Misfit Disciples in an Orthodox World

Misfit Disciples in an Orthodox World
"You had better be a round peg in a square hole than a round peg in a round hole. The latter is in for life, while the first is only an indeterminate sentence." – Elbert Hubbard

Lent Reflection 5: God is our Solution!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Psalms 130:1-8; Eze 37:1-14; John 11:1-45

I am trying to get caught up on my Lent Reflections. The past several weeks have been chaotic to say the least and I've not taken the time to sit down and write. But, it certainly isn't because I've not read the weekly scriptures or taken the time to contemplate them. I've sort of been walking around with my cheeks packed full from them. Like a cow chewing its cud, I've had the time and opportunity to meditate on these scriptures and they have deeply impacted me. 

I doubt there are few Old Testament scriptures more familiar to pentecostal preachers than Ezekiel's vision of the valley of dry bones. Being a former pentecostal preacher myself, I have taken up this text many times over the years, preaching it from a variety of charismatic viewpoints. But, I must admit that when I read this again, nestled between Psalms 130 and the story of Lazarus' resurrection, I was tremendously moved. 

Sometimes I think we get complacent about scripture, especially those we've read over and over again. It's easy to feel as if we've mined a text for all its relevant value; we've learned all that a particular scripture has to teach us. It amazes me, however, how God can breathe new life into a passage and help us see things from it or through it that we've never seen before. In this sense, the idea that our scriptures constitute a living document is extremely true. Over and over again they prove to have a lively and engaging message.

So, as I read these passages, one distinct theme emerges: each situation is desperate and in each circumstance, God is the only solution. This theme weaves each of these passages together. Each predicament is dire, hopeless, and in need of divine intervention. The Psalmist has reached the tipping point and cries out in his desperation for God, knowing that only God can save him and his people. Ezekiel is taken to a valley and shown a horrific sight of death and carnage: the valley floor is littered with the bones of an entire army of men. Only God can make the bones live. Lazarus is dead, been dead for several days, his body already prepared and placed in a tomb. If he is to live again, Jesus is his only hope. Only Jesus can speak life into his lifeless body. 

I think all us of can relate to being in circumstances where God is the only solution. Perhaps it's marital problems or financial difficulties; maybe we've been given bad news by our physician and our future looks bleak at best. Without warning, things can happen and before we know what hit us, we can be fighting for our lives with no where to go, no hope, or ability to defend or help ourselves. The only solution being sovereign divine intervention.  

Thankfully, God specializes in these types of situations. This stands out in the opening verses of the bible as we are introduced to God hovering over the face of the deep. What a chaotic scene indeed. Just like these stories, there's a feel of devastation, the world being in a state of disarray, the recipient of a cataclysmic event that laid waste everything that was. But, God... 

We could stop with that statement alone, couldn't we? Isn't that enough? Given the many stories in scripture, these three that we are concentrating on are just several among many many portraits of God's intervention: of God being God. In fact, I would argue the entire bible is a story about impossible situations, about bad things happening to man and God's consistent and overwhelming intervention. 

Lent brings us face to face with those things that are too big for us. The destructive force of sin and death rises to the surface and left to our own devices, we're no match. We are as hopeless as that valley littered with the bones of soldiers who died in battle. Without God, our body lies in a lonely tomb, awaiting rot and decay. We cry out like the Psalmist, deep in the mire of our own sinfulness and self destruction, "Lord, hear my voice..." 

I think it was Benjamin Franklin who first said that God helps those who help themselves. It's a philosophy so ingrained in many people's theology that they could almost quote chapter and verse. But, I submit to you that this logic is absolutely foreign to the narrative of  scripture. Foreign to the stories before us as well as what the bible says about God and about ourselves. If anything, we see that we can't help ourselves. Lent itself is an exercise in teaching us that our only hope is in God. Most of us fail miserably in our Lenten vows, leaving nothing but our cries for mercy. And I think that's how it was designed to be. He knew we'd fail, so he took it upon himself to be our solution.

God help us to realize that you are our only answer, and that nothing is too hard for you! 



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