This week we have the parable of the Prodigal Son. It is one of the “tough” parables for many, because it often strikes us as unfair.
The eldest son stays home and is obedient to his father while the younger one goes off into the world and squanders the money. When the youngest son has lost it all: has no friends, no money and no way to take care of himself, essentially he “hits bottom.” The passage says, “when he came to himself” he finds trust that returning to his father in service will be safer than continuing to struggle without him. “When he came to himself.” When he awakens. That’s when he finds trust.
And when he returns - the father welcomes him joyfully with open arms, and more so brings him back into the fold, not as a servant, but as a beloved son. The resentful older son does not understand such rejoicing.
And we may wonder about it too. But in the context of the Gospel, Jesus is telling this story in order to explain the depths of God’s love to the Pharisees who are questioning him. The father in the story is modeling the ultimate expression of love and forgiveness. God’s love is not based in human ideals of judgment.
To quote Isaiah: My thoughts are not your thoughts says the Lord.
Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon."For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD."As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Sometimes this parable is called the "forgiving father.”
But the Prodigal Son like many parables offers us several ways to interpret it. (If we climb into the story.) There is a Christological interpretation of this story that was described by theologian Karl Barth. He equates the young son with Jesus specifically. Jesus comes out into our World to live as one of us. He found himself exposed to the messy and chaotic world of human beings. He chose to be in it with us, in the depths, to be challenged and transformed. And he humbled himself in service to God the Father and was raised to new life.
Like the youngest son, when we find ourselves out in the messy and chaotic world we can’t help but be altered by it. The child then, who returns “home” to be reconciled also brings back a self that has been influenced by ideas that were once foreign, experiences that were alien, as well as unanticipated joys and pain. The reconciliation that takes place not only restores the long lost child, but restores an individual who is carrying all of the burdens of a life lived. A life lived expands our perspectives, teaches us about the suffering of others, humbles us with greater knowledge. We learn that life isn’t “fair.”
Perhaps it makes us, like Jesus, want to help build equality where he found (and where we find) it doesn’t exist.
Jesus commissioned his disciples to go out into the world. To go out with nothing into the world and be with people where healing was needed. That is known as evangelism which has taken on different forms over the centuries. Today many Episcopalians shirk from the word evangelism because it has become associated with fundamentalism. They are however two very different things: Fundamentalism takes the Bible literally. Evangelism is about spreading the good news which is part of every Christian’s call. But this doesn’t mean you have to stand on the street corner with your bible. There is a phrase attributed to St. Francis: “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” When we take our Christian ethics into the world, it is through those actions and interactions that we can meet others with the love of Christ, which is the Good News: touching, healing, feeding, supporting our neighbors as our selves.
And we are changed by such work. We are transformed: We come closer to others and begin to find the humanness in one another and those who are different from ourselves. We become more expansive and our boundaries become more permeable. We begin to integrate and carry within us a new awareness. We become more awake as Jesus was. When we reach outside of our safe homes or insular communities we are changed. Like St. Paul, our namesake, we might be blinded by the light.
We might open up like Paul and allow ourselves to be touched and changed by a stranger. When Paul was blinded, he was taken in and healed by those very people he had been persecuting. That experience awakened him to God and continued to awaken him towards others - to the foreigner: the Gentile, the Samaritan, the Greek. He is so converted by this love that he states in another famous passage to the Corinthians:
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
We are one body. The transformation that comes through connecting with others is manifest when someone else’s struggle becomes our own.
We seem to be born with an acute longing for what we consider “fair” and “equal” treatment as the parable elicits. Yet ironically we often still manage to live blindly to the predicament of others when things are going our way.
As some of you know I am on the anti-racism committee at the Diocesan level. We host anti-racism trainings, events and summits. The trainings are very expansive. They are held three times a year and they only involve a few sessions. The videos teach us about our history and help us come to understand why there is such a cultural and economic divide among people of different races in a country in which we believe we are all made equal. What has happened to corrupt our very highest ideals? I can tell you the videos teach what we don’t already know. They will broaden your perspective. They speak to the experience of African Americans, Asian Americans, Native American, Latinos. They will awaken you. Our human points of view, judgments and understandings of things are often misinformed and flawed. I encourage you to take one of these trainings. (Some people take them several times because you have an opportunity to meet new people and hear new perspectives.) Take that step into the messy world with Jesus where healing is needed.
Caring about someone else and their predicament starts to work on our own identities too. It starts to reform us into that Christological Body where we all may be one. It is not just the small child, but a community drawn into forgiveness.
Pauls tells us:
From now on, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
We cannot go unscathed by the messiness of life. It changes us. But it also has the ability to awaken us to a reality that is greater than what we had previously perceived - with the potential for a profound healing that is exponential.
When we bring all of ourself and our experiences to God: Returning: we may find that it is not just our small selves that are reconciled - but that we bring with us a “ripple effect” drawing us all into the body of forgiveness as Christ calls us to. We are made whole and integrated through a love born through Christ in us who gives us a “new creation.”
O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; *
This week our lessons all ring with the theme of “returning.” Moses turns to the Burning Bush to find holy ground, sacred space in the presence of God. Paul assures the Corinthians that God is faithful. And Jesus asks us to repent: to turn and change our minds and hearts. There is a mutual nurturing of the eternal relationship expressed in this turning and returning to one another.
I was also struck by the contrast between our imagery this morning:
…A blazing bush alive with the Spirit of God contrasted with the story of a withering fig tree in the Gospel. They seem to be two different but common ways in which we encounter God.
The Burning Bush is a like a great event. We feel we are present to a miracle or epiphany; a suddenness that makes us awake to the majesty and mystery of life. Something that turns our heads and hearts and fills us with wonder and the desire to seek God further.
Then there is also the unexpected painful blaze: war, an accident, a death, we hit bottom, a betrayal - and pain explodes in our hearts and we find ourselves burning for understanding - and seeking God in the blaze.
In both circumstances we recognize the sacred space in the presence of something much bigger and more powerful than us. Love comes crashing out of us - or upon us in the expression of so many other emotions: excitement, joy, awe, anger, fear. It is alive and it is big and hard to turn away from. We step closer like Moses.
At other times in great contrast we find ourselves and our experience with God much like the fig tree: feeling drained and exhausted, withering. We feel like we are just going through the motions. We are just trying to do the next thing, but we don’t feel enlivened. We don’t feel like we are living our true selves or that we are affirmed. We are not fed and we know we are not blossoming. Or the fruit of the Spirit that is within us. How do we step closer to the presence of God when we are in this state? How can we recognize that we still are on the threshold of sacred ground?
Jesus tells the story of the fig tree to help us understand just that. There is time basically…
In Jesus’s parable, The owner of the land says that the fig tree is a waste of soil, cut it down. But the gardener says: 'Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it."
There is hope and there is activity to help us find ways to nurture the spirit…A slow, enduring nurturing… The soil of our souls needs to be turned and fed and mulched so we can grow and develop those fruits of the Spirit.
We can’t always see the full picture. Sometimes it is this slow nurturing, feeding of the soil that Jesus describes and the endurance that Paul describes to the Corinthians. As my husband says “time takes time.”
Where is the blaze and fanfare?
Well...not all sacred moments are cinematic.
How do we move closer into the sacred presence of God? Sometimes taking the step closer involves trusting ourselves. Trust that God is available in the everyday if I seek that relationship.
We all know what it is like to be alone and awake at 3 am worrying. I have found 3 am is a great time to practice trusting, breathing, to pray, or even enter into dialogue with God rather than to fret and toss and turn. And the psalmist today reminds us:
…my mouth praises you with joyful lips,
When I remember you upon my bed, *
and meditate on you in the night watches.
For you have been my helper, *
and under the shadow of your wings I will rejoice.
My soul clings to you; *
your right hand holds me fast.
Apparently we’ve known this for thousands of years: Time takes time - and 3 am is always a good time to begin…
Sacred Presence and the Holy Ground is always with us, as Paul is writing to the Corinthians, “God is faithful.”
But Paul’s message also includes some things that may strike our ears as difficult:
“No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.”
Some of us are enduring especially painful things.
But if we read it within the context of the community, we can trust that we will be able to endure through the support and nurturing of one another. This is almost always Paul’s stance. He is constantly preaching to the early church through teachings that strengthen their bonds: Teaching them to strengthen one another, tend, feed and nurture one another.
As individuals and as communities some trials come on us that we have absolutely no control over. At other times we have been given signs and warnings, but there are no immediate consequences like Paul makes it out to sound. We have habits of nature or heart or circumstance that compile over time and then we find ourselves injured by that accumulation.
Both Paul and Jesus are speaking to communities during a time of great trial and an accumulation of fear.
In the Gospel some Gentiles are being killed by Pilate. Some present tell Jesus of these occurrences. And from the way it is described we can assume that they told the story with some lack of empathy, because Jesus responds powerfully; asking them basically, “Do you think they were more sinful than you because these atrocities have occurred?!”… Is that some kind of proof of their guilt - or reason for their pain?
He then goes on to assure us that the suffering are not more deserving of pain than others who have been spared. He essentially asks the community to renew a right spirit, to repent meaning: to turn and change.
He also says something that sounds difficult. “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.” He is asking the community to turn to find that sacred presence in their lives, not so that they will be spared suffering or death. He is saying those deaths were cruel and meaningless. Their suffering was cruel and meaningless.
Jesus asks us to repent: change our minds and our hearts because he wants us to have meaning in our lives. Turning toward the sacred presence offers our lives meaning in the midst of the way things are rather than simply reasons for why things are the way they are.
Whether we are startled and awakened by something too big to handle alone, whether it is a blaze of wonder - or the fire of pain, or when we feel stunted, or even when we just seem to be sleep walking…In the Community of Christ we find ourselves in solidarity with one another and part of a relationship that is nurturing…
A community in which everyone is growing in affirmation of each individual’s unique gifts.
And a community that is seeking deep connection with the source of life we name God: The source of life we name Love.
O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you; *
This week Jesus gives us a wonderful image of himself as a mother hen.
Mother hens (as many of you know) will protect their chicks from predators with their own body. She spreads her wings out in a great tent-like fashion to cover her brood. This image got me to thinking about Jesus and God and tents…
The tent is another image that we have for housing the dwelling place of God (the arc of the covenant). The arc traveled with the Israelites through the desert in a tent, so to always be in the midst of the people. God did not want to be set apart from us.
If we extend the metaphor of Jesus as a tent drawing us into his protection, then it ensures a double meaning: The people he is protecting are also meant to be the very dwelling place of God. God is in our midst. There is a requisite mutuality here in covenant. We are in relationship! That is what Jesus is always trying to teach us about God and one another.
The designation of God the “Father” was a significant way for Jesus to explain that we have an intimate relationship with God. The Judeo-Christian religion is unique in this way… (This type of monotheism); that we had developed a sense of reciprocity with God (Not simply a God or Gods that we had to appease, but one God that longed to be in relationship).
And Jesus refers to God as “God the Father”…someone very near to us. But Jesus never meant to constrict us with one notion of who God is and can be. God was never meant to solely be conceived of as a male figure. God is a shepherd, a potter, a rock, an eagle, and shield, God is like a mother bear and a lion. Jesus is a hen, and a lamb, and the light, the bread of life, the vine, the Alpha and the Omega. The bible uses metaphors to help us point to what we ultimately can’t describe …beyond unending, everlasting Love.
In our outline of faith we state that Jesus came to teach us that the nature of God is love. And we are always searching for how to describe it, name it, encounter it!
The Psalm today has one of my favorite passages:
You speak in my heart and say, "Seek my face." *
Your face, Lord, will I seek.
Covenants require at least two parties in mutual relationship. Seeking one another…
We as God’s people are promised to God and God is promised to us.
In the Gospel today we hear again about how the promise of Jerusalem in this relationship is under constant strain. It is at once home to the temple considered THE dwelling place of God when Luke is writing… while it has also become a city of corruption. And that is a painful dichotomy.
Some Pharisees came and said to Jesus, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you." He said to them, "Go and tell that fox for me, '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, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.' Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'"
Jerusalem, most of the pharisees, and Herod do not want to hear what Jesus has come to preach. Jesus has come to heal and to cast out demons. Jesus has traveled forth from Nazareth to Jerusalem with the intention of fulfilling Isaiah’s prophetic words “To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor:” “To lift up the lowly."
Most places of corruption, whether it be two thousand years ago or today, have lost that essential understanding of relationship, of mutuality, of seeking God in one another. The prophets role throughout history was to remind the community of just that. The prophets proclaim a breach in our relationship with God. And that the breach with God is apparent through a breach of our relationships with one another. Prophets are truth-tellers. And generally we do not want to hear from them. They make us uncomfortable. People in power do not want to hear from Jesus.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!”
But what about our own personal Jerusalem? The dwelling place of God in our hearts? Why do we reject the stirrings of the Spirit in ourselves? We often don’t want to hear the still small voice that says: "You are my Beloved. In you I am well pleased.” We often allow ourselves to be overtaken by voices of doubt. And that becomes a very lonely place to be.
This week the diocese offered a workshop for clergy and lay leaders on issues of grief and loneliness. Many of us don’t want to admit that we are lonely. There is some kind of pride we carry in being self-sufficient. We were raised with “chin up.” We feel we are required to be strong for others and any sense that we might be in need of deeper friendship or comfort is a deficiency of character.
There is what has been coined an epidemic of loneliness even before Covid. Young people are overworked and underpaid, overwhelmed by technology, over budget with hefty loans…and lonely. Today we have seven living generations in the US and a study recently showed that millennials are the loneliest generation. That is our 25 - 40 year olds. And it is the group that is largely missing from our pews. It’s not a deficit of the Episcopal Church - it seems to be all churches…
So what is the Spirit saying to us through this reality? Perhaps there is a prophetic voice ringing through the silence and the loneliness…longing to be in relationship.
We should be asking then: Where can we meet you?
Many respond I am spiritual but not religious… or I don’t believe in organized religion. Well, as Christians we seek to find Christ in one another…
With the Holy Spirit as part of the Trinity, we can say that we take spirituality very seriously. The Episcopal Church has a lot to offer to individuals seeking God’s face. We have deep roots in a spiritual tradition. The Spirit is the giver of life, the advocate, the guide, the one who helps us grow into wisdom, knowledge and truth. There are many ways to explore growing with the Spirit. And they have been part of our tradition for hundreds and even thousands of years. The Eucharist is one of the highest forms of liturgy. So much of mature Christianity is expressed through the symbols of the Eucharist, but for many that come to the Eucharist as “unchurched” - or who abandoned it as teenagers, they just hear rules and regulations. We are not rules and regulations. We are about deep kinship with one another and the planet, about finding harmony with creation, about shielding one another like the hen, and about enlivening one another like Jesus.
There was joy in the presence of Jesus. True Joy.
We will always have the Eucharist. It is the core of our tradition. But how else may we draw from that tradition of rich imagery and make something new?
Are we Jerusalem that casts out change, new ideas and new voices…
Or are we “Jerusalem of the Heart" reaching for new ways to connect and new expressions of God?
What is so wonderful about our tradition is that Christianity is alive with a past, present and a future. We are inclusive of both the tent of the Hebrew tradition and Jesus’s newer metaphor of the Mother Hen. How might we envision the dwelling place of God today?
What new images can help us in our search for God’s face? What images can help us reach out across the breach… to meet the needs and the joys of the community… because community is the opposite of lonely.
Today Paul tells us:
"The word is near you,
on your lips and in your heart”
On Wednesday I spoke about the nearness - the very closeness of God...And the idea of abiding there - abiding not simply as waiting, but being present - bearing witness to that relationship which involves keeping awake: Being present to your nature as part of God’s beloved Creation.
The Gospel is from Luke today - and Luke is all about “keeping awake.” Jesus asks the disciples several times to “keep awake.” He asks us to be present.
Luke’s gospel also has a major emphasis on the activity of the Holy Spirit.
When Jesus is baptized and the Spirit descends upon him, it is one of the few times in the Gospels that we actually hear God’s voice.
The Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Each time we hear the voice from above it is a loving and affirming voice.
I start out with the baptism because today’s Gospel is about understanding exactly who Jesus is.
I’d like to bracket the Gospel story today: If we look at the Baptism leading up to the temptation - and what follows the temptation we will see how Luke is ensuring we understand who this Jesus is: his identity as the son of God, and what the Son of God is here to do!
Upon his baptism, filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus is immediately led into the Wilderness and is tempted by the devil. It says immediately but in between, just before our passage today, the author of Luke inserts an entire lineage. (You may forget because we often don’t read it.) Jesus’s lineage leading all of the way back, not only to the house of David, and Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham - but ALL of the way back to Adam...To Creation!
So Jesus goes into the wilderness, and we the audience AND the devil know very well who he is. He is the descendent of God. The word (God incarnate) is near you... on your lips and in your heart. And God is on Jesus’ lips. He responds each time to the devil’s guile with scripture. Jesus is wide awake!
Worldliness is another traditional way to speak of being asleep. And the devil tempts Jesus with the ways of worldliness: of being sated, of power, rule and might and the power to be impervious to injury, to control the outcome of events. He tempts Jesus with all of the “worldly” things we as humans are susceptible to, including being “asleep,” being so sated in our comforts that we forget what’s real and true. We become so addicted to being “in control” that we forget what’s important.
This passage is iconic in its mythological nature: The devil whisking Jesus to different locations with different temptations. Very cinematic. This story in all of its rich imagery shows us just what the Son of God is made of. And What the Kingdom of God is about.
...And if you had any doubts, the scene that directly follows the temptation secures it for us. Jesus goes back home, and on the Sabbath he stands up to read in the synagogue and “the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written”
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
If you had any doubts about what kind of messiah this is, Luke gives you two dramatic versions to help us understand that Jesus, the Son of God will not be tempted by worldliness. He has come here to represent the needs of the oppressed, not the needs of the powerful. He is here, as his mother proclaims (in the beginning of Luke) to “lift up the lowly.”
(Radical mother, radical son.)
The passage tells us “all of the eyes were fixed on him!” Jesus woke some people up that day... and thankfully continues to do so through us as the body of Christ.
So many of you are doing good works and engaged in wonderful helping ministries. In doing so you are helping to keep others present to the Word. So never doubt your important contribution as part of the body.
How else might we think about this story in our own lives? And through Lent? One of Jesus’ quotes that I find so interesting and helpful is further on in Luke 25 with his remark that essentially you might sweep your house of all temptation but then the wicked spirits will come back sevenfold. For any of us - when we attempt to gain freedom from the things that tempt us, we may very well experience a profound craving (not realizing how powerful the hold they have actually had on us).
Try giving up chocolate and every candy bar in the check out line seems to jump into your awareness. Try to quiet your mind and you will recognize a million thoughts racing in to fill the space. Jesus’ experience with the devil is an exaggeration of what we live with daily... What satiates me? What power do I seek? What control do I need to let go of?
Going back to quieting the mind, meditation, centering prayer: this is a kind of prayer that works with your mind, with your heart and with understanding temptations and distractions. Specifically with quieting the mind, we attempt to abide with God in our heart. The mind does throw a million thoughts our way to distract us from God, but each time we recognize that distraction - is an opportunity to turn again to God. That in itself is a prayer. As the psalmist sings:
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, * abides under the shadow of the Almighty.
With this abiding prayer you begin to become more awake to how you are functioning in your daily life. Each time you may catch yourself just comfortably falling into a routine or habit you wish to shake... it is not necessary to beat yourself up... but rather consider it another opportunity to turn...Another opportunity to recognize that God is in your life and how you aim to move nearer.
Try abiding with faith and trust and forgiveness and the better we get at being aware to how these states operate in our lives - the more we see - the more we become awake to our reality. It is like unpeeling the onion: You find the layers go deeper and deeper, not necessarily that there is more sin to unveil, but that the nuance of your understanding of yourself and your needs and the world’s needs becomes keener...
The reality of who you are and what God wants for you and for the world becomes more discerning. You become more awake to a deeper reality, and then a deeper set of intentions to live into the life you are working toward becoming nearer to God. This is ultimately always extended and intended for our community and world. Becoming awake to ourselves and to reality is for the benefit of the entire community. It is not a selfish endeavor, but rather a very helpful starting place to bring change to a hurting world - to believe and to offer:
"The word is near you,
on your lips and in your heart”
Because here in a hurting world is where God dwells as one of us. Jesus was not born to rule the World as the devil would have him do. He came to teach us how to build the Body of Christ: who is friend to the oppressed, the victim, the poor, the needy - and a lover of all Creation. Amen.
For those who do not know me, I am Heather Sisk the new priest in charge. It is a joyous time for me - and I hope for this community …(to be received into your family)!
But Here We are: also entering into Lent, the darkest season of our year.
We are walking with Jesus who has already turned his face toward Jerusalem, to a journey that he knows will take him into a sacrificial encounter with the oppressor. It is the darkest time of his World.
We are also entering into a scary and dark time with War in Ukraine…The darkest of time for those living there. We have fear for all of the individuals involved - and for what it means for our world in which we felt perhaps we were beyond this type of civilian war on European soil...
for at least that kind of certainty…in what otherwise has been a very uncertain few years.
we are facing our own fears and trials. We Are All Grieving….
Today on Ash Wednesday we Say these words, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
And frankly most of us don’t need to be reminded of our human frailty right now. It has been acute. Over the last couple of years we have lost members of St. Paul’s and other family members and friends. And our nation and our World has been thrown into a deep state of grief and isolation and separation.
Lent is a time for separation in the aspect that it is time set apart: Sacred time.
It is a time for abiding; for abiding in God through our fears.
It is a time to turn our faces toward God in that journey. It is about finding ways into our relationship with God as well as the restoration of all of our relationships. That is the definition of our humanity to be in relationship.
Another way for us to consider our identity as "dust to dust" in the context of beloved Children is to recognize how close we are to the very source at all times: To the source we name God. We are made up of the very essence of creation, all of the elements that enliven the earth, other creatures. As Carl Sagan coined: “Stardust.”
When we embrace the notion that we are dust and to dust we embrace our very closeness to the power of life….Who we are and what we came from…
Dust to dust enlivened by the Holy Spirit with this mysterious power of Love, free will, and agency…our beloved humanity.
When we embrace that closeness we will find what it is that inspires us.
As Isaiah proclaims:
We “delight to draw near you”… “day after day” we seek you to delight in your ways….
and yet Isaiah also reminds us resolutely that although we wish this "Closeness"…we often miss the point that to be close to God is to be close to one another. The magnitude of this point is being displayed so horrifically in Ukraine today.
Isaiah’s answer for us:
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
The closeness of the power of life is what activated Jesus! And that power extends to others through the love that he came to teach us, in us, and through us.
The collect today speaks of wretchedness and sin. Words that have taken on such hard connotations that they’ve created a wedge between much of humanity and God. Many of our peers and children are just not interested in these words. The words have become jumbled, with immature definitions and at worse: abuse of their meanings….causing more distress. And yet many of us, our peers and children are still seeking to draw nearer to the source - to God -to feel spiritually connected.
That is ironic because Wretchedness is in fact a state of woe: of distress, rejection and sadness. And Sin in its greatest definition means our separation from God.
What takes us away from that relationship?
- from the relationship we have with one another as creatures of God
And what takes us away from ourselves as beloved Children of God (Our baptismal covenant: to live lives full of love and compassion and wisdom)?
Lent asks us to consider what holds us back from living fully into that identity.
The World so desperately needs wisdom.
So Lent is an abiding time: A time for us to consider our lives in the context of what God hopes for us to grow into. As the statement posted to the parish hall bulletin board says, “God is infinitely more concerned with the promises of our present than any mistakes of the past." Beyond our sins, our separations and woes…God is about the promise of our now and what is to come. God is concerned with the turning and returning: the restoration of relationship.
So Lent is an abiding time: while we consider Repentance.
Repentance means to turn back to God. So What does that look like for you personally?
How can you find your way into closeness with God during this time of fear and grief?
As Theologian Meister Ekckhart said, "Forget about your spirituality. God is not about seeming spiritual. God is about Oneness." Our call as Christians is not about looking spiritual. As Jesus says in the Gospel today……“Beware about practicing piety in order to be seen” by others…
Jesus models for us being one with “the father” as he describes God in this Gospel. God is about Unity: the one body (Talk about closeness).
When we draw near and embrace the identity of "Dust to dust" in the context of unity with God…We soften… like the very ashes. We make room for one another. We stop quarreling. We stop warring.
Lent is a time of abiding in the One Body of Christ
So Where is your separateness: What keeps you from this sense of unity? Grudges that inhibit love? Habits that inhibit clear thinking?A lack of forgiveness for others or yourself? A self centeredness that keep us from bearing witness to others?
Lent is a time for abiding
Bear witness to yourself for these forty-days
Walk this walk with Jesus
Turn your face with intention as he did
Seek to draw nearer to God and to others
Seek to fill those places of woe with Love
and separateness with compassion
Seek wisdom there...
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.