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Lenten Reflections: Devotion Deeper Than Convenience

''Two Beers Here!'' photo (c) 2010, 3dpete - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Saturday, Feb. 16

Lectionary passages:

Judges 8:22-35
John 17:20-26
Hebrews 12:25-29

By Rebecca Davis

I gave up my car a year-and-a-half ago.  Now, each Sunday, I ride the subway—I exit a Red Line train at Metro Center and walk up the escalators on the 12th Street side. Most weeks in the fall, and many in winter, the platform is full of people wearing jerseys for the Redskins or the Caps.  They stagger around in groups, clutching tickets, or kids, looking for the transfer line or hopping on my train to move on to the Gallery Place station.

Sports, after all, is the one true religion of the United States, with high priests, special garb, ritual, hefty tithing, and passionate eschatological debate.  I subscribe myself, following along the Nationals through seven painful years and triumphant playoff berth in 2012.  My friends tell me to lighten up, that this is better than the gladiator alternative from Roman times.  (I get it.  I really do.  Sometimes I find myself misty at sports games, so thankful that we live in a place where we can peacefully gather.)

Lately, however, it appears only marginally better.  Between Lance’s painful (if long overdue) admission, Azarenka’s dubious “injuries” during the Australian Open semi-final, the RGIII knee surgery, A-Rod’s denials and the rampant head injuries “under study” by the NFL, sports magnifies our human foibles.

And there is something about the way we follow—with such devotion—that reminds me of the Israelites in the first passage.  I don’t blame any of us.  It’s impossible to resist the barrage of television, social media, and culture that demands we pay attention.  That, and it’s fun.  We feel great when our teams win, love the stories, share with neighbors.

The Israelites, truly thankful for Gideon’s leadership, offer the spoils of their battles, and their devotion for a time.  It lasts for a generation or two.  But soon enough, when Gideon dies, when the magnetism of the leader is gone, the Israelites’ loyalty is no deeper than convenience, and they chase the gods of Baal.  “The Israelites did not remember the Lord their God, who had rescued them from the hand of all their enemies on every side.”

I wonder if my devotion is no deeper than convenience.  I’m easily distracted, and often disloyal.  I make this decision week by week, as I choose where to spend my time. 

I give thanks to the Lord, with my whole heart. —Psalm 9

Rebecca Davis is a member of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, in Washington, D.C. This post is reprinted, with permission,  from NYAPC's 2013 Lenten Meditations booklet PDF Icon.


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