commandments. Before a single commandment is offered God is quoted as introducing the subject of commandments with the statement, “I am the Lord your God Who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” Remember, yesterday we talked about remembering being the first step in a way back to God if we have started to stray? Remembering is key to staying the course when we are on the right track, too. God introduces the ten commandments with a powerful reminder that God is the one Who frees God’s people. God showed the Hebrews a way to escape bondage. Before the commandments are given, God asks that they remember this. God’s commands are not intended to tie us up. They are a way of life for folks who want to live free!

There are many ways we can feel enslaved today even if we’ve never been to Egypt. Some of us have experienced childhood abuse. Some of us wrestle with anxiety. Sometimes we are so tied up in self-consciousness that we have never felt free to explore our own gifts. Sometimes we are so busy judging ourselves and our shortcomings we never dare to answer our true calling. Sometimes we wrestle with too much anger. Sometimes we are so depressed we can’t take that next step. Sometimes substances have enslaved us. Sometimes a bad relationship ties us in knots. There are lots of Egypts in our lives. Before we try to do anything that God asks, God says, “Remember I am the Lord your God Who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” For the worst of our bondage today, our God is still the God who leads us out of enslavement. Our God is the God of people who live free! As we read the commandments, we may recall little sayings we’ve heard (like a sign I have in my church office) ... “God gave us ten commandments, not ten suggestions.” God means for us to find a way to keep these boundaries. Free people always keep healthy boundaries.

The last sentence of our Gospel reading today, Luke 7:35 is near the heart of Jesus’ message, “But wisdom is proved right by all her children.” This understanding is critical for maintaining healthy boundaries and living free. In short, we cannot truly love one another until we understand what He was driving at. Jesus calls people on the ways they judge one another, and this is seriously interfering with their ability to recognize the Messiah when He is standing right there. He points out that “John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners’” ... then Jesus says the part about all of Wisdom’s children. The point is, there are a LOT of different ways to live a healthy life. And both an aesthetic out in the desert fasting and never touching a drop of alcohol and Christ, Who never missed a good party and even made wine when it ran short, both were a part of God’s plan to reach each and every person. There is a way to move closer to God through fasting and self-denial. There is a way through joining a celebration. We are really different people with really different life stories, but we are all precious in the sight of God.

God creates a child of Wisdom in each one of us, when we dare to be freed. So many ways of being can be healing or harmful depending on our own personalities, gifts, weaknesses and life journey so far. In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus invites us to quit deciding WE are the arbiters of other people’s responses to God. We can only know how God moves our heart and what choices God calls us to escape and where God calls us to venture in. Wisdom has a bazillion children. May God continue to strengthen each of us for nurturing, not judging, one another’s calls and ways of growing in the Spirit.

Jesus says, don’t be childish, assuming YOU are in charge of the feelings and responses of others. “...calling out to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge and you did not cry’” In this time of self-quarantine and not nearly enough hugs and hanging out with friends, let’s keep checking in on one another, mindful that different things will be a challenge for different people. Different sources of strength will hold us. Let’s ask and listen and let’s hold off on judging, because, clearly, we’ve been wrong before. Nevertheless, by God (really, right beside God!) each of us is a wise child walking to our freedom!

"No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you are always welcome here!"

 

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