Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tuesday in Lent 1

Deuteronomy 9:4-12
v. 6 Know, then, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to occupy because of your righteousness; for you are a stubborn people.

The Israelites were chosen but they were stubborn. "Stiff-necked," God calls them in other places.

We have a funny relationship with stubborness. To call someone stubborn is generally not a compliment, and yet we tend to think well of a person who knows their own mind and "sticks to their guns."Alas, we can't have it both ways.

In the discernment process that we use when someone wants to explore a call to ministry, one of the ground rule is this: "Hold your desires and opinions--even your convictions--lightly." The first time I read that, years ago, I remember thinking to myself, "I'm in trouble. I'm a man of many opinions, most of which I hold dear." It took me awhile to learn that I was not being told not to have convictions, but rather to "hold them lightly."

What does that mean? Over time I have experienced it to mean that my mind needs always to be open. I need to be ready to hear the thing I do not want to hear. I need to be capable of changing my mind. I need to be primarily a person of faith, not of convictions.

I still have my convictions, as most of you well know. You hear about them a lot, perhaps too much. I do believe having convictions is all right. Jesus had convictions, of that I am certain. But he also had a fundamentally open stance toward the world, and it is that open stance I need to emulate lest my convictions become stubborness and I develop a stiff neck.

May this Lent cure us of our stiff necks.

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