The reading for the second Monday of Lent was from Daniel 9. Daniel 9 is Daniels’ confessional prayer on behalf of the people. For a detailed discussion of Daniel 9, see http://www.christfaithpower.com/2013/02/19/lets-make-god-look-good/.
Walter Brueggemann in the January Experience took us beyond Daniel 9 to a wonderful confessional prayer in Nehemiah 9. All these prayers show the people of Israel grappling with their relationship to the Lord God. They acknowledge that there is no God but Yahweh. They readily admit that they have sinned and deserved punishment. They understand that they deserve punishment. They also understand that God is merciful and compassionate and will relent in the face of their earnest prayers. The people will amend their errant ways. God will change God’s mind to look good to the nations. It is a roller coaster ride of covenant love, breaking the covenant by sinning, repenting, God relenting and forgiving. It happens over and over again as they grow in their relationship with the Lord God. As I was thinking about Daniel 9 and Nehemiah 9, I realized how this pattern of relationship is so much a part the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. No wonder AA has been so successful for so many. Life is all about the give and take in human and divine relationships.
Brueggemann introduced Nehemiah 9 by saying, “You. . .you. . .you.” (Kinda like the Mills Brothers song if you are old enough to remember the Mills Brothers!) Thanksgiving and gratitude, especially the grateful memory of God’s mighty deeds, are part and parcel of repentance and forgiveness.
Prayerfully read Nehemiah 9. Repenting the people cried out:
Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.
. . .
You are the Lord God, who chose Abram . . .
You saw the suffering of our ancestors in Egypt; you heard their cry at the Red Sea.
You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good. You made known to them your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses.
Now therefore, our God, the great God, mighty and awesome, who keeps his covenant of love, do not let all this hardship seem trifling in your eyes—the hardship that has come on us, on our kings and leaders, on our priests and prophets, on our ancestors and all your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria until today. In all that has happened to us, you have remained righteous; you have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly. Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our ancestors did not follow your law; they did not pay attention to your commands or the statutes you warned them to keep. 35 Even while they were in their kingdom, enjoying your great goodness to them in the spacious and fertile land you gave them, they did not serve you or turn from their evil ways.
Even though we sin and miss the mark, God is always faithful. Praising God for God’s faithfulness makes for good solid Lenten prayer. As Christians, we can expand the prayer:
You sent your son to live among us in full incarnation.
You sent your son to heal the sick and forgive sinners.
You sent your son to challenge the evils of empire and priestly domination.
You sent your son to proclaim justice for the least among us—the widows, the orphans and the poor.
You sent your son to give food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty.
You sent your son to give shelter to the homeless, comfort to the sick, and hope to prisoners.
You sent your son to teach us how to forgive.
You sent your son to call us to turn our lives around.
Blessed are you for being fully with us. Blessed are you for breathing the life of your Spirit into us. Al praise and glory be to You. Teach us to walk in your ways and to abandon sin, greed, and consumerism so we might serve You and the least among us.