Next weekend I will be preaching a retreat with the theme TRUSTING IN GOD.THIS SUNDAY’S PSALM [115 or 116] commences “I trusted, even when I said ’I am sorely afflicted’.” Would this have been Abraham’s prayer as he faced the dramatic ‘test’ God placed before him? Surely it must have? Our OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE [GENESIS 22: 1 – 2. 9 – 13. 15 – 18] includes a few words which could be too easily overlooked in the context of the heart-wrenching circumstances recorded.

“When they arrived at the place God had pointed out to him … .”

Abraham was precisely where God wanted him to be, and he had gone there, without detours, because that was where God had directed him. He had not attempted to ‘adapt’ the instructions, ‘suggest’ another location – an easier, more convenient, journey.

Our Lord God wants us to be HERE, in Lent. It is the location he has pointed out. We are not by accident – or shouldn’t be! It is counterproductive (and this often leads to resentment and lethargy!). As our Psalm tells us, we have to trust even when we are sorely afflicted. Then we discover that “HE has loosened our bonds,” and we are able to “call on the Lord’s name.”

It serves no-good purpose to be dragged, as it were, into Lent kicking ans screaming, and neither should we simply ‘endure’ it as a necessary ‘evil’! If this is the case then we are simply going through the motions, avoiding the “place God has pointed out,” and are unable to honestly “call on his name.”

What we must not overlook is the fact that our Genesis reading clearly refers to the COVENANT nature of the RELATIONSHIP God has established. We must be, as in the case of Noah, confronted by the personal and heartfelt nature of the conversation the Lord has with Abraham. Notice, too, that Abraham places himself firmly in the place when he says: I am here.” Our God’s response to this is personal and from the heart: “do not raise your hand … do not harm him … you have not refused me.” Then, we must take to our hearts the words “because you have not refused me … I will shower blessings on you … (you shall have) possession of the gates of your enemies.”{too often we are our greatest enemies!?)

This Sunday is the time when we must say to our God, “I am here”AND take as a strong, encouraging reminder the opening words of OUR NEW TESTAMENT READING [ROMANS 8: 31 – 34].“With God on our side who can be against us?”

If we are AT the place God wants us to be then he is, automatically ON OUR SIDE! Notice what we read – I have deliberately written AT the place, not IN the place. I am naturally suspicious when I hear people talking about being IN Lent. We should not place ourselves in Lent but, rather, at Lent. This involves a different mind set. Not only do we become more positive but we become the dominant feature. Is this meaningless? NO! If I telephone someone and pass on the information that I have arrived AT Durban Airport, then I am placing myself at a particular location. One the other hand, by saying that I have arrived IN Durban Airport, the airport becomes all-important!

I must be in control of Lent. Lent must not control me. Lent is, from one point of view, irrelevant. What is much more important is the fact that I have placed myself at a point in my discipleship when I am going to do something specific. I am at the airport for a purpose!

Now, study THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL EXTRACT [MARK 9: 2 – 10].“Jesus took with him …” He wanted the three disciples to be AT a particular place. Then, hear Peter’s statement: “Rabbi, it is wonderful for us to be here.” Earlier on in this week’s effort it was pointed out that we should not have been dragged into Lent.

Lent presents us with the opportunity to have a vision of Jesus Christ which takes us out of and away from the routine and often humdrum exercises of discipleship. There are times when we really need to SEE Jesus only!

Lent helps us to create an experience of the Lord.