The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


God sightings

Make it your Lenten practice to watch for God's activity

Where I live in the beautiful north woods of Wisconsin, restaurants still serve fish on Friday nights. I wonder if anyone thinks of sacrifice these days while eating walleye. I also wonder what people think about during Lent in 2008. All rituals can be empty or inspiring depending on clarity and earnestness. Here’s a suggestion: Let’s all give up mistrusting God for Lent. Wouldn’t that be worth a Hallelujah chorus or two?

How would we even start trusting, you might be thinking? Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (famous for several things, including the term “cheap grace”) suggested that trust follows obedience. Likewise, obedience follows trust. If we trust that what Jesus said is true, we will act. If you act on God’s behalf, you will see that God can multiply your efforts. If you separate trust and obedience, the church quickly becomes a mere social gathering with a tired conscience and good intentions.

BinocularsLet’s get more specific. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could experience spiritual renewal this Lent as easily as King Josiah (2 Chronicles 34:14)? His servants brought up a dusty old book from the basement that turned out to be the Scriptures. He read it and called for immediate national repentance and a “return to the Lord.”

Can you imagine the king thinking: “Oh, did God mean every Sabbath? Uh ... what exactly does ‘humble yourself before God’ mean? Whoops, I’m not sure I trust God, but I believe God exists. Is that enough? Hmm … I thought ‘grace’ meant I don’t have to worry about obedience? Really? I thought everyone went to heaven.”

What would it mean for us to confess and “return to the Lord”?

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