1 Lent

Deut. 26:1-11Ps. 91:1-2, 9-16Rom. 10:8b-13Luke 4:1-13

God pushes land above the seas; it erupts under the tectonic force of divine command. The dry land appears (Gen. 1:9). God tells seed in the fecund earth to drop roots and send up blades, green grass and fruit-bearing trees (Gen. 1:11-12). How can this be unless there is a preacher? And blessed be the preacher who says, “Let there be” (Gen. 1; Rom. 10:15). The voice of the Lord is upon the waters, a powerful voice, a voice of splendor (Ps. 29:3-4). The voice yet speaks every moment into life-bearing being, and providence has set a creature upon the dry land to hear the call and then give voice to every creature under heaven. To be human is to praise and to wonder at what is given. Who is like the Lord our God?

What are we to do upon the dry land? How are we to use fruit from the giving tree, grain from the waving fields? “Take some of all the fruit on the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name” (Deut. 26:2). You may, in time, eat the fat of the land, but not yet. The full basket is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. It overflows as a small testimony of a great wonder on all sides. All things were made through him. Things, thus founded, thus sustained, are a sacramental calling, a provocation to glorify God.

The fruit is brought to the place of mystery, the dwelling place of the unspeakable name. A priest takes the basket and sets it before the altar, and then awaits a well-known confession. “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm …; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Deut. 26:5-10). Existence, freedom, sustenance, and a land of plenty are pure gift. Notwithstanding the truth and demand of human effort, there is the yet more powerful truth of love’s outpouring.

Consider gift as the heart of God. The Word never asks, “May I be begotten of the Father?” The Word is the house of love’s outpouring, many mansions where love abides. The Word never asks, “May I love you in turn?” The Most High has a shelter too, and the Word is in it (Ps. 91:1, John 1:1). Love is not a series of careful decisions and calculations. Love is free, willing but never forcing the will.

We are caught up in the gift, being ourselves the gift of God. This is faith: love loving the source of all love. It is in the heart and upon the lips. It is near and present. It is believed; it is confessed (Rom. 10:10). The passive voice — please note — prevents a world of unnecessary heartache.

Faith believes with the heart that the gift of God is the gift of salvation through his beloved Son. But this is not the will marching forward, the brow furrowed with decision, the fist clenched. This is a “tender spiritual touch” (Luther), “unobservable and unheard” (Barth). God.

Look It Up: Read Rom. 10:10.

Think About It: Faith is evoked.

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