“Of all the peoples on earth, you have been chosen by Yahweh your God to be his own people. Because he loved you and meant to keep the oath which he swore to your ancestors: that was why Yahweh brought you out with his mighty hand and redeemed you from the place of slave-labour, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. From this you can see that Yahweh your God is the true God, the faithful God who, though he is true to his covenant and his faithful love for a thousand generations as regards those who love him and keep his commandments.”
Deutoronomy 7: 6b, 8-9
Today we begin Lent, but the reading we find in today’s Lauds, or morning prayers, is one that reminds us what God has done for us and that, through His actions, we may know that He is our God. We might have expected a more muted reading reminding us that we are to fast and abstain today. But that would be missing the point somewhat. Fasting is important, but it is a means, not a goal. One of the goals of today is indicated by the reading above: the gratitude that is God’s due.
None of us, I safely assume, crossed the Red Sea with Moses. At least not literally. But we all did so figuratively. We crossed our own Red Sea when we were baptised, from oppression into freedom, a freedom safeguarded by the Lord. The problem is, though, that we are stubborn and have a free will. So at times, we, perhaps inadvertently, cross the Red Sea once again, but in the wrong direction. For those times, few or many, that we have returned to “the place of slave-labour”, we have Lent. Ash Wednesday, at the start of that road to Easter, is that first reminder that we have taken a wrong turn, but that God “is true to his covenant and his faithful love for a thousand generations as regards those who love him and keep his commandments.”
Today, let us be reminded of the times when we took the wrong turn, off the path of God and away from His faithful love, and work to remedy the wrongs we did. But we need not be sad, because it is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing, because God once again liberates us, like He freed the people of Israel from Egypt.
Art credit: ‘The Red Sea’, by Ted Larson