WelCom March 2017:
Fr James Lyons
Some years ago at a theology refresher course, the lecturer asked us this question: What does God do?
How would you reply?
God creates, God loves, God forgives…. Yes, God does all of these things, but there is one continuing action of God in which he does all of these things together! I was interested to hear the answer.
What does God do? God brings people out of Egypt!
The Hebrew people had become slaves in Egypt. God worked through Moses to bring about their release. Their escape, known as the Exodus, is the event that formed the community of God’s people. They were nobodies in Egypt. They became somebody! The people of God – the first Assembly or Church.
But this people quickly forgot the power and generosity of God and whenever they felt threatened or when things went wrong, they longed to be back in Egypt where, they thought, life hadn’t been so bad. Again and again God came to their rescue. Each time, before long, they would start rebelling.
This is a true image of human nature. We yearn to be free and independent. But when we realise that freedom carries responsibilities, we falter and become slaves to whatever promises to release us from any obligation. We let ourselves be taken to Egypt. Lent is the call to wake up to ourselves; to locate the weakness in our lives; to return to God who brings people out of Egypt!
Moses describes what happened in Egypt: they ill-treated us, they gave us no peace, and inflicted harsh slavery on us [Deuteronomy 26:4-10]. In what area of your life is peace difficult to find? Things might be going very good for you, but where is that niggling coming from that unsettles you, suggesting there’s a better way or challenging your lifestyle? You could be in Egypt without knowing it – while being a slave to your work at the expense of your health or family; being a slave to your drinking, or lying, or taking the easy way out of things…
“Lent is the call to wake up to ourselves; to locate the weakness in our lives; to return to God who brings people out of Egypt!”
The temptations of Jesus were temptations to lure him to Egypt – into the slavery that comes when your want or even need for yourself overrides any concern for others. Bread, power and control – survival at all costs – Jesus faced the same temptations we have to deal with [Luke 4:1-13].
If God’s primary work is to bring people out of Egypt, then we have a wonderful ally. Each Lent reintroduces us to that ally who understands our weakness to the point where we become the focus of God’s love, the intense urgency of God’s mission to help us, to rescue us from the slavery we allow ourselves to get caught in, and to bring us out of Egypt – away from the terror of not being able to make it on our own; free from a selfish way of living.
Lent is the new Exodus, offering us a new heart; loving us into a new being; forgiving and healing and letting us start again. Thank God for Lent. Make good use of it.