Lent:  A Time to Prepare

Should you not fear me?” declares the Lord.
     “Should you not tremble in my presence?
. . . I made the sand a boundary for the sea,
    an everlasting barrier it cannot cross.
The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail;
    they may roar, but they cannot cross it.  Jeremiah 5:22

It’s 7 a.m. as I arrive at the Calgary Lab Service clinic for routine tests.  The clinic, always busy, is overflowing this morning.  I register for my appointment and take a seat.  Shortly, I hear my name called and greet the lab tech with a simple smile.  As I follow her and enter the room, my tech says, “You smiled at me; thanks, thanks for doing that.”  I respond with a warm “You’re welcome,” which I hope disguises my bewilderment at being thanked for just smiling.

Lent is to be a season of self-denial, spiritual growth and simplicity.  I am aware that the disciplines of Lent are supposed to ultimately transform my entire person—body, soul and spirit—and help me become more Christ-like.  Consequently, I had given up my favourite iPad app and desired to set aside time to add a small discipline into my life, something that had eluded me thus far.  Is it possible that a simple smile might qualify?

Jeremiah 5 is a complicated passage in which the prophet urgently communicates to the Israelites their need to immediately return to God.  Interjected in Jeremiah’s condemning language are reminders of the simple things God has done for people:  placing the sand as a boundary protecting people from the sea (22) and giving rain in its season (24). It is also evident from reading that the people are ungrateful, selfishly overlooking these simple gifts God has provided.

A smile is a simple thing to share and I was unaware that giving one could, in fact, be a small gift.  Conversely, what gifts am I receiving from God that I am not thankfully acknowledging?  What kindness has God heaped upon me that I don’t bother to notice?  Jeremiah is directing us to notice, experience and understand the simple gifts God has surrounded us with.  I, in response, need to live less self-centeredly and more thankfully for everything I receive.

What started quite unintentionally as a simple smile has become a discipline to build upon; to notice the gifts given to me and to share such gifts with others.  Will you join me in this simple quest?

They do not say to themselves,
‘Let us fear the Lord our God,
who gives autumn and spring rains in season,
who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.  Jeremiah 5:24

Prayer:  Eternal God, the creator of all, you are worthy of our most profound gratitude.  We confess that we are often selfish, ungrateful, overlooking the abundance of great and simple gifts that you have surrounded us with.  Fill us with gratefulness this Lenten season for your greatest gift, the gift of Jesus your only son, who through his death has saved us from our sin.  May this thankfulness overflow and be seen in the simple gifts we share with others.  Amen.

Contributed by Daryl Ginter