Lent: Stretching toward God

March 5, 2022
Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Isaiah continues his advice begun in yesterday’s reading. When he finishes the list of things we should and should not do, Isaiah tells us how God will respond:

Then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday;
Then the LORD will guide you always
and give you plenty even on the parched land.
God will renew your strength,
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fails.
The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake,
and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up ~

Isaiah 58: 8-12

Oh, who can resist these glorious Isaiahan lines. It’s a beautiful picture, isn’t it? To imagine it offers us great encouragement as we limp out of winter toward a spring horizon.


Each of our readings today carries a sense of shaking off old and lifeless ways to stretch toward a new promise.

The psalmist asks for God’s help in that stretching.

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.

Psalm 86:11

As I thought about “stretching” in prayer this morning, an image came to me of an experience some of you might share. After my knee replacement, I had to learn to streeeeetch my old ligaments around the new implant. It wasn’t exactly “hell” to do so, but it was at least the edge of purgatory! My perseverance paid off though when I began to walk freely and painlessly.



Stretching into the depths of God also takes a full measure of willpower and HOPE. We can hear these pleas in the rest of Psalm 86:

Incline your ear, O LORD; answer me,
for I am afflicted and poor.
Keep my life, for I am devoted to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God.

Have mercy on me, O Lord,
for to you I call all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.



They say that rehabbing from knee replacement surgery is a lot easier if you have exercised and kept in fair shape beforehand. In our Gospel, dear Matthew does a total , full-hearted stretch — one that he must have been preparing for all his life. Otherwise, how could he have been so immediately responsive to Christ’s unexpected invitation?

Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.

Luke 5:27

Visualizing this scene, we can almost see Matthew not only get up — but his spirit actually jump up at the amazing invitation of God!


Lent is a time for us to do some jumping into grace — so many invitations come to us in this season’s beautiful scriptures and rituals. So many inspirations to grow come to us in our changing seasons! Let’s not be so distracted by our daily un-importances that we miss the call to streeeetch!


Poetry: St. Matthew by John Keble – this is a section of the poem which reflects on today’s Gospel passage.Matthew is the “meek publican” of the second stanza below. Amid all the clamor of the world around him, Keble’s Matthew has a clear eye and heart for Christ.
John Keble, (1792 – 1866) was an English churchman and poet, one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement. Keble College, Oxford, was named after him.

There are in this loud stunning tide
Of human care and crime,
With whom the melodies abide
Of th' everlasting chime;
Who carry music in their heart
Through dusky lane and wrangling mart,
Plying their daily task with busier feet,
Because their secret souls a holy strain repeat.
How sweet to them, in such brief rest
As thronging cares afford,
In thought to wander, fancy-blest,
To where their gracious Lord,
In vain, to win proud Pharisees,
Spake, and was heard by fell disease-
But not in vain, beside yon breezy lake,
Bade the meek Publican his gainful seat forsake:
At once he rose, and left his gold;
His treasure and his heart
Transferred, where he shall safe behold
Earth and her idols part;
While he beside his endless store
Shall sit, and floods unceasing pour
Of Christ's true riches o'er all time and space,
First angel of His Church, first steward of His Grace.
Nor can ye not delight to think
Where He vouchsafed to eat,
How the Most Holy did not shrink
From touch of sinner's meat;
What worldly hearts and hearts impure
Went with Him through the rich man's door,
That we might learn of Him lost souls to love,
And view His least and worst with hope to meet above.
These gracious lines shed Gospel light
On Mammon's gloomiest cells,
As on some city's cheerless night
The tide of sunrise swells,
Till tower, and dome, and bridge-way proud
Are mantled with a golden cloud,
And to wise hearts this certain hope us given;
“No mist that man may raise, shall hide the eye of Heaven.”
And oh! if e'en on Babel shine
Such gleams of Paradise,
Should not their peace be peace divine,
Who day by day arise
To look on clearer heavens, and scan
The work of God untouch'd by man?
Shame on us, who about us Babel bear,
And live in Paradise, as if God was not there!

Music: Stretch Out – Gospel/Soul song by the Institutional Radio Choir

The Institutional Radio Choir was a gospel choir that recorded between 1962-2003. The choir began in 1954 at the Institutional COGIC in Brooklyn, NY, under Bishop Carl E Williams Sr. After recording an album entitled: “Well Done,” the choir backed up Shirley Caesar on her two albums, I’ll Go and My Testimony. Caesar allotted the choir’s director two songs on the album, one of which was entitled (When Trouble Comes) Stretch Out. The song went on to become a gospel standard, especially in Pentecostal circles. The choir went on to record over 20 albums, most of which charted in the Top 10 on the Gospel Billboard charts.

When troubles come and storms begin to rise
Hold on and learn to stretch out
Oh keep on fasting, keep on praying
Hold on and learn to stretch out

When Satan get on your track
And tries to turn me back
I won’t worry, i won’t fret. i just stretch out
Stretch out, oh stretch out

When days are dark and cloudy are my skies
I hold on and learn to stretch out
Oh keep on fasting, keep on believing
Hold on and learn to stretch out

Cause the race isn’t given to the swift
Neither is it given to the strong
But to him that endureth to the end
Stretch out, oh stretch out

When troubles come and storms begin to rise
Hold on and learn to stretch out
Oh keep on fasting keep on believing
Hold on and learn to stretch out

Cause the race isn’t given to the swift
Neither is it given to the strong
But to him that endureth to the end
Stretch out, oh stretch out

When i am lost, when i am sad
Jesus is there, he’ll make me glad
The Lord won’t deceive you
The Lord he won’t leave you

Stretch out

Stretch out
Stretch out
Stretch out on his word

Stretch out
Stretch out
Stretch out
Oh, stretch out

Stretch out!

2 thoughts on “Lent: Stretching toward God

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