Imagine that a fabulously wealthy person like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet got this news: “Congratulations! Someone just deposited $100,000 in your bank account!”
No doubt, they’d be surprised and thankful. But with an estimated net worth of 86 billion dollars each, a hundred grand is, quite literally, pocket change for these guys. The unexpected gift would be appreciated, but it would make no substantive difference in their lives.
Let’s change the context. Imagine that a single mom, who makes $30,000 per year, and who is three months behind on her rent receives the same anonymous gift. How does her response differ from the two wealthy men? There would be no comparison, right?
You get the idea: The level of our joy at good news is directly dependent upon the context in which we receive it. The billionaire says, “Hmm, will you look at that?” The struggling mom says, “This just saved my life!”
The question is: What is the context into which you receive the Good News of the Gospel? Are you like the wealthy person who got an unexpected gift, or are you the bankrupt person who got a new lease on life?
We have just begun the season of the church year called Lent. Many in our brand of Christianity pay little or no attention to it. Afraid of the excesses of some, we act as though this period of self-examination is optional, or even harmful to our spiritual health.
We assume – wrongly, I believe – that we can humbly bow before the cross of Jesus without considering our utter hopelessness before a holy God. We think that we can celebrate Amazing Grace without contemplating the fact that it saved “a wretch like me.” The historical wisdom of the Church, as well as common sense, suggests that this simply is not true.
Imagine that we chance to meet in a restaurant. You say to me, “By the way, I paid your debt.” How do I feel? Well, that depends…. After all, what debt did you pay?
Did you pay the tab for my meal? If so, “Thank you, my friend.”
Did you pay the postage due on my letter? If so, “How much do I owe you?”
Or did you pay off the balance on my mortgage? If so, “Wow! What? Why? That’s fantastic! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”
You see, the size of the debt dictates the level of my gratitude. Small debt, small thanks. Large debt, large thanks. Or, as Jesus said to his self-righteous host in a statement dripping with irony, “He who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47).
How often do we contemplate the size of our debt before a holy God? Lent is that season of the year when we take time to think about this. As we walk with Jesus down the road toward Calvary, we recognize that, indeed, it was our sin that made that walk necessary.
We see the truth: We are runaway disciples, denying Peter, traitorous Judas, cowardly Pilate, self-righteous religionists, unconcerned soldiers, mocking crowds. When Jesus said, “Father forgive them,” he was speaking about us. That’s how much he loves us.
I invite you to join me in a Lenten walk toward Calvary. Take time every day to read Scripture, to pray, and to contemplate both your incredible need for Jesus’ rescue, and his Amazing Grace. He died your death to give you his life.
My specific suggestion is simple: Join me and millions of other Christians who for centuries have used the Daily Office as a daily means to meditate on Scripture and focus our prayer. Far more meaningful than devotional books which are here today, and gone tomorrow, you will be joining millions of people in a daily discipline of prayer and Scripture reading which has been going on around the world for centuries.
Here is a simple way to do this. If you have a smart phone, search for this app: Mission St. Clare. This little app puts the readings of the Daily Office right in the palm of your hand, together with a wide variety of musical meditations as well. (You can also find it on your computer at this address: missionstclare.com.) There are many other ways to access this devotional tool. Do a little research and come up with the approach that works best for you. Pretend it’s something important, like finding the best deal on Amazon. (He says with a touch of sarcasm.)
It’s something I’ve been doing for the past several months, and I have found it to be a richly rewarding experience. It focuses my attention on the Scriptures in a way that puts me into God’s story, rather than trying to squeeze God into my story. In addition, I love the fact that it reminds me that I am part of a very large family, one that crosses denominational, ethnic, and geographic boundaries.
Whether you decide to take me up on this particular suggestion or not, I encourage you to make scripture reading and prayer a daily habit during this Lenten season. Spend a few minutes every day reflecting on God’s incredibly Amazing Grace which after all, against all odds, saved a wretch like you. Alleluia.
Morning Readings for February 16
Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32
Revelation 4:11; 5:9-10, 13