Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.—from Joel 2:13
I am often drawn to the awe and mystery of God. Awe and mystery are in many ways lost in a world where we believe that we have to or can prove everything. Maybe you’ve heard me talk about church acoustics and how a sanctuary needs to have “room for the Holy Spirit.” Many churches were built by a very faithful group of church builders but they were designed with very poor acoustics. This lack of acoustic space can hinder the worship life of the community. I’m willing to explain this more if you are interested, but I don’t want to lose the rest of you.
But that “room for the Holy Spirit” allows for awe and mystery to find its way into worship. The artwork in the stained glass windows can help with this as well. The curiosity about our fellow worshippers can lead us towards awe and mystery. Our own vulnerability about our failures and the way we have experienced the grace of God can lead us toward the awe and mystery of God. When we reduce things to absolute that aren’t absolute we take away the space for awe and mystery about what God is doing in our midst.
During Lent, we are invited into the awe and mystery of God. We are drawn into relationship with this One who is known as “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” Our dependence on God is marked in an ashen cross on our foreheads as this season begins on Ash Wednesday, when we are reminded that we are dust and to dust we shall return. During this season we are called to the Discipline’s of Lent, Self-examination and Repentance, Prayer and Fasting, Sacrificial Giving, and Works of Love. I will be teaching a class around these disciplines on Sunday morning.
These disciplines can also invite us into the awe and mystery of God because they draw us out of dependence on ourselves and into dependence on the grace and mercy of God. The challenge for all of us is to lean into that dependence on God. This may mean giving something up or taking something on. This may mean deepening practices that we already have. This may mean shutting off the things that want to create absolutes that draw us away from God. But however it works for you, listen to that call from Joel, “return to the Lord your God” during this Lenten Season.