Little Sheldean Human's body was found last week. Pretoria's walls are filled with messages of love and support. Some offer prayers, while others call for the murderer's execution. It is a traumatic event in the life of this community, this nation.
Something has gone terribly wrong with our society. Everyone seems to live lives of caution, suspicion, anxiety and fear. Communities are fighting back, and this is a positive sign, but where has it all gone wrong?
Perhaps we can learn something from Isaiah. This week the lectionary takes us on a journey through chapter 55:1-9. These have offered food for thought, emphasised the themes in Lent for the salvation of the nation.
Think about the following:
1. "Why do you pay more attention to that which is destructive than to what God gives freely? " (v. 1-2).
Is South Africa not falling into the trap of depending on its own successes, legacy or icons? The walls are getting higher, we don't know our neighbours, churches are feeling the pinch as members prefer to go shopping than worshipping in community. Perhaps Lent can teach us as a nation that we depend far more on God's grace than what we think.
2. "My ways are not your ways" (v.8).
The Lordship of Christ is so easily negotiated. The trap of relativism places us in a position where "you can believe in what keeps you happy, while I'll believe in what makes me happy". Who is created in who's image here?
3. "Call on the Lord while he is near" (v.6)
I don't think that God is offering here a window-opportunity. I understand it to say to the nation of Judah that the longer they dabble in self-generated, self-gratifying actions and not acknowledge the role of their relationship to God and community, the more difficult it will become to return to being God's people. Perhaps we need to hear this during Lent and find ourselves rather in the humble worship of God than the worship of ourselves.
I anticipate that the pragmatists and rationalists will find this concept hard to swallow. The journey of Lent is not about finding solutions, but journeying on a restorative path as we come face-to-face with God and discover our own brokenness.