Skies come here at twilight streaked in all sorts of colors. Just beyond the Spanish moss heavy branches. Just beyond the trees that milk out all sorts of ephemera into the air. Bits and pieces that slow for my grown gaze as much as dandelion seeds spin fast out of a chubby child hand. It is not difficult to witness God after all; the difficulty is calling it by name.
There have been sad things for you. Happy things yes, but the sad is what makes you feel small and tired and old and filled with burning. It never is enough, the happy, you never do allow it to be enough to cover the old paint underneath.
It is always easier to remain in the shadow of hurt and misunderstanding. To hone down the edge of the puzzle piece to make it fit rather than seeing what’s been completed. Why it is that I look in the mirror and scrutinize the eye that stares at me, criticize the faint dips and valleys? A relief map of life around the piece of me that has been given the gift of sight. Yet, I always fail to see the terrain as a whole as vision of being present. It is simpler to stay, sometimes, in sorrow. The opportunities seem to be far and long and wide to change that stasis.
But you can now. Because it is Lent. And in our common vernacular that means a time of repentance and sacrifice, of reflection and denial. But maybe, it is dreaded and difficult because of what we’ve made it. Not what it was ever intended.
No abstinence of social media, no denial of hunger, no refusal to engage in commerce will bring you closer to God. It will be an inconvenience, but at the end, it will pass without so much as a mark on your soul.
Yet, if it is with full minded intention to witness God in the absence of life’s ever pulling desire--that is where we find Lent. When you see the friends laughing together or the door being held open, or the earnest question being answered. There is the response of God. In coffee shops and union halls, in recovery groups and in wide anonymous crowds, we can see it. That reconciliation that is made thousands of times over in a day, in the relationships of people you know and those that you do not, ties being reformed. This is hope.
And I often think, as witness, is this not church? Is this not communion?
Renewal is coming. You can see signs of it everywhere. Because as we agonize over what we see, the recklessness of hatred, the war in God’s name, the unholy disregard for life no matter what alter at which it worships, there is the temerity of hope, relentless, coming soon, chasing the carrion birds and replacing it with a lark’s song of praise.
"Muslims protecting Christians in Eqypt during Mass."
The world will keep turning, you will keep moving, it will be your choice whether or not this day, this season, this Lent will be yours of promises fulfilled, of a life saved.
Lent should be a time of reflection, but also of joyful expectation, of promise. Of hope. And in this time, as in many, many times of old, hope can be hard won.
Why should we hope when everywhere we turn we are faced with neglect, a rush for entertainment rather than education, a commemoration of celebrity rather than courage, a conscious inward scrutiny of small scale life rather than foreign pictures of unfamiliar faces, of anguish that seems too terrible to share?
That is what the enemy of all that is good and right and love would like you to believe.
Your petition. Your plea. Your prayer will be heard.
And when woven together with those others, the disparate threads combine to a mighty cord of truth and miracles and hope that will lift us collectively out of
|"light up the world entire."|
And that is why we have these 40 days set aside. Because when you are at the end, all alone at the edge of the world, you will be caught by those cords woven and sewn tightly by people as faithful, as true and as beautiful as you are.
The cries of many will bring about resurrection.
That is church. That is communion.
I am no theologian. I’ve never had any training. I do not read Latin or Aramaic. I cannot tell you what the latest debates are concerning the newest found gospel. I don’t know. I am at best a down in the dirt, figuring it out, armchair, 2am fretting Christian. A practicing Roman Catholic. A mother. A wife. A student. A teacher. A citizen. A voice.
And here is something I have learned. In the last few years, I’ve joined an online Bible study community from time to time called Love God Greatly. Usually organized around a theme or a central idea, there are daily scriptural readings, a chance to observe it, offer your own application regarding it and then offer a prayer. This December was a “Road to Christmas” study that focused on the genealogy of Christ. Christmas Eve, was a reading from 2 Samuel and that passage for me brought me to a revelation about Christ and God and beauty and fragility. All of which matters for Lent. This is from my study notes:
2 Samuel 11:2-5, 26-27 “One evening David got up from his bed. He walked around on the roof of his palace. From the roof he saw a woman taking a bath. She was very beautiful. David sent a messenger to find out who she was. The messenger returned and said, ‘She is Bathsheba. She’s the daughter of Eliam. She’s the wife of Uriah. He’s a Hittite.’ Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him. And he slept with her. Then she went back home. All of that took place after she had already made herself ‘clean’ from her monthly period. Later, Bathsheba found out she was pregnant. She sent a message to David. She said, ‘I’m pregnant.’” “Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead. She mourned over him. When her time of sadness was over, David had her brought to his house. She became his wife. And she had a son by him. But the Lord wasn’t pleased with what David had done.” (NIRV)
It seems to be the wrong passage to address at Christmas. Another pregnancy out of wedlock, with one of the God’s dearest and an ancestor to Jesus, David. LGG emphasizes the need for repentance and the love of Jesus in these stories, but the parallels for me are very different. David and Bathsheba acted out of lust and immorality. They tried to hide their sin with devastating consequences. Maybe there is hope in this that even with such a legacy of lies, inequity of sin in his very blood, Jesus could redeem the world. And maybe that wouldn’t have been possible without the worst acts of humanity: murder, adultery, violence, rage in his actual makeup. By having Jesus come out of a physical legacy like this, God is truly saying, all of you have ears, hear. You can be redeemed. You can have a chance at everlasting life.
So if this is true, and scriptural genealogy seems clear on this point, then Christ’s physical makeup was of the lowliest of common desire: of baseness, of greed, of addiction and immorality, of compulsion, of power, of discord, of anger and of rage. At his core, at least half of the Son of Man was predisposed to be immoral and troubled. He was uniquely and divinely human. And yet.
He overcame. It didn’t matter about the sins of his collective past. A genetic predisposition towards the kinds of lives that could break and bind in darkness and inequity were cast aside.
It was not a road he chose to travel. But in recognizing it, the darkness and the sadness, the vulnerability and the loss, he invited all those hiding there along with him, a narrower path, but one in the light.
If this is true. And there is no reason to doubt it. Then rejoice.
Because then, truly, all are welcome to this table. Everyone. There’s not a thing done or undone, thought or action that hasn’t already been bound up and broken and sacrificed and redeemed. Not a thing. It’s already made it into the skin, bones, blood and spirit of Christ.
Nothing you can do can shake this overwhelming amount of love for the good of your future and the forgiveness of your past. Not a thing. The only person I seem to fight, truth be told, is my own human instinct that carries the weight of personal judgment, anger, silence, pride, jealousy. These are the sticky webs that stray into the path of my own making and make me sit awhile in their dark depths. Escape is possible though, if I’m brave enough and honest enough and humble enough to see it.
And that escape is formed from a release to the heavens in prayer. But even that, even prayer has become something of a test of devotion. It has to be prescriptive for it to be right. And that’s when Lent becomes a burden. But the beauty of prayer is that it comes in many forms, you can see it everywhere, that tie that binds us together.
I believe that the courtship of a friend, a sincere conversation of good, a fervent kiss, a last hug, a checked response, a truth from the heart, a warm welcome are all forms of prayer. I believe that we can make it through with help and lack of regret. I believe that there is more good that can overcome
My petition is that you not close your ears to thesounds of God around you. My plea is that you take action to put words to whatever music it is that you hear, to whatever harmony is consonance to you. My prayer is that for you a remarkable, affirming Lent shines its peace upon you no matter where you are in your faith journey and whatever practice you have.
Come together. Celebrate this Lent. Lift your eyes beyond what binds you here and pray for what is in your heart. Allow it to catch on the wind and attach to other seekers, to create a cord of harmony. To give hope for peace. Lent.2015