Last Sunday I was in the sanctuary preparing for the 11: 15 service when I was approached by a distressed woman whom I did not know. She didn’t announce herself, with tears in her eyes simply said, “Will you give me a blessing?” Somewhat taken aback, I said “Sure.” Standing by the altar rail, I placed my hand on her shoulder and mumbled an impromptu blessing: “Gracious God, overshadow your servant with your love. Make your face to shine upon her. Let her know that you will be with her now and evermore. Amen.”
I assumed that she would then go away quietly so that I could finish my preparations. Not so quickly. She said to me, “Can I have some bread?” Being a little slow on the uptake, I thought she was referring to the kind we offer at coffee hour. I told her that I didn’t know what was available, but that she was free to take whatever was out on the table. She responded, “No. This bread,” pointing toward the altar. I told her that she was certainly welcome to stay and take communion. “No,” she said. “Can I have it now?” Admittedly, the request was a bit unorthodox, but I said “Sure.” I went over the to the Tabernacle where we keep the reserved sacrament, took a wafer out of the ciborium, took her aside, and administered the sacrament with a brief prayer. After she received, she left.
As I stood there marveling at what had transpired, I couldn’t help but think of the women in the Gospels who simply wouldn’t be denied. The woman with a flow of blood who was determined to touch Jesus (Mk.5.25ff). The Syrophoenecian woman who wouldn’t take Jesus’ no for an answer: “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs (Mk 7: 24—30). I began to wonder if this woman came into my life last Sunday to invite me to get in touch with what I need this coming lent, and am I desperate enough to bring that need to Jesus.
When it comes to bringing our needs to God, it really comes down to this: Are we a passive agent in our relationship with God, or like God are we a full participant? Being a full participant who brings our demands and desires to God is risky. It is risky because we may be disappointed at God’s response. God has extraordinary freedom and refuses to be tied down by our expectations for reasons beyond our knowing. However, because God is free and not preprogrammed, our demands have an impact on God. Because Jesus was free, the Syrophoenecian woman was able to change his mind. Moses intercession on behalf of theIsraelites changed the Lord’s “mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people (Ex.32.14).” What we bring to our relationship with God makes an impact on God.
Maybe this Lent can be a time we enter more fully into this relationship with God, bringing all of who we are, in spite of the risk. God may respond in ways beyond our imagining. Or, we may be disappointed that we don’t get what we want. In either case, we may discover at the end of the day that, as in our human relationships, bringing all of who we are into the relationship has deepened our connection with God. We may discover that our relationship with God is an unfolding drama full of chapters of joy and sorrow. And, best of all we may discover that at the end of the Lenten journey we have never been more in love with our partner on this journey.