Pause

We live in a world where we can be easily overwhelmed and tempted by a dizzying array of colors, sights, and sounds. Lent provides an opportunity to step back. To look. To listen. To ponder. To go beyond what overwhelms and tempts us.

As we journey to the cross, let us make space for what our souls truly long for: the love and grace of Jesus Christ to whom all hearts are drawn.

What catches your eye? What captures your imagination? What tugs at your heart?

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Listen

The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. It won’t be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant with me even though I was their husband, declares the Lord. No, this is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my Instructions within them and engrave them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. They will no longer need to teach each other to say, “Know the Lord!” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord; for I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sins.

Jeremiah 31:31-34

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Think

When I was in elementary school, I loved playing kickball. Unfortunately though, I wasn’t very good. I only kicked okay, and my defense was mediocre at best. When we played, I usually would be among the last people picked. It was a lonely, distant feeling.

The people of Israel to whom the prophet Jeremiah speaks knew that feeling well. Their shortcomings and sins had thrown them into chaos. Their relationship with God had been broken, and they felt sharply the loneliness and distance of that brokenness.

But Jeremiah tells them something wonderful: God does not let distance stand in the way of loving people. God draws Israel back to a new relationship. God chooses them again as a covenant people, giving them a new heart that empowers even “okay” and “mediocre” people to be God’s servants.

What was wonderful then is also good news for us today — even when we feel our most distant from God, even when we feel imperfect and broken, God continues to choose us! God draws us close, no matter what!

Ben Acton

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Pray

God, even when I feel lonely and distant from you, remind me that you never let distance get in the way of your love. Draw me close again to you and choose me for a new way of life in the world. Amen.

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Go

You have come to read, to listen, to reflect, to pray. You have come to consider the deep longing of your soul and to consider what draws your love, your trust, your service.

So now, go!

Go, knowing that the One to whom you are drawn is never far from you;

Go, trusting that the gifts you have been given will be up to the task;

Go, drawing others by the kindness of your words and actions into the always welcoming love and grace of Jesus Christ, who, through the cross, draws the world to himself.

Amen.

Ben Acton

Ben Acton is the Associate Pastor for Education and Youth Ministries at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama, where he lives with his wife, Rachel, their son, Nate, and Lucy, the wonder dog. When he isn't trying to make the world a better place by empowering youth to speak and the church to listen, Ben likes reading comic books, watching Auburn football (War Eagle!), and drinking Diet Coke. Lots of Diet Coke.

Wondrous Love: Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross

Mark Hayes - markhayes.com

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