Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of five columns written by Ron Byler, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. executive director, to mark 100 […]
Editor’s note: From Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, bloggers for The Mennonite will write reflections on the Lectionary text. All eight reflections will be available at themennonite.org/lent. Sign up for our TMail newsletter and follow us on Facebook to receive the reflections.
I like Abram’s response when God offered him a covenant (Genesis 15:1-18), part of the Lectionary text this week. Abram’s fear and questions grew into faith and led to an elaborate sacrifice. Abram’s openness to the promptings of God demonstrates how to live into our Lenten journeys. I had a God appearance years ago in the holy land, though not nearly as dramatic as Abram’s theophany.
As a young man, I volunteered for four weeks of work at Nazareth Hospital. I had dropped out of college after my freshman year, and three Mennonite buddies and I traveled for six months throughout the Middle East and Europe. We were on our own with almost no communication home for the entire time.
One Sunday afternoon at Nazareth Hospital, we Mennonite guys, five British fellows and four Arab nurses took a walk to see Mt. Tabor, the traditional site of the Transfiguration. Young men from the local community confronted us and did not like seeing single Brits and Americans escorting Arab female nurses on a long walk. It stirred my anger, and though we got through that uncomfortable event without incident, it took all of my restraint and nonresistance teachings to refrain from pushing back.
I experienced Holy Spirit transformation while working at the international Nazareth Hospital, visiting Mennonite missionaries in Israel, taking a trip into the Sinai and camping along the Red Sea. I had been seeking God’s leading in my life, uncertain that I would ever reenroll in my Mennonite college back home. In the womb of supportive Christian leaders in Israel, travels around the country and a revelation I received while camping on the sands of the Red Sea coast, I was transformed. That revelation of faith pointed me back toward Virginia to finish college, which I did.
This year, a day before Ash Wednesday, a student asked me if I had considered giving up anything for Lent. I hadn’t, though, by that evening, I sensed an inner nudge to give up recorded music. Giving up my music is a big deal. I listen to music in my study when I research, write and grade papers. I turn on the radio in my Jeep when I drive around town, and I listen to favorite tunes when I exercise. I’ve given up recorded music for Lent, though not live music; my life has suddenly turned much quieter and more reflective. It’s through a new lens that I read the gospel narrative, part of the Lectionary text this week, describing how the devil tempted Jesus for 40 days in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-2).
To respond to the promptings of faith, I think, means accepting change, remaining open to new ideas, living into creative possibilities and taking untraveled paths. It’s exciting to stay open to the promptings of faith, to see what new roads lie ahead, to receive grace-filled blessings, like God’s covenant offered to Abram so many years ago.
Elwood Yoder teaches history and Bible at Eastern Mennonite High School in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and attends Zion Mennonite Church in Broadway, Virginia.
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