Our next Lenten devotional is written by Allen Junek. Allen relocated to the metroplex in 2019 to start seminary, and is now in his final semester at Brite Divinity School. When he started at Brite, Allen had every intention to become a professor, but soon realized that someone (i.e. God) had other plans for him. Allen is now a Postulant for Holy Orders in the Episcopal Church, and serves on staff at St. Thomas the Apostle in Dallas, TX. May his words be a good companion for your on your Lenten journey….
“Sinners in the hands of a merciful God”
Reading: Psalm 7:6-8 (NRSV)
Rise up, O Lord, in your anger;
lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies;
awake, O my God; you have appointed a judgment.
Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered around you,
and over it take your seat on high.
The Lord judges the peoples;
judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me.
Reflection: I grew up in the hands of an angry god–perhaps you did too. This god was cruel and capricious, always looking for an opportunity to scold me whenever I slipped up. Once I remember reading “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” a sermon by the Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards in my high school English class. It’s probably not too much of a stretch to say that this is actually who I once believed God to be!
Maybe this resonates with your experience, or maybe it calls to mind something you worked through long ago. For me, Lent is hard because it is so tempting to fall back into the rut of believing that there’s a god out there who is disappointed in me. I still flirt with this god sometimes–and that’s why I need this season of fasting and prayer, so that I may turn and return to the God in whose image I am made and who has never once been disappointed in me.
Lent is a season when many people start talking about how mad God is about sin–and you know, maybe God is upset with sin, I imagine many of us are–but even still, that doesn’t make you or any one of us bad. The God who once called us good (Gen. 1:31) continues to call us good; yet Lent reminds us that we each have turned away, and that we have each followed the devices and desires of our own heart.
One of my favorite prayers in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) is said on the Second Sunday of Lent:
Let us Pray:
O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen (BCP 218).
You see, Lent is not about being good enough for God. Rather, Lent is about returning to the One whose glory is always to have mercy. The task of Lent is not to chastise ourselves, but rather to turn from ourselves and journey deeper into God’s heart.
Wishing you all a holy Lent and a joyful return,
Allen M. Junek, Brite Divinity School (MDiv)
Postulant for Holy Orders, The Episcopal Diocese of Texas