By Jim Brenneman, president of Goshen College
Reprinted from Lenten Devotions
DEVOTIONAL: The Book of Deuteronomy is comprised largely of three sermons of a very old Moses speaking to a new generation of people about to enter the Promised Land. In this text, Moses sounds a bit like a mom or dad driving their family on the journey of a lifetime with tired kids in the back seat complaining, “Are we there yet?” “Not yet, kids,” he responds, “But when we get there, I promise you that half the fun of this trip will be in looking back at the memories we are making right now. We’ll look back at pictures taken in Iowa’s “Field of Dreams.” We’ll laugh at running out of gas in Gallup. We’ll remember the thrill of seeing a bear and her cub in Yellowstone, the shiver of fear on the Grand Canyon Skywalk. We’ll recount sleeping under the stars in Joshua Tree. And you know what, it’s hard to appreciate it right now on this God-awful barren stretch of desert, but it will be worth it, the minute you see the Pacific Ocean. I promise. ‘Then we’ll rejoice in all the good things the Lord our God has given us!’”
And so it is that on this Lenten journey over hills and through the vales of life, on this Lenten journey through trials and tribulations, on this Lenten journey on the barren road to Easter, let us remember in advance, how God heard the complaints of our spiritual ancestors in like moments and delivered them into a land flowing with milk and honey in God’s perfect time. Let us remember and bow.
SCRIPTURE: Deuteronomy 26:1-11 (NRSV)
When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, ‘Today I declare to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.’ When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, you shall make this response before the Lord your God: ‘A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labour on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.’ You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.
By Bob Yoder, campus pastor at Goshen College
Reprinted from Advent & Lenten Devotions
DEVOTIONAL: The biblical stories emerge from Eastern cultures where honor and shame are important — to a degree Westerners might have trouble understanding. Personal, family, community and national honor are of paramount concern. To be shamed, to be recognized as less than the image one has carefully crafted to bestow honor to one’s family and community, destroys people psychologically and spiritually. Therefore in this context, one may go to extreme lengths, such as lashing out violently against the instrument of shame, to restore one’s honor.
Western cultures base their biblical understanding of salvation mainly on judgment and guilt. For example, salvation is about having guilt removed through Jesus who died on the cross, thus restoring our relationship to God. Jesus takes away our guilt, freeing us of the effects of sin. However, honor and shame thinking is also part of a Western approach. For instance, we worry what people will think if they find out about a marital divorce in our stable family and wonder “How will it reflect on us if the world finds out?”
We need salvation from the disgrace we suffer and need to have our honor restored. Which is the better motivator to change our ways: the approach of judgment and guilt OR of honor and shame? Compare the effect on a misbehaving child when the parent says, “What you did is bad” versus “You should be ashamed of yourself.” Both seem to have their place, especially when linked to an offer of forgiveness and a new beginning.
In the parable of the prodigal son, a key Gospel text of the Lent-Easter season, we find that the prodigal son comes to his senses and makes a decision to return to the father not because he feels guilty but because he is ashamed of how he is living. As a Jew facing ruin and starvation, he is reduced to the level of tending pigs and desiring their food. However, his shame is overcome when the father takes the shame upon himself and restores the son to his original place.
PRAYER: God, the Restorer of all that is broken and pained in our lives, help us to experience your salvation. May we live in your desired ways and extend forgiveness to those who have harmed us, and receive forgiveness from those whom we have harmed.