Reflection for the First Sunday of Lent

By Julia Styles


Lectionary reading for 3/6/2022: Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Romans 10:8b-13; Luke 4:1-13
Selected passage for reflection: Romans 10:8b-13 NIV

Read

Romans 10:8b-13

8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,”[a] that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”[b] 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”[c]

Reflect

When I read Romans 10:8-13, especially verses 9 and 10, in the New International Version, all the assumptions of the Evangelical tradition blare at me like a resounding gong. All I can hear are altar calls and the Sinner’s Prayer, and a call to evangelize others. Like many Americans, I have some baggage I’m still unloading when it comes to Evangelicalism, and that baggage can distort scripture to the point where sometimes I just want to throw it all away, and disregard scripture all together.


When my own history of religiosity deafens me from hearing the good news of God, I turn to my current go-to solution for seeing things with new eyes, and read the passage in different translations. The Message translation often helps me hear things more clearly, and allows the Holy Spirit to work in both my understanding and in my healing.


Romans 10: 8-13 The Message


8-10 So what exactly was Moses saying? The word that saves is right here, as near as the tongue in your mouth, as close as the heart in your chest. It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!”

11-13 Scripture reassures us, “No one who trusts God like this—heart and soul—will ever regret it.” It’s exactly the same no matter what a person’s religious background may be: the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help. “Everyone who calls, ‘Help, God!’ gets help.”


These verses are a clear distillation of what the Apostle Paul believes is the message of Christianity: when we decide that following in the footsteps of Jesus is worth it, all we need to do is ask Jesus to lead us, and believe that God will do the rest. We don’t need to do anything. There are no hoops to jump through, no box to fit in, no religious checklist to get into heaven. God will do all of the restorative work necessary to make our relationships right—our relationships with God, others, the earth, ourselves.


In other words, when we call out to God for help, God helps. When we allow God to bring back to life that which has died, God revives. When we allow God to heal what is broken, God heals. Instead of trying to follow a list of do’s and don'ts to strive for perfection, we surrender to the fact that Jesus would do it better. We don’t do anything but call out to God and trust that God will do the rest. Salvation, in other words, is asking God to take over, and surrendering to that Love.


And the great news is that whoever trusts God like this, whoever surrenders to Love, will not regret it. And this salvation is for E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E! Everyone is welcome to the generous, healing, transforming, powerful, all-reconciling love of God.


To me, this is good news, and authentically, I can’t help but say it out loud. (But that might not be where everyone is at.) Perhaps, the idea of surrendering to God still doesn’t sound that great. The word surrender has all sorts of negative connotations that are hard to untangle.


In Spiritual Direction training, we read a book called Surrender to Love: Discovering the Heart of Christian Spirituality by David Benner. In that book, the author uses a metaphor for surrender that I find very helpful. Surrendering to love is not like waving a white flag and being conquered, instead surrendering to love is like floating on water.


When we float we have to allow the water to hold us, we cannot do anything but lie back, breathe, and allow the water to hold us up. When we first try to learn to float on our backs it is nerve-wracking, or even scary, because we are releasing control, which isn’t natural. But when we actually let go—of control, tension and fear—and let the water do the work, we float, and it can be the most calming sensation on the planet.


Next time you find yourself gripped with anxiety, call on God for help, and believe that God will come through for you.


Respond

Scripture reassures us, “No one who trusts God like this—heart and soul—will ever regret it.”

Try a body prayer to practice releasing your worries to God:

Hold your arms out in front of you with your hands balled in fists.

Then say: “God help me to trust in your love, to let go, and to allow you to do the work.”

Now open your palms face up, and imagine releasing whatever you need to release to God.

Rest

Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and imagine yourself letting go of the things you cannot control and floating in the waters of God’s love. Stay there for as long as you need.


About the Author

Julia Styles is a spiritual director. She is passionate about women in ministry and believes the church needs to hear their voices—in the pulpit, on the page, in the classroom, and in positions of leadership both within and outside the church. To contact Julia for a free spiritual direction session visit www.spiritualdirectionwithjulia.com.

Julia resides with her husband Derek and two kids Jakob and Zoe in Atlanta, GA.


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