Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 22; 148, Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32, Philippians 4:1-9, John 17:9-19
It’s a prophet’s job to tell us what we don’t want to hear. The more righteous or justified we think we are, the less we’re going to want to hear it … but the more we need to. The prophet Ezekiel told the Israelites in exile that God was banishing a particular expression: “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” In other words: stop blaming your past for your current problems.
The Israelites liked to blame their exile on the sins of the previous generation. Ezekiel told them to stop making excuses and get right with God. Like children who d on’t want to be responsible for themselves, they replied: “It’s not fair!” God brushed off their protests. Maybe their parents had made terrible mistakes, but now these children were all grown up and needed to control the one thing they could: their own behavior.
Some people undergo years of therapy to unlearn the toxic habits of an unhealthy past. Others with less traumatic experiences grow on their own. Understanding the root of our problems is only ever a starting point. Unfortunately, many people who identify the origin of their unhealthy behaviors use it as an excuse to justify the poor choices they continue to make in the present. According to Ezekiel, God’s not having it.
As we live through Lent, let’s be honest with ourselves and God about our own shortcomings. After all, there’s nothing about us God doesn’t already know. He loves us anyway, and too much to let us keep fooling ourselves. When He tells the Israelites: “Get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!” He could be talking to us. Sometimes our hearts and spirits are like homes cluttered with junk we’ve inherited. Because we fear loss we cling to it long after it’s useful (if it ever was) when we need to be clearing out the old to make room for the new, or maybe just for some light and air. We must repent of it to follow Christ. In the words of Ezekiel: “Turn, then, and live.”
Comfort: With Christ’s help, you can clean your spiritual house and let in the light of God.
Challenge: Clean out a closet. As you decide which things to discard, also think about what things from your past you are allowing to hold you back.
Prayer: Gracious and merciful God, show me how to turn and live. As I face the dark corners of my soul, fill them with your light and make them new. Teach me to set my sights not on where I regret having been, but on where you would have me go. Amen.
Discussion: What changes you have already made give you confidence about the making the changes you still need to face?
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