Week of 5 Lent, Year One
[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 22 (morning) // 141, 143:1-11(12) (evening)
Imagine how the people of Israel felt when they finally received word from God. Even though they were exiled far from Jerusalem, God finally reached out to his people through the prophet Jeremiah. After their capture by an invading imperial army and their deportation to Babylon, they may have genuinely doubted that God’s voice could reach them long-distance.
We may have similar doubts that God’s call can get through to us. It’s especially hard to listen for God’s call because, as the Bible attests, the message to individuals and communities is never predictable. God’s call drove Abram and Sarai to leave their homeland and set up camp in a new place; God’s call brought Moses back to his roots; God’s call caused Ruth to leave her people and make a new home with her mother-in-law; God’s call sent the prophet Jonah to raise his voice in a foreign city.
God’s call may ask us to leave the familiar and comfortable, or to stay put where we are. God’s call may ask us to visit briefly some new place, or to relocate more permanently. And God may call us to return from where we’ve been sent, or to wait a little longer. We just never know for sure until we listen.
Thus, the people of Israel could have expected pretty much anything when God called to them in Babylon. As it happens, God’s message was for them to settle in and get comfortable. To put down roots. To get married, to have children, to have grandchildren.
As the prophet puts it in today’s first reading, “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters.” Of course, God also asks his people to pray for the welfare of the Jerusalem they left behind, and to anticipate a time when God would call them to return. But for now, they shouldn’t hold their breath. They should dig in: build, plant, and grow.
We often think of Lent as a season to wander and journey in the wilderness. Indeed, there are many times in our lives when God calls us to leave places, relationships, careers, and patterns that don’t suit God’s purposes for us. But there are also times to settle in and get comfortable, because God wants us to be in it for the long haul.
As we approach Easter and spring, where is God calling us to put down roots? No matter how remote that place is from God, surely we can plant our feet for a moment and listen for God’s long-distance call.
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.