Yesterday, our Lenten reflections in worship brought us to the importance of attentiveness. Samuel, in his youth, learns the discipline of attentiveness to the urgings of YHWH, our God as named in the Hebrew Bible. Samuel differs from others throughout the Hebrew Bible, in this regard, especially in the books of Samuel and the Kings. The discipline Samuel learns in his youth stays with him throughout his life in contrast to almost all the other leaders in these four books, even David, the man after God’s own heart.
It was this attentiveness that offered the Israelites a pathway to hope and of being a light to the nations for the transformation of our human existence. Unfortunately, the Israelites, beginning with their demand for a king, did not have the same discipline of attentiveness as their prophet and leader Samuel. However, God continued to woo the Israelites and humanity, though the Israelites to the new life which offered hope for humanity.
It was this same inattentiveness that struck the early church when Constantine rose to power in Rome and offered the Church a seat at the table of power. The Church, having been attentive to God and relying on God’s grace despite numerous eras of persecution and suffering, suddenly accepted the keys to Roman power to add to the keys of the reign of God. The face of the Church changed dramatically as did the community of the Israelites when they demanded a king.
During Lent, we are reminded of our failures of attentiveness, but also of God’s grace despite our inattentiveness. We may not be attentive to God, but God remains fully attentive to us. In the Call to Lenten Observance, which we hear each Ash Wednesday, we are reminded that God’s grace awaits us in the means of grace which are practices by which we can develop our attentiveness. We begin with acts of piety, such as personal and communal prayer, personal and communal searching of the scriptures, worship, sacrament, and fasting. These practices seek to train us to attune our ears to the wooing of God over all the other voices which seek our attention and seek to lure us away from hope.
Then, we have the acts of compassion, which include the mercy of charity and the struggle of justice. As we learn in the gospels, especially Matthew 25, as we offer aid to the poor and marginalized and work in solidarity with them for justice and deliverance from the structures of our civilization that result from inattentiveness to God that causes harm and suffering, our eyes are opened to the presence of God in the poor and marginalized as God seeks to woo us back to life.
With this in mind, let’s encourage one another to embrace the means of grace this Lent and seek to bring to God in this season as God seeks to share with us the hope of new life and the transformation of the world.
Grace and peace,
Rev. J.D. Allen