Gifts are wonderful things! Some of them move us because of the generosity involved, others can touch us deeply because of the unexpected remembrance, and there are those which puzzle us (what on earth am I supposed to DO with it?)! This Sunday, in our NEW TESTAMENT READING[EPHESIANS 2: 4 – 10] Saint Paul brings all these aspects together.

 

“God … was generous … he brought us to life … saved and raised up … his goodness … in Christ Jesus … by a gift from God.”

We are moved … touched … puzzled!

However, there are times when a gift amazes us. It is totally unexpected, and the value so great that we are, more or less, stunned into paralysis!

Now, read again the short excerpt from Ephesians reproduced above!

Then, against this background hear the challenge contained in the closing stanza of THIS SUNDAY’S PSALM [136 or 137].

O let my tongue,

cleave to my mouth

if I remember you not,

if I prize not Jerusalem

above all my joys.

Take Jerusalem to mean Jesus Christ, and let usask ourselves: what value do I place on the GIFT of HIM who was sent by the Father … to what extent do I PRIZE this gift? Yes, indeed, it is a gift that often puzzles us, and so we ask ourselves two further questions:

 

What DO I do with it? (be brave about the answer!)

What have I DONE with it? (do not be too hard on yourself in the answer!)

Now, all these questions are almost impossible to answer. However, Lent provides us with the opportunity to remind ourselves of the gift Jesus is, the Father’s incredible generosity, and his goodness. In addition, and very importantly, Lent is a time for us to fine-tune our vision of the gift, to prize it even more than we do, and to discover a little more joy in our discipleship. Last week we spoke about the priorities of God’s wisdom. So, in addition, we must recognise the opportunity this Season provides for us to push God-in-Christ higher (even if only a little!) on our scale of values.

I suggest that we hear the OLD TESTAMENT EXTRACT [2 CHRONICLES 36: 14 – 16. 19 – 23] as a clarion call to every Christian – clergy and laity (Chronicles speak of priesthood and people!). There is a real danger that we overvalue (oversell) others, while undervaluing (underselling) ourselves. How do I know that I need Lent more than, for example, Pope Benedict? There is one thing of which I am certain – there are thousands and thousands of Christian disciples who value and prize the gift of Jesus Christ a great deal more than myself or the Pope! Neither of us are saints – YET!

Also, CHRONICLES reminds US that our God is still tirelessly sending US messenger after messenger. THIS VERY SEASON OF LENT IS ONE OF THOSE MESSENGERS! Do not ridicule or laugh at this analogy …. Lent IS a messenger from the Lord! It may puzzle us, and it may well be that we are not absolutely sure of what to do with it, but it is a messenger, another gift originating in God’s goodness and generosity.

All of what has been said is powerfully summarised by the words of Jesus as recorded in TODAY’S GOSPEL [JOHN 3: 14 – 21].

“Yes, God loved the world so much that he GAVE {gift} his only Son … for God sent his Son into the world not to condemn … but so that … the world might be saved.”

THIS is the truth we are called to live by, and Lent calls us, each year, not to avoid its light ….

BUT COME OUT INTO IT.

We should PRIZE this opportunity, SOLVE part of our puzzle, and AMAZE ourselves.