By Pamela Hogewoning
Lectionary reading for 3/13/2022: Psalm 27; Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35; Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a)
Selected passage for reflection: Genesis 15.1-12,17-18a
After these things, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a special dream, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your safe place. Your reward will be very great.” Then Abram said, “O Lord God, what will You give me? For I have no child. And the one who is to receive what belongs to me is Eliezer of Damascus.” Abram said, “Because You have not given me a child, one born in my house will be given all I have.” Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This man will not be given what is yours. But he who will come from your own body will be given what is yours.” He took him outside and said, “Now look up into the heavens and add up the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then He said to him, “Your children and your children’s children will be as many as the stars.” Then Abram believed in the Lord, and that made him right with God.
God said to him, “I am the Lord Who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land for your own.” And Abram said, “O Lord God, how may I know that it will be mind?” So the Lord said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old cow, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove and a young pigeon.” Then Abram brought all these to Him, and cut them in two. And he laid each half beside the other. But he did not cut the birds. When the meat-eating birds came down upon the dead animals, Abram made them go away. When the sun was going down, Abram went into a sleep as if he were dead. And much fear and darkness came upon him.
When the sun had gone down and it was very dark, a fire pot of smoke and a burning fire passed between these parts of animals. The Lord made an agreement with Abram on that day. He said, “I have given this land to your children and to their children’s children…”
Like many, I often fall prey to the temptation to believe that if I produce then I am valuable. The belief is that I should and need to physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually produce in the areas of work, family, community, and society. If I do this, then I am deserving of love, affection, recognition, and value. The daily temptation to produce, in order to be of worth, creates a build up of expectation, assumption, and self-preservation. Lent is a time to step back and strip away these layers which have built up over the past weeks, months, and year.
During Lent, we eliminate and let go of some of the coping mechanisms we’ve developed (i.e., food, drink, social media, shopping, etc.) in order to embrace the true nature of our worth. A worth that is not ours to produce or grab hold of, but worth given to us by God. This is an uncomfortable process and leaves us vulnerable. However, it’s through the process that we find our value is anchored in something more certain than my attempts to produce my way to worth.
The story of Abram (later to be named Abraham) gives us a sobering as well as an empowering truth. It is God who does the work and in that work reveals our value. There is nothing I can do outside of God which will have everlasting value. I find this aspect of Abrahams’s story speaking to me during Lent. Yes, Abraham has faith in God, but it is God who does something great in and through Abraham. It is not Abraham who works to achieve the favor of God. In fact, when Abraham takes matters into his own hands, things fall apart and become burdensome. This is why I find Abraham’s story to be sobering. It is a reminder to beware not to take on the burden of being productive for the sake of finding and justifying my worth. However, Abraham’s story is an empowering reminder, to keep focused on the One who is doing the work in and through me.
Lent invites us to strip off all the futile attempts we have been making to validate our existence and value and embrace the worth that God has already determined. This worth is not seen in what we can produce, but in the reality that God was willing to make this promise with Abraham and thousands of years later give up everything in order to fulfill this promise through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. During this Lent season, may we be reminded that Jesus was willing to walk this difficult journey because God had determined us worthy of the sacrifice.
Take some time to identify areas and practices in your life where you struggle to find your worth. Consider if some of these areas of practices point you to God or are they offering a false or temporary sense of worth.
Lord God, forgive me of the times I have attempted to find my worth and value in something or someone other than you. I receive instead the amazing gift of your grace and I embrace the beautiful work you are doing in and through me. Amen.
About the Author
Pamela Carlson Hogewoning lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband and three kids. As an ordained minister, she served in pastoral ministry for ten years. Recently, Pamela started her role as Chaplain of a Provincial Correctional Centre where she cares for the spiritual needs of inmates. Pamela enjoys the beauty of northern Ontario and for fun, she and a friend host the Hogs and Rope podcast.