Today begins the 40 days of Lent. Today many will gather in worship in churches to receive the ashes of repentance upon their foreheads and they made a new dedication to spiritual practices that they hope may draw them closer to God. Many will give up something as a sign of their dedication and others will add something to their lives, perhaps a spiritual practice such as prayer or Bible reading or a act of piety done often. Either way, Lent offers us a time to reflect upon our lives and our thinking about life as we encounter God in ourselves, our neighbors, and in the world around us.
Our devotional book, Holy Adventure by Bruce G. Epperly, offers devotions for 41 days. Each devotion has as theme. This is the first one, for the first day of Lent, as we enter the challenge of what it means to be wholly and totally given to something outside of our normal way of being. Read each devotion with a perspective that perhaps God is speaking to each of us through the words being shared. Allow God to speak to you in your thoughts and spirit so that you may become who God would have you to be as we continue through Lent and emerge into the sunshine of Easter Sunday.
"God Loves the Whole World, No Exceptions"
How big is your God? Is God big enough to embrace the complexities of your life? Is God big enough to embrace the stranger and the enemy?
"For God so loved the world..." John 3:16a
God's love is for all of humankind, but not only for humans but for all creation, for all beings that inhabit the planet. Does God love dogs and cats? Does God love other creatures on the planet? Does God love the enemies of our country? Does God love the poor, the dirty, the persons possessed by addiction and crime? Can God reach out to Islamic fundamentalists, American entrepreneurs, Pentecostal preachers, and college professors? Does this loving God love the entire world in all of its diversity?
Think about these thought-provoking questions and reflect upon what it means to believe in a God who loves the entire world, with no exceptions. Think about what that means to our own lives as we encounter others who may be persons that we think we have nothing in common with. Think about what it means to embrace in our minds those for whom we have little regard and some whom we may disdain.
Think about these affirmations and see if you can embrace one or many as your own:
God loves the world, no exceptions.
God loves me.
God loves me yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
God loves (fill in the name of a family member or friend).
God's love embraces both friend and enemy.
Mother Teresa spoke of seeing God in all of God's disguises. She believed that "every person is Christ for me...I see God in every human being." Today's practice involves simply going through your day with the awareness that God is present in every person and encounter.
Namaste is often said by Hindus meaing, "The spirit in me greets the spirit in you." Look deeply at the persons you encounter today and think what it would mean for your spirit to greet their spirit as you consider the exchange you may have with them on this day.
Loving and creative God, we thank you that you have called us to be lovers and creators like you. Give us the vision and the energy to love as you love, embracing the lost and lonely, and the vulnerable and antagonistic...Let us go forth on this adventure with your blessing, blessing all of creation in love and care. Amen.