What’s in a Name?
A Worship Guide for March 10, 2019
Scripture for this Week: Deuteronomy 26: 1-11
Scripture for Next Week: Genesis 15:1–12, 17–18
Have you spent time in the wilderness? Has God formed you and shaped you through the time spent in places of uncertainty? Do you remember how good it felt to experience the presence of God in those unexpected places? Do you need some more extended time alone with God in a quiet place? Perhaps Lent is the gift you have been waiting for! Perhaps it is time to rethink what it means to enter Lent.
There are millions of children who have been blessed with biblical names. Children have been christened Epiphany, Christian, Sophia, Grace, Joy, Haven, Faith, Hope, Eden, etc., because names have meaning, and parents want their children to exude the meaning of their name. Who in their right mind would name their child ‘Lent’? “Hi, my name is Lent. My name means 40 days of being hungry and no chocolate.” Well, if we truly understood the meaning of this tradition, there would be millions of children honoring this season with their names. Lent is a time to leave the rest of the world behind. It is the space we create as we set aside all the distractions that separate us from God. For thousands of years, Lent is the tradition that Christians have used to draw closer to God. Lent is not about giving something up so God will like us more. Lent is immersing ourselves in the presence of God as we learn to let the superfluous accretions of our lives fall to the wayside. It is a time of scaping off the barnacles. Lent is a time in which we learn our true identity.
Lent is a concept baked deeply into the biblical story. A time in the wilderness is a requirement for most (perhaps all, but the Bible is a big book, and I could be wrong if I used the world ‘all’!) of the people who are designated friends of God. The wilderness is the place where we need to rely upon God. It is the space in which we discover that God is utterly reliable. It is the place in which we not only meet God, but our identities as beloved children of God are formed. Lent can take place in a physical location, or it can be a state of mind. It is our gift to God, but it is also the space in which we experience the gift of God as presence. It is in coming out of the wilderness that people can profoundly state their divinely given names.
“When you have come out of the wilderness, and enter a new space, you will need ways to remember that everything is a gift. You will need to have traditions that remind you that the name and identity you were given in the wilderness is who you are at the very core of your being. So, frequently give offerings to God as a way of demonstrating thanks. Every time you give thanks, begin with these words, “I am a beloved child of God. A wandering rabbi who had no place to lay his head is my savior and teacher. He was crucified, died, and was buried, but on the third day, was resurrected, and has been my constant companion since I met him in the wilderness. He saved me from the slavery and bondage in which I had suffered. He brought me into a life of contentedness, and I now share this life with friends, strangers, and most importantly, God (Deut. 26:1-11 from the Pastor Eric Bible).” Every time you give thanks to God, begin with your identity statement. The identity that you were given when God formed you in the wilderness. I know many people who own finely crafted statements of identity. They can easily and definitively discuss how God has shaped their lives. However, these people are probably in the minority of all who are living today. There are o-so-many people who have not yet learned to identify God in their lives. God is very much present, but distractions veil the ever-presence. Lent is the place the distractions fade away and the veil is lifted.
My identity and purpose statement are intertwined. Because I have so powerfully experienced the shaping presence of God in my life, it is now my life’s work to teach as many people as possible the art of entering Lent. During the Lenten season this year, I will begin each day with prayer and journaling time. I am going to read Psalm 119 section by section and then rewrite the section as I hear God speaking the words to me. In the evenings, I will close each day with the Gospel of Luke. I am dedicating 45 minutes a day to this wilderness time with God. Maybe a similar exercise will help you. If you would like to explore a variety of ways to spend time with God, I highly recommend the little book, 50 Ways to Pray by Teresa Blythe. It can be your Lenten resource all year long!
- What does Lent mean to you?
- Has this blog post affected the way you understand Lent, how?
- What is your identity statement?
- Perhaps you could spend the next 40 days asking God to clarify your identity.
May God’s grace and peace form you during the Lenten season. May you find deep joy and freedom in the wild spaces you are about to enter. May God give you your name.