Lent Day 14: WILDERNESS

Wilderness … this is the ultimate location for a Lenten journey, even if it’s metaphorical. The wilderness is the  mythological place where civilization ends. It’s where you go when the garden is closed to you, when towns and cities aren’t safe, or the busy hubs of humanity are too noisy and busy to allow you to find your own spiritual center.

crossing_mountainsWilderness is the place where roads stop, maps cannot offer a definitive blueprint for the paths in and out, and the GPS shows a blank screen. The place in scripture where trials occur and miracles show up, for the people of Israel,  prophets like Moses and John, and even for Jesus.

Wilderness is the place where people are lost and tested and confused and stuck and changed. Where people stay for 40 years or 40 days … If people return from the wildlands, they’re often different.

Several faith communities are using the book Lessons from the Wild Wood as a Lenten guide this year… as in invitation to get lost. To make mistakes. To fail. To learn from our own vulnerabilities and flaws, and grow as spiritual beings by taking risks.

wilderness_mtWho are we when we come back from the wilderness? If you make it back, perhaps you went through a time when you felt abandoned and alone. Yet if you come back, and you reflect on that time, perhaps you recognize the ways that God was present even in those remote spiritual or physical sites. Often people who return from the wilderness are more actively spiritual in their beliefs and practices, and they can point to specific examples of how God showed up for them.

Not everyone makes it back. The wilderness can cost your life. The journey can take its toll. Whether we’re talking about spiritual or bodily journeys … the risk can be real, in either example, when you step into the wilderness. And the resulting transformations from such a time apart in the wildlands can be just as real.

Lectionary scripture excerpts below:

  • Then the Lord said, “I do forgive, just as you have asked; nevertheless—as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord— none of the people who have seen my glory and the signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have tested me these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their ancestors.
  • Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.
  • When they were few in number,of little account, and strangers in it, wandering from nation to nation,from one kingdom to another people,  he allowed no one to oppress them.

 

 

 

RSS
Follow by Email
Facebook
Facebook
LinkedIn
INSTAGRAM

Lent Day 13: WORKS

Today the word that surfaces in the scriptures is WORKS. We can hear this word as a noun such as a creative project that has been completed. Or we can hear this word as a verb, an action we can undertake.

Feb22_LentC_workbootsTo me, whether we think of ‘works’ as a finished project or actions to be undertaken, the word implies legacy. It is something we’ll leave behind after our lives are done. Something that makes a difference, that shapes and changes the world, even a little bit.

The Psalms extol ‘works’ as the evidence of God’s creativity and power through what our senses tell us: what we see, feel, hear, smell, taste and touch. In the New Testament, the idea of ‘works’ takes on the aspect of those actions we undertake in order to be righteous and faithful people.

Of course, whether our acts of faith can earn any portion of God’s grace has been a long debate in Christian theology, a point of division among different movements within our faiths. The debate is academically and intellectually worthy, of course, but I’m glad that I’m not ultimately responsible for these answers.

It matters whether we live ethically, of course. As for whether I can receive God’s grace because of ‘works’, that’s beyond my control. I just don’t know the answer.

We are partners in our destinies, so we shouldn’t be complacent, even if we cannot be sure of the outcome. Admittedly, I strive toward the ideal that God would find delight and joy in the way I live out my days. Yet I fall short of that ideal … well, every day.

Would I choose to live un-righteously, to live without participating in ‘works’ that are faithful, if I thought it didn’t matter to God? Would I live differently, indulgently, recklessly, carelessly, selfishly, if I thought I could live so, and still be forgiven at the end of all time? Probably not. I’d probably still be my messy self, following most of the commandments, but breaking some of them.

In contrast, do I believe that if I live ethically and faithfully, I somehow deserve more love and compassion and mercy from our Creator than someone who turns to God after a lifetime of ill deeds? After all, Jesus forgave one of the men hanging on the nearby cross at the end of his own life, as he was being crucified. We don’t know all the man’s crimes, but his newfound belief was only minutes old, his life was ending, yet he was invited into paradise with Christ.

crossesThe criminal being crucified next to Jesus didn’t have time for any ‘works’ that would help him earn God’s grace. Or did he? Perhaps his one action was his profound internal movement to form a relationship with Jesus in the brief time they knew each other.

Who deserves grace? Who doesn’t deserve grace? Can ‘works’ earn it for us? Can a life filled with the opposite of righteous works, a life measured by the atrocities and violence and oppression committed by a person, place someone beyond grace?

I confess, I have debated with my colleagues over that question earnestly, wondering if historic figures who have committed massive atrocities can ever expect forgiveness from God? I have learned that different faith traditions have different ways of understanding how God offers resolution to those who harm God’s children. The chance to form a relationship with God, to be in God’s grace, certainly starts by being remorseful and seeking forgiveness … and even then, how might one offer some form of apology and seek to atone for  massive losses inflicted on whole populations? Perhaps it isn’t possible. Again, this isn’t within my control. It belongs to God.

Of course, while God’s mercy is God’s business, systems of justice and reconciliation are our human business. We have models for attempting to seek reconciliation and justice from those who oppress others and perpetuate atrocities. Even creating chances for redemption for perpetrators whose actions would seem irredeemable. Nations such as those in Rwanda and South Africa have found systems of reconciliation that allow people to remember, listen, learn from the past, confront each other, bear witness to each others’ stories, develop systems of consequences and atonement, and rebuild together. It is a slow and sustainable approach to healing.

This is certainly the work of deep faith … and humans are capable of it because of our capacity to love and hope, beyond all reason. Examples of this level of work are available through the forgiveness challenge. http://www.humanjourney.com/forgiveness/

Meanwhile, let’s return to the word ‘works.’ Again I wonder, can any of us ever earn or deserve or negotiate our worthiness to be beloved and forgiven?

We are connected, I believe, to a God that knows the best and worst about us, and loves us just as we are. That shouldn’t make us complacent. Our God always hopes for more from and for us: that we should stretch and reach toward our potential.

We are called to ‘become’ rather than just ‘be.’ From that perspective, our daily actions … our daily ‘works’ … are the place where we grow and become more fully human.

Below are excerpts from the lectionary:

  • Sing to him, sing praises to him;tell of all his wonderful works.
  • Remember the wonderful works he has done,his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered.
  • For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say?
  • Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due.
  • So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from work.
RSS
Follow by Email
Facebook
Facebook
LinkedIn
INSTAGRAM

Day 12 of Lent: WAY

fabforgottennobility.tumblr.com
from: fabforgottennobility.tumblr.com

Lent is a time of spiritual journey and pilgrimage. We turn inward to learn more about ourselves, and we also look outward at our connection to the world. We practice following Jesus. We walk in his Way, with the help of the Spirit.

The Way implies movement. We are beings who move and grow: bodily, emotionally,  psychologically, and spiritually.

Humans are creatures of motion, traveling through time across varied geographies and landscapes. Our sacred stories are filled with motion. We depart, we journey from point A to point B, we get lost, we wander, and we arrive. We cross borders, bridges, and boundaries. We go through rivers and deserts, lakes and mountains, wilderness and cities. We pause at crossroads. We pass through doors and portals. We detour for walls and barriers. We turn back. We keep going. We ascend and descend. We swim, walk, run, ride,  or fly. We stop at places of safety: wells, oasis, gardens, temples, tents, and other places of refuge. We leave and go into exile. We return home.

We also stretch and expand with our minds, our emotions, and our spirits. So what does it mean to walk or stand firm in Christ’s Way? Consider the Gospel’s most basic and ethical commands: love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. Within that statement are the anchors of a covenant: God, self, and others (including creation). These are Jesus commandment, in their primal form, for living ethically.

During this season, you’re invited to ask yourself, what parts of walking in the Way come easily to you? And what parts need more attention?

Following the Way combines what we learn from scripture and tradition, and what we learn from intuition, intellect and experience. In today’s scripture, we hear that God’s word (the Bible) is one guide for the Way. Christ’s life of ministry serves as a template. Plus our church says that God is still speaking in the world today, through the people we meet and the insights we gain. Prayer serves as a chance for redirecting ourselves, as we respond to current events. Our community can be a resource as we study and follow the Way of Christ.

Sometimes the Way is more than a metaphor, it is also a physical pilgrimage. People travel certain roads, and visit specific sacred stations or sites, as a bodily journey through the landscape, toward a specific destination. The Way is embodied by a route that you navigate using maps and GPS. Examples of pilgrimage include walking along the Camino de Santiago between France and Spain for Christians or the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) for Muslims. Pilgrimage is a universal experience that can also be found in other faith traditions around the world.

  • Genesis 15: 4a — But the word of the Lord came to him.
  • Psalm 27: 11 — Teach me your way, O Lord,and lead me on a level path.
  • Philippians 4: 1 — Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
  • Luke 13: 32b-33 — ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way.
RSS
Follow by Email
Facebook
Facebook
LinkedIn
INSTAGRAM

Day 11 of Lent: BLESSED

As we journey through Lent, let us take a moment to consider blessings (the  common theme in today’s Biblical passages).

  • Sometimes blessings are parts of ourselves. Sometimes they’re internal: our talents and strengths, our emotions and thoughts.
  • Blessings might also be external resources: food, shelter, job, and education. They might be relationships with people (ex: family, friends, mentors, colleagues, community) and places such as special environments (ex: beach or mountains) or humanmade spaces (ex: sanctuary, concert hall, studio or gallery, kitchen, or athletic facility).
  • Blessings imply reciprocity. We receive them. We also give them.

blessed_hands1Let us name and count them up. And be grateful for them. Daily gratitude practices for our blessings have measurable benefits; they make a difference to our psychological outlook and also impact our physiological wellbeing. These practices can include praying about or journaling those things for which we are grateful each day.

Part of gratitude practices, beyond naming those things for which you’re grateful, includes feeling gratitude’s effect on your body. Being aware of blessings is more than a mental and emotional exercise, it has direct sensory connections to our body’s wellbeing.

Here are a few links for gratitude practices from different traditions, though much of the wisdom is shared among them:

Excerpts from daily lectionary Bible passages:

  • Psalm 118:26 —  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord.
  • Matthew 23:39 — For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Note: In the excerpts above, the same phrase is repeated. Note that the writers of the Gospel draw from older traditions, the Hebrew texts such as the Psalms, since Jesus and his earliest followers were Jewish. That’s why the same phrase appears in both places: our Christian texts are rooted first in Jewish writings.

RSS
Follow by Email
Facebook
Facebook
LinkedIn
INSTAGRAM

Day 10 of Lent: ENEMIES

How do I write about today’s word? Enemies. I’m so uncomfortable with it. It exists due to extreme conflict or tension. It draws lines, and puts me on the opposite side of that boundary from other people, or from aspects of myself.

Today is an invitation to wonder, are our ‘enemies’ other people, or sometimes, ourselves? And how do we reconcile ourselves with these ‘enemies’?

day10_lentC_enemies
I cannot be enemy of myself: One photo from the #jewsandarabsrefusetobeenemies campaign at twitter.com

In some of these texts, the word ‘enemies’ is used with the military context of those who win and lose, those who conquer or submit, those who live and die. In current times, since our nation is engaged in many armed conflicts, and our culture is steeped with fear, the concept of ‘enemies’ is hauntingly close to us.

In other texts, such as the letter from Paul, ‘enemies’ are those who live apart from the way of Christ. Again, this might imply parts of ourselves as well as other people. Often enough, we find ourselves living in ways that are not allowing us to be connected to Godself. I understand that when the text discusses Jesus’ way, it means, in part, his way of living in the world … his ethical way of engaging issues of mercy, justice, faith, healing and human connection … his ways of engaged living in the political and social environment of his day. It also means Jesus way of  healing us by recognizing and restoring our integrity as members of God’s body, God’s kingdom.

Today is also an invitation to consider fear. And find another way to respond to the conditions that develop ‘enemies.’ To walk God’s path, to turn to God as stronghold. In countering fear, we seek responses rooted in love, versus fear.

Maybe we are invited, by walking the way of Christ, to reconsider those parts of ourselves, or other people we have labeled as enemies, from a different perspective. Perhaps we cannot become friends with our ‘enemies’ or  reconcile ourselves to our adversaries. Yet perhaps we can find some clarity, some empathy. Or some way of letting go. One example comes from deeply-wounded societies such as Rwanda or South Africa (see the the Forgiveness Challenge developed by Desmond Tutu). Through the arduous process of forgiveness, we can work toward the capacity to relinquish the internal emotions such as fear, loathing or hatred, that allow our ‘enemies’ to maintain their presence and power in our lives.

  • Psalm 27: 1 — The Lord is my light and my salvation;whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
  • Psalm 27: 11-12a — Teach me your way, O Lord,and lead me on a level path, because of my enemies. Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries …
  • Genesis 14:20 — And blessed be God Most High,who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”
  • Phillipians 13: 17-18 — Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears.
RSS
Follow by Email
Facebook
Facebook
LinkedIn
INSTAGRAM

Day 9 of Lent: LAND

Presumably our Lenten journey is our own chance, like Jesus, to spend 40 days in the wilderness, getting lost, being challenged, doing ‘without’ in order to become more self-aware and draw closer to Godself. Today’s word is LAND, which invites us to think about the place where we find ourselves making this spiritual pilgrimage, or to consider the physical reality in which we work, play, study and live day-to-day.

land

Some of the text dwells on the land as the time and place where we live right now. To be sure, we are beings connected to history, geography, society and other influences.

Some passages consider how the land was stressed by overuse by its inhabitants. Later God says the land is being given into Israel’s care. Both of these passages imply an ethical need for care and conservation for creation; humans are profoundly responsible for our way of living on this earth.

Finally, Paul talks about letting go of everything else, and discovering his ‘place’ within Christ, or of finding Christ within himself. He seeks to become an inhabitant of God’s kingdom, and also finds God’s kingdom within himself.

Isn’t it interesting to consider that the site of our spiritual pilgrimage isn’t just the time and geography in which we live right now, but the mortal flesh, the human bodies, that we inhabit? We have the same ethical connection to our own bodies, as we do to the rest of creation. We’re invited to pause and realize that we’re called to care and conserve our bodies, as we do for the land.

Excerpts from today’s lectionary texts:

  • Psalm 27:13 —  I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
  • Genesis 13:5-6 — Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, so that the land could not support both of them living together; for their possessions were so great that they could not live together.
  • Genesis 13:14-15 — The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Raise your eyes now, and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; 15 for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring[a]
  • Genesis 13:17 –Rise up, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”
  • Phillippians 3:12 — Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
  • Phillippians 3:8 — More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him …
RSS
Follow by Email
Facebook
Facebook
LinkedIn
INSTAGRAM

Day 8 of Lent: ONE

Today the word that rises out of the lectionary is ONE. What a lonely word. What an isolated way of being!

Repeatedly today’s Biblical texts highlight the singularity of an individual with exceptional characteristics. Sometimes the person is to be revered and honored, other times the person is infamous. For example, Job is a man of virtue beset by terrible problems, and Judas Iscariot changes from trusted friend to traitor. Both of the people in these texts are extreme examples of humanity.

feb17_lent8_oneBWI would say that at first glance, Job offers an impossible ideal of righteousness and piety. In literary traditions, Job was a fictional character set up as a prototype. He serves as a protagonist of the most dramatic, heroic, and sympathetic sort, especially due to all the setbacks he faces. He remains blameless and sinless, despite all the ways that life overwhelms him. He suffers the deaths of his beloved family, the ruin of his livelihood, the doubt of his friends, and traumatic wounds to his mind and body.

When I read Job, I am indignant that he’s so pious, in the face of such great traumas. Then I read again, and I am grateful that he names his profound pain, and holds it up to God, in the story. He feels like ONE. He feels ALONE. He’s shouting up from the bottom of a deep well of sorrow and disbelief and outrage and pain.

Unlike Job, I have never been called virtuous in the midst of pain … I am busy trying to make bargains with God or whomever else might be listening. Or else I’m simply denying there’s a problem at all. Or I might be losing control and being angry and striking out. Or, as my family knows all too well, I may withdraw into my problem-solving, cut-off-all-emotions mode of coping.

Job may be righteous, but he’s also human, emotional, and messy. And is Job ever really ONE? He’s always in a relationship with God, which is where he finds his strength. Sometimes Job feels abandoned and alone, wanting to get it over with, to end the pain, but God is listening and answering, and ultimately Job realizes that and holds on to find a way to survive, and thrive.

The other guy in these texts is tougher to study, but we should. Judas Iscariot was a beloved companion of Christ, who handed over his teacher and friend to the authorities … presumably out of greed and fear. Other traditions suggest that Judas was Jesus closest friend, entrusted with this most accursed of roles, because someone had to do it, in order to fulfill a divine ‘great design.’

What would drive someone from deepest companionship to ransoming away a beloved friend’s life? What fear? What primal need? We ought to ask this question, because we’re still living out this story, over and over.

Our own history is rife with such betrayals. People that sold each other into slavery, or turned over neighbors to regimes that would murder whole families and communities, or simply turn a blank stare and deaf ear to events in our own towns and nations, such as gun violence and opioid crises. Who is ALONE in this equation? The one betrayed? Or the betrayer? Or both?

Culturally, being the ONE who is highlighted and held up as an example may seem desirable. Yet the strength in any such situation, I would argue, comes from connection with one’s self, with one’s intimate relationships, with one’s community, with creation, and with one’s Creator.

Humans are, fundamentally, social creatures. We are designed to be in connection: to be recognized, to be seen and heard. Yet the connections that sustain us are not the ones that deify or vilify us. The sustaining connections are ones that don’t turn us into mere caricatures of humanity, but allow us to be more authentic, with our flaws and foibles, our whole and imperfect selves.

As the song says, “ONE is the loneliest number.” Even Godself, as Christianity understands God, is three-in-one: Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit. We are meant to be more than ONE.

Excerpts from today’s lectionary passages:

  • Psalm 17: 8 — Guard me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings,
  • Job 1:1, 8b —  There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.
  • Job 1: 14 — A messenger came to Job and said, “… I alone have escaped to tell you.”
  • Luke 22:3 —  Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve.
RSS
Follow by Email
Facebook
Facebook
LinkedIn
INSTAGRAM

Day 7 of Lent: OTHER

‘Others’ are those set apart and different from us. This perception automatically creates division. Yet in some of these Biblical passages, we find an alternative: to see ‘each other.’

lent7_Tue_others2In one case, the writer uses ‘others’ to set himself apart from those to whom he does not want to be compared. Are things so different 2,000 years later? These days, we might consider ‘others’ to be those of a different race, religion, generation, or political party. ‘Others’ might be those who are refugees or immigrants, from another culture, using another language. ‘Others’ may have more or less access to resources (food, housing, money, education, etc) than we do.

In another Biblical passage, strangers and outsiders, formerly enemies, transform into ‘each other.’ In this passage, ‘each other’ implies those who are bound together, though they remain distinctive individuals, through relationship. These are people who share: people that we invite to sit beneath the vine and fig tree with us.

What causes the transformation? When love sits down underneath a tree with ‘each other’ and shows up as compassion, as listening, as respect for another’s humanity, then connection is possible. God’s merciful presence as part of the relationship fosters this exchange, in the Biblical text we read. God allows people to find common ground.

Language has a powerful way of dividing people, creating walls and boundaries and categories and limits. Yet language can also liberate us from such confinements and judgments.

Who are the ‘others’ in our lives? People we don’t expect we could understand? Or people we assume couldn’t understand or respect us? People we don’t notice, or believe aren’t connected with our world?

Yet anyone we might encounter during the day, however briefly, is part of our social context. We are more connected than we guess, even if it’s because we drive the same roads or walk the same sidewalk or shop in the same lent7_TueFeb16-figuresstore or ride the same elevator or read the same words or use the same media connections, from phone to television to internet.

When we transform from ‘other’ to ‘each other’ … then we see people as people. Our relationships may remain complicated, with many diversities, yet we can find ways to be in connection together.

Excerpts from today’s lectionary:

  • Psalm 17: 4-5 – As for what others do, by the word of your lips,  I have avoided the ways of the violent. My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped.
  • Zechariah 3: 10 – On that day, says the Lord of hosts, you shall invite each other to come under your vine and fig tree.”
  • 2 Peter 2: 5b — Even though he saved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others.

 

RSS
Follow by Email
Facebook
Facebook
LinkedIn
INSTAGRAM

Day 6 of Lent: HAND

day6_Lent_open-handsOne of the words that rises up out of today’s texts, when placed side by side, is HAND. These are the parts of the body into which we entrust ourselves, when we turn ourselves over, when we release ourselves into someone else’s care and keeping, or into the potential safety and refuge of a reciprocal relationship.

We place ourselves in someone’s hands.

In a prayer from David, seeking deliverance, he places himself and his people into God’s keeping: into God’s hands. Later the writer of John claims Jesus Christ as our advocate, the one to whom we turn.

We are partners in this process of becoming vulnerable. When we extend our hands, and hold them open, sometimes we catch and uphold, as much as we release and receive. We are called to move toward God, and risk all, by making ourselves available, just as God moves toward us.

A relationship occurs when our hands are involved. We hope it is one of tenderness and compassion, and also of justice and service.

Consider that we are God’s hands in the world. We walk, as the writer says, as Emmanuel walked. By using our hands as Christ used his hands, we are called to be in relationship with others in a way that models that ethical engagement: forgiving, truth-telling, healing, community-building, educating, feeding, washing, rescuing, pouring, fishing, mending, holding, transforming, carrying, praying, yielding, and so many more acts of connection.

I should note that these scriptures are excerpted from Biblical passages that also include images of violence and vengeance, sometimes done with hands holding weapons. So let’s acknowledge that hands can also inflict harm, and bodies can be landscapes that experience hurt.

Yet in his deepest need, David, one of the greatest kings of our sacred texts, cries out to be in the shelter of God’s merciful hands. Rather than focusing on what David may wish to happen to his adversaries and enemies, I pay attention to what he hopes for himself and his people. David’s human, after all, and there’s a limit to what he imagines God’s grace can accomplish. From our perspective, we can also hope that what God can provide for us is also possible for ‘others’ too, so that ‘others’ can become more than enemies and oppressors.

Excerpts from today’s lectionary:

  • Psalm 17: 7 — Wondrously show your steadfast love, O savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand.
  • 1 Chronicles 21: 13a — David said to Gad, “I am in great distress; let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is very great.”
  • 1 John 21: 1b — But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
  • 1 John 21: 5b-6 — By this we may be sure that we are in him:whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked.
RSS
Follow by Email
Facebook
Facebook
LinkedIn
INSTAGRAM

Day 5 of Lent: BRING

Today’s excerpts from scripture can cause us to ponder, what do we bring into this season? What do we carry with us, in our minds, bodies, and hearts? Are these things we bring gifts or burdens?

The challenge, ultimately, is to bring all aspects of ourselves into relationship with our community, our creation, and our Creator. All of ourselves … the parts of which we’re really proud and the parts we hide out of hurt, fear or shame.

Part of the opportunity today is to consider that sometimes the things we bring into a relationship with ourselves, our community, our larger world, and our God may serve as both blessing and burden. In this way, we may be able to re-frame how we understand and engage certain concerns or celebrations.

We can consider bringing our whole selves in different ways:

  • Part of what we bring into this season is a gift of ourselves to others … stretching or offering more of ourselves as a gift … so let’s name these blessings we’re making available. We make this offering to be more present (in some way) to ourselves, to each other, to creation, and to God, following Jesus commandmant to love God, and our neighbors as ourselves (notice the three entities named in this commandment: God, others, self).
    For example, I aspire to offer time set apart just for my family, being emotionally available to people with whom I have intimate relationships by making time to talk and be together, committing to personal wellbeing through practices such as better eating and walking daily, or being aware and ethical about the environment by using renewable resources such as  a washable cup vs a disposable to-go cup.
  • Part of bringing our whole selves means sharing our burdens or brokenness. And who isn’t burdened or broken somehow? So we can take this chance, during Lent, to bring these concerns and vulnerabilities to our community and God also.
    I confess, in my own life, a few of these tendencies and ask for support around them. I acknowledge my preference to be anxious and controlling when I need to relax and collaborate. I admit that I get quiet and withdraw, faltering in consistent communication where it’s most needed, in stressful times. I say right here that sometimes my body’s softness and roundness (all euphemisms for harsher internal critical words I use about myself, like flab and obesity) embarrasses me. I inhale and confess that I avoid being honest and direct when I sense conflict or tension surrounding an issue.
  • Can we share our whole selves, whether we understand these parts of ourselves as gifts or burdens? It’s easier, sometimes, to bring and share our gifts to help and support someone else than to bring and entrust our vulnerabilities to someone else’s care.

Allow this season to be a chance to put down burdens, let them go, and give them over to God. feb14_lent5c_bring_steam_trunkThis doesn’t mean we get to set aside accountability. We remain responsible partners in our relationships. Yet we can share the burdens, as well as the gifts.

Let us trust that those gifts we bring will be put to use, and their purpose revealed. And also trust that if we relinquish some of our burdens and concerns, God will hold them with us.

Later we may look backward, and reflect about what committing ourselves fully,  bringing our whole and broken selves into these relationships, renews in us at Lent’s ending. What will we bring away from this season? What insights, personal growth, experiences, healings, or renewals come to us, as we enter into the spirit of exploring and acknowledging our own mortal brokenness? Of trusting and believing we are in the presence of One who loves us enough to bring our lives into God’s own keeping?

Excerpts from today’s lectionary:

  • Deuternonomy 26:10 — “So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.”
  • Romans 10: 15 — And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
  • Luke 4: 1 — Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.
  • Luke 4: 8b — “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only God.’”

 

RSS
Follow by Email
Facebook
Facebook
LinkedIn
INSTAGRAM