"God, be merciful to US, sinners" - Robert VerWys
Lent is a 7-week season in the life of the Church, that for me as an individual can seem to come and go with surprising speed. I consistently approach this contemplative time with the best of intentions, hoping to surrender or fast from things in order to be in-step with other believers around the globe, and REALLY FEEL IT. Am I alone in that experience?
Regardless, as I was reflecting and preparing to write this very Lent reflection, I felt convicted. As I read Luke 18:9-17, I felt confronted with my own Pharisaical similarities. So often this season gets distorted into a process of achieving—another box to check, another way to measure myself against those around me, and another way to feel justified unto myself—similar to the Pharisee in the passage, feeling set apart and prideful in my own effort.
It feels vulnerable and exposing to share, especially across this medium, with many people whom I do not know, or have not met me… but I think it’s probably true for more of us than we might like to admit.
It is easy to walk through our city of Bellflower, see neighbors on the streets, and cast judgment on our local tax collectors/homeless neighbors. We might make presumptions about what circumstances contributed to their present plights, while we (literally or figuratively) walk on the other side of the street. I am guilty of that myself.
Engaging with individuals that are different from oneself can be difficult and uncomfortable, but those differences are completely absent in the eyes of God. Old/young, housed/homeless, tax collector/Pharisee, addicted/sober, we’re all the same and stand in need of the mercy of the Almighty. Actually, of these people, Pharisees are the folks in scripture whom Jesus called out MOST explicitly for their “missing the boat,” for walking on the other side of the street to remain clean or set apart, while completely neglecting the very people Jesus called us into relationship with. I don’t want that to be me, or for that to be you.
I think the time of Lent can be a time to soberly look ourselves in the mirror and allow for the Holy Spirit to convict and seek out areas of our heart that have become hardened. That we would become more acquainted with the beauty of Jesus and receive HIS mercy to each one of us as sinners whom fall short. It would be my prayer for this Lenten season that God would do a work in His Church to convict and refine our collective hears and open our hearts to the vulnerable amongst us… FOR THEIR’S IS THE KINGDOM.
HOW TO PRAY:
Ask God to help you to respect and care for those who are different from you
Ask God to help you have compassion, instead of judgment, for the vulnerable in Bellflower
Luke 18:9–17 “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’”
About the Author: Robert VerWys is a Bellflower neighbor.