Saturday, March 28, 2009

5 Lent Yr B

From the prophet Jeremiah we hear today, I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. What I hear in this passage is that God doesn’t give up. Let’s recall the pattern of the story. God creates, God blesses the creation, and God promises always to be our God, we turn away from God, and God calls us back. God reconciles creation, and restores the relationship. The part of the story we read this morning in Jeremiah represents one of the many times people turned their backs on God and God reaches out again, as God had done many times, and continues to do today. God reached out to Moses and the people wandering in the wilderness, the people were whining and gripeping, and God gave the “ten best ways” to Moses, and what did the people do? They worshipped the golden calf. Then, under Abraham, God promised many descendants, and what did the people do? They continued to worship the Canaanite gods.

The story in Jeremiah is prophecy, and Jeremiah is a prophet. We sometimes get a bit confused about what prophets are and what prophecy means. Prophets were men and women who were and are in relationship with God, and their jobs are to tell the people to return to God, to repent and turn around. Prophet does not mean one who predicts the future, and prophecy does not mean stories about the future. Prophets need to constantly remind people to return to God, because people are always finding someone or something to worship other than God. The stories of the prophets are not stories that tell the future, they are stories told in hindsight about events that happen that seem like they must be judgment on the people for turning away from God to worship things and people who are not God.

In this story in Jeremiah, once again we hear God entering back into relationship with the people who keep turning away. Just think of it, all of these stories tell us that no matter what we do, no matter what we worship, God will call us back, God will not let us go.

This time, it’s not commandments on stone, it’s not a promise of many descendants, but this time the law is written on their hearts, the law is written on our hearts. And what is the law that is written on our hearts? In the other gospels, in Matthew, Mark and Luke, when the question about which law is the most important law is posed, Jesus responds from sacred scripture, scripture all good Jews know by heart, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and, Love your neighbor as yourself.

How is this law written on our hearts? There is a story that I have heard, that is attributed to Madeleine L’engle, my favorite author, that I think addresses that question, it goes like this.

A mom and a dad had a new baby, and one night after they put the baby to bed, their older child came to them and asked if he could go see his little brother. The mom and the dad being just a little fearful of the older child’s intentions, said that would be fine and one of them would go with him. The older child insisted that he go see his baby brother by himself, and his parents gave in. So the older child entered the bedroom of his baby brother and walked over to his crib. His parents, being very curious and somewhat fearful, eavesdropped at the door. In a soft whisper this is what they heard their older child say to his baby brother. Please, could you tell me what God is like, you just came from there, and I’ve been away so long I’m beginning to forget.

God’s law, is written on our hearts.I think it is part of our humanity to love God with every fiber of our being, and to love our neighbor as well. It is in living that we begin to forget. Our children, who can be prophets too, remind us what love of God really is. When we pay attention, we observe that profound desire to love and worship God. The sadness is that we learn a very different lesson. Our culture teaches that love is appropriately placed in things and stuff, and that each of us is more important than any God or any neighbor. Time will only tell what the judgment on our people will be, some may say that judgment has come.

But the Good News is that once again God calls us back, and in an absolutely new way. The radical shift in the gospel of John is that God gives up all power to come into our world as one of us, so that we may return to God. The Glory of God is Jesus, and Jesus, in living and loving and dying on the cross, the relationship between humanity and God is restored. But the story doesn’t end at the cross. The story goes through the cross to resurrection, because only in death and resurrection do we become a people, a community, a body of Christ.

And yet today we stand at the cross. We stand in the promise of the resurrection. We remember that after the pain and sadness of the cross comes the joy and new life in the resurrection, and we know that we are not there yet. We know that our journey today is in the hope that when that grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies it will bear much fruit. That’s what the story in our scriptures tell us, that’s what we celebrate each time we come together here at this table.

We know that love of God and love of neighbor are not easy, in fact, love of God and love of neighbor
can be very hard and painful indeed. There is much pain and sadness in our world, in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our lives. Pain and sadness are a part of living fully, pain and sadness are realities that we never choose for ourselves, but come part and parcel with the joy of living. We need to intentionally look for Jesus in our midst, we need to focus on God’s divine spark in others, so that we can find God in our midst, so that the transformation that God promises, will be realized.

Another story.
The story concerns a monastery that had fallen upon hard times. In the deep woods surrounding the monastery there was a little hut that a rabbi from a nearby town occasionally used for a hermitage. As he agonized over the imminent death of his order, it occurred to the abbot to visit the hermitage and ask the rabbi if by some possible chance he could offer any advice that might save the monastery. The rabbi welcomed the abbot at his hut. But when the abbot explained the purpose of his visit, the rabbi could only commiserate with him. "I know how it is," he exclaimed. "The spirit has gone out of the people. It is the same in my town. Almost no one comes to the synagogue anymore." So the old abbot and the old rabbi wept together. Then they read parts of the Torah and quietly spoke of deep things. The time came when the abbot had to leave. They embraced each other. "It has been a wonderful thing that we should meet after all these years, "the abbot said, "but I have still failed in my purpose for coming here. Is there nothing you can tell me, no piece of advice you can give me that would help me save my dying order?" "No, I am sorry," the rabbi responded. "I have no advice to give. The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you." When the abbot returned to the monastery his fellow monks gathered around him to ask, "Well what did the rabbi say?" "He couldn't help," the abbot answered. "We just wept and read the Torah together. The only thing he did say, just as I was leaving --it was something cryptic-- was that the Messiah is one of us. I don't know what he meant." In the days and weeks and months that followed, the old monks pondered this and wondered whether there was any possible significance to the rabbi's words. The Messiah is one of us? Could he possibly have meant one of us monks here at the monastery? If that's the case, which one? Do you suppose he meant the abbot? Yes, if he meant anyone, he probably meant Father Abbot. He has been our leader for more than a generation. On the other hand, he might have meant Brother Thomas. Certainly Brother Thomas is a holy man. Everyone knows that Thomas is a man of light. Certainly he could not have meant Brother Elred! Elred gets crotchety at times. But come to think of it, even though he is a thorn in people's sides, when you look back on it, Elred is virtually always right. Often very right. Maybe the rabbi did mean Brother Elred. But surely not Brother Phillip. Phillip is so passive, a real nobody. But then, almost mysteriously, he has a gift for somehow always being there when you need him. He just magically appears by your side. Maybe Phillip is the Messiah. Of course the rabbi didn't mean me. He couldn't possibly have meant me. I'm just an ordinary person. Yet supposing he did? Suppose I am the Messiah? O God, not me. I couldn't be that much for You, could I? As they contemplated in this manner, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the off chance that one among them might be the Messiah. And on the off chance that each monk himself might be the Messiah, they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect.

Because the forest in which it was situated was beautiful, it so happened that people still occasionally came to visit the monastery to picnic on its tiny lawn, to wander along some of its paths, even now and then to go into the dilapidated chapel to meditate. As they did so, without even being conscious of it, they sensed the aura of extraordinary respect that now began to surround the five old monks and seemed to radiate out from them and permeate the atmosphere of the place. There was something strangely attractive, even compelling, about it. Hardly knowing why, they began to come back to the monastery more frequently to picnic, to play, to pray. They began to bring their friends to show them this special place. And their friends brought their friends. Then it happened that some of the younger men who came to visit the monastery started to talk more and more with the old monks. After a while one asked if he could join them. Then another. And another. So within a few years the monastery had once again become a thriving order and, thanks to the rabbi's gift, a vibrant center of light and spirituality in the realm. *

Sir, we wish to see Jesus. Through the life, death, and resurrection we can see Jesus, and the law is written on our hearts. Jesus is right here among us.

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy: Come let us adore him.

*attributed to M. Scott Peck

Saturday, March 21, 2009

4 Lent Yr B

The reading from Ephesians reminds me of one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride. There is a scene where our hero, Westley, after he has endured the torture of Prince Humperdinck and thought to be dead, is brought by his friends to Miracle Max. Miracle Max wants to know why he should help our hero, and the answer is true love. Miracle Max informs Westley’s friends that he is only mostly dead, “It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there's usually only one thing you can do. Go through his clothes and look for loose change.”

I wonder if we don’t spend much of our lives mostly dead. According to Ephesians we do. God comes into our midst to show us the possibility of new life, the possibility of abundant life. As does this very familiar passage from John, the translation in the Message is, “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.” The answer to mostly dead is true love, and God has given us true love in the gift of Jesus. God has shown us what abundant life really is, that is the Good News.

What seems odd is that the antidote for the snakebite was the snake on a stick. And the antidote for being mostly dead is the hard wood of the cross. It is the work that Jesus does on the cross. It is the hard news is that new life, abundant life, doesn’t look anything like what our culture would have us believe.

The collection of stories from scripture we have before us today really speaks to each other, sometimes this happens, but sometimes it doesn’t. In Numbers we are presented with another telling about the whiny Israelites. Why Moses, why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is nothing to eat, and we detest the miserable food we have to eat. And then there were poisonous serpents among the people, and they were bit and many died. The people realized their shortcomings, and they asked Moses to pray on their behalf to take the poisonous serpents away. God’s answer to Moses’ prayer was not to take the snakes away. Instead, God instructed Moses to make a poisonous serpent and set it on a pole and to instruct the people who have been bitten to look at it and live. Those who did lived.

I think the theme of this day is that God comes as love into our mostly deadness, and does not take away the pain and suffering of our lives, God does not take away the poisonous snakes, God teaches the Israelites to live with the snakes. What God does in these stories is to show us that life is about living fully, completely, and abundantly in the midst of our circumstances, in the midst of our tragedies, in the midst of our challenges, in the midst of our sure and certain death. When we do that, we have glimpses of abundant life. God through Jesus shows us how to live fully alive in the midst of the mess. Living fully alive is to look directly at the poisonous snake and live. Avoiding it or denying it brings only death.

Once again I am reminded of the wisdom and beauty of Lent. Removing the clutter and distractions from our lives afford us the opportunity to see and to listen. What looks like and seems like mostly dead teems with life and newness. What feels like barrenness and dryness is being watered with the deep water of Jacob’s well in Samaria and the life giving water of baptism. What seems like a field with no hope of harvest, eventually will bear fruit and hope. But it all rests in the mud and the mess and the yuck.

We have the power to look at the snake and live, but it is not by our own power, but by God’s grace in Jesus Christ. Once again Ephesians, by grace you have been saved and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. God shows us in these stories that as we come to live less for ourselves, when we give up on it’s all about me, when we realize that we are not so important anyhow, we begin to live the gift of new life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life. This eternal life that is spoken about in the gospel of John is a present reality. It is not about after a life here on this earth, eternal life is about being fully alive with God in the present. It is about being mostly dead and being born again as Nicodemus learns from Jesus in the verses right before the ones we heard today.

Like the Israelites wandering in the wilderness and encountering the poisonous snakes, we too maybe need to survive the death of our bodies, or confront the death of our bodies as we do on Ash Wednesday, so that we begin to be able to really live. These dark places are nothing we seek out for ourselves, but they are the reality in which we live our lives. This Lenten journey takes us to the dark places, so that we may be filled with the Light. This Lenten journey shows us our mortality, so that we may know what it is to be fully alive. This Lenten journey takes us through the muck and the mess, so that we may be the fertile ground in which God’s grace takes root. This is the gift of God.

In the midst of this Lenten journey we are filled with the light and the love of God, we are empowered to be the light and the love of God in the context in which we find ourselves. We are to live fully and to love mightily, as we have first been loved. The Israelites were afraid in their wilderness, their fear caused them to whine and to be disappointed, their fear caused them to grasp for things that they thought would make them immediately happy, their fear caused them to worship things that were not God.

We are in a wilderness place of fear in our country today. There are poisonous snakes around us. But we are not to be mostly dead; we are not to let fear kill us. Instead we are to live together as a community, being empowered by this amazing love that is shown to us by God in Jesus, and we are to be empowered to find God in our midst. We are to empower others to discover the light and the love that God offers to each of us and to the whole world. We are to be transformed by the light and love that God offers.

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy: Come let us adore him.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

3 Lent Yr B

Part of the reason I wanted to serve here at St. Andrew’s is because of this beautiful sanctuary. Its open contemporary feel attracted me. I’m fully aware that isn’t true for everyone, some prefer the gothic sanctuary, and I’m glad for that. But this is a wonderfully conceived building; its purpose is mission and growth. It shows us that everyone is welcome, it teaches that the table, the word, and baptismal ministry are the triangular center points of who we are here at St. Andrew’s. We have a glorious connectway that fills with warmth and light during the day. The stained glass tells us a story of faith; the artwork helps us to shape images in our imaginations. We invite people into our building, we invite people to come and see, we invite people to encounter God here, and we trust that God will show up in the encounter.

We also spend much of our resources on keeping this building beautiful. This building is precious to us. It is special, it is comfortable. It works for so many reasons on so many different levels. But what if I were to tell you that it all must come down? What If I were to tell you that this building was an impediment to our encounter with God? What if I were to tell you that we could no longer worship here? What if it burnt down? What if…….?

The temple that every good Jew made their way to at the Passover was built by Herod. Herod built it as a monument to himself, and as a way of keeping the Jews in his good graces. The Temple was huge, it had side-buildings and porticos, in fact it was like a traffic center, to get from one place to another place it was shorter to go through the temple. You really did not even need to go near the holy of holies, the physical place where God resided in the ark. A toll was collected from those who used the temple as the shortest route between here and there. In addition the temple traders would barter one sort of animal with another, so that those who needed to leave the proper offering could do so. There was much trading going on, humanity teeming at it’s worst and maybe even at it’s best.

Jesus was disgusted with the Temple traders. But in this story from John, not only was he disgusted, he also was frustrated that they couldn’t’ see what was really going on, what was really happening here. They ask him, what sign can you show us? Which in the gospel of John, is ordinary, John is full of signs and wonders. Jesus’ response is “destroy this temple.” If I responded to you that way, you’d have me thrown out before you would destroy this church. What kind of talk is that, destroy this temple. Jesus continued, “in three days I will raise it up.” It took forty-six years to build this temple, this was their lives work, and their fathers’ lives work, who does he think he is? In three days I will raise it up.

Imagine how afraid these followers of Jesus must have been. Imagine what it must feel like to be told by your leader that the building you had always known to be your center, your center of worship, your social center, your economic center, is to be torn down and taken away. Did it even matter to them that Jesus wasn’t really speaking about the temple, the place of worship at all, but he was speaking about himself? Change was happening for these folks, change they didn’t want, didn’t think they need, change they would really rather have stayed away from.

The hard and scary part of all this is that Jesus was talking about a change that was absolutely never experienced before. He was talking about himself supplanting the temple, no longer would there be a temple to go to, to worship at, to trade in, to walk through. God’s physical location in the holy of holies in the ark, no longer would be. God would now be located in Jesus, and in each one of God’s creations. God would now be located in each one of us. This would be accomplished by the very frightening journey to the cross. Jesus would live and love, suffer and die, and would be raised again. That is where God’s love would be located.

That’s a tough one, but it is as true for the first followers of Jesus as it is for you and for me. You see, when it becomes about the temple, the facility, the building, when it becomes about something other than God’s reconciling mission in the world, we’ve missed the mark. That is when our own temple cleansing needs to happen.

Lent may be our own temple cleansing. Lent may be our time to examine what is really important; lent may be our time to throw out the trash, even the trash we tend to bring back in with us. Jesus is now the temple, that’s what this story is all about. Paul understood that. Paul wrote about each one of us being a temple. God in Jesus Christ resides in each of us, no longer is the temple outside of us, but it is within us. Therefore, we must pay attention and do some temple cleansing. What Paul also understood was that God in Jesus Christ resides in each of us, we may be the temple, but individually we are not whole, collectively we are whole, individually we are just broken fragments, stones with no order. Together, we can be the whole

Temple cleansing, examining how and where we meet with God’s mission in Jesus Christ of reconciliation, is sometimes about discerning how we miss the mark. Where is our own brokenness that needs putting back together, that needs healing? Where is it that we neglect to treat others with respect and dignity? How are we like the temple traders, forgetting that worship is about relationship with God and with others, and instead come to believe it is about our own gain, or taking care of our own needs?

Our Lenten temple cleansing may also be about the stripping clean of the stuff that keeps us separate from God and from others. It may be about taking the time to lie fallow while God does God’s work in us, so that we may be fertile for the new growth of Easter. Whatever our Lenten temple cleansing may be, it is about tossing out and making room for the new, the change that God is preparing us for. It is about that completely new thing, that we can hardly even imagine yet, that thing that scares us to death, but that gives us hope.

Our adult education in recent months has been talking about rummage sales. The author of the book we read and talked about used the metaphor of a rummage sale to show us how things change, or must change in the church. She says that when it comes time for a rummage sale, you go through all your stuff, and you decide what you want to get rid of, what you need to get rid of, and what you think you must hold on to. If your household is cleaning out stuff, there may be quite a bit of discussion about what may stay and what may go, and that conversation begins to turn into disagreement. What some through out may be someone else’s treasure, that’s the way with rummage.

Our Lenten temple cleansing is like the rummage sale. There is much we must examine, and much we must let go of in order for God to find a place to be home with us. Much we just don’t need, much clutters our homes, our hearts, and our souls that we just need to throw out. We need to do the cleansing, so that what is left can grow and flourish, so that we can live the new life that God promises us in the resurrection. Happy Spring cleaning!

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy: Come let us adore him.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

2 Lent Yr B

This Lent we have the opportunity to hear the amazing story of God’s love of creation. Last week we heard from Noah, we heard God’s promise to Noah and to all of creation and were reminded of the sign of God’s blessing, the rainbow in the sky. Today we hear through Abraham and Sarah of the promise of blessing through them of their son Isaac, and to all of Abraham and Sarah’s descendants. We hear of God’s relentless pursuit of a relationship with all of creation, with you and me. And at the same time that we hear this amazing story of God’s creation and our blessing, we hear the story of God in our midst, of Jesus Christ the Good News.

The particular part of the story we hear today is the Good News about following Jesus’ way of the cross. Peter, my friend, is in disbelief about the truth Jesus speaks. Peter cannot believe that his friend Jesus will be rejected and be killed. By this time in the story Jesus’ teaching has reached the ears of those who would be threatened by his message of reversal and empowerment and has become explosive. I think Peter wants Jesus just to keep it quiet, Peter knows that Jesus’ message will get him in trouble, and would rather that Jesus keep it under the radar of those in power. But Jesus’ response to Peter, get behind me Satan, shows us two things. First, a “Satan” is a tester of loyalties. Remember after Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan, he was immediately driven out into the wilderness, tempted by Satan. Jesus’ loyalty to God was tested in the wilderness. In this story Peter‘s loyalty is questioned, and Jesus really tells Peter to get behind him, to follow him. Second, Jesus describes what getting behind him, what following him, really looks like. Jesus says to Peter, and to all who are in earshot, including you and me, if you want to follow me, you need to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow. Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of the good news, will save it.

This is where we find ourselves today, the 2nd Sunday of Lent. As people who claim to be followers of Christ, what does it mean to take up our cross, and to loose our lives for the sake of the gospel, especially as we understand this work as a journey? As we discover this in the light of God’s relentless pursuit of relationship, as we discover this in the light of God’s amazing and abundant love as evidenced in the rainbow, as evidenced in the promise of life.

What, then, might it mean for us to take up our Cross and follow Jesus? What does it mean for us to be followers of Christ? It's not a call to martyrdom -- if nothing else, the teaching that Jesus' blood shed on the Cross was a perfect, full, and sufficient sacrifice for sin, it ought to tell us that Jesus' blood was the LAST blood to be shed because of sin. God does not need or want bloodshed. Not another drop. God does not call us to be a herd of lemmings. God calls us to be the Body of Christ, praying as Jesus taught us that God's kingdom would come and God's will done on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus taught us to seek God's kingdom and to seek it first -- to look for and journey toward God's dream given flesh in the world, in communities of justice and peace and hope and abundant, vibrant life.

Taking up our cross as followers of Jesus is about how we live our lives as people who are loved abundantly by the God that Jesus shows us. Taking up our cross is about empowerment, about Jesus empowering us, like Jesus empowered Peter and the first followers to drop the masks of status and honor and instead to take on our true selves. When we think about this language of taking up our cross, we need to remember that the cross in 1st century Mediterranean Roman occupation was a means of terror, the cross was a means of keeping people in their place. Jesus wouldn’t be kept in his place, Jesus claimed a status of beloved of God, and Jesus ascribed that same status to all who would follow him. Not only would Jesus not be kept in his place, those who follow him are empowered to confront the social structures of their time and advocate for those who have no power. In Mark, following Jesus is not just serving your neighbor, following Jesus is confronting the structures that keep people from being the blessed creations that God intended. This is not easy work; this is work that makes people uncomfortable, maybe nervous and anxious. This is work that will cost everything we have, but the value of this work is priceless.

The truth of the cross and of Jesus’ exchange with Peter is that Jesus is completely committed to us, and the expectation is that we will be completely committed to Jesus. This idea of total, radical commitment is somewhat foreign to 21st century thought. We have no problem with the concept of “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours,” at least as long as we come out on the upside of the equation. But with Jesus, the stakes are much higher. This whole idea of cross bearing or denying oneself might fly for the season of Lent, but every day—that’s a tall order! It makes discipleship sound as achievable as that infamous small print often included in contests: many will enter but few will win.

And the good news in this is that we don’t walk this journey alone. We have the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit every step of the way. And, we have the benefit of our sisters and brothers, of community in Christ. And finally, and most importantly, we have the knowledge of God’s amazing and abundant love. Our response to God’s amazing love is to take up our cross, to give over everything in the form of a radical and total commitment to the one who sees in us worth beyond compare.

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy: Come let us adore him.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

1 Lent Yr B

A voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. Jesus was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. In this short piece of scripture we participate in the breadth of life in God. We witness the awesomeness of blessing as Jesus is baptized by John in the river, and we experience the power of the water to give and take life. And then the water laps to the shore of the river, and before it can even recede, long before the water ever dries, we feel the heat and the dryness, the hunger and the fear of the wilderness desert.

Blow the trumpet in Zion, we heard from the prophet Joel on Ash Wednesday, for the day of the Lord is coming. Joel calls us to return to God with all our heart, for God is gracious and merciful. Our return is what God waits for, God yearns for. Our wilderness adventure, turning back toward God has begun. We were immersed in the waters of baptism, like Jesus is the Jordan. We were marked with oil as Christ’s own forever, and that cross on our foreheads that is an indelible mark was retraced with the ashes that remind us that we are from dust, and to dust we will return. The water, the dust, life, and mortality. We are in the midst of it all, in the mud and the mess. We are embarking on the wilderness journey; the Lenten journey takes us into the promise God makes, that we will never be without God’s presence shown by the symbol of God’s presence, the rainbow. Our Lenten journey takes us through the place of hunger and thirst, and of wilderness wandering.

I have said out loud to many people that I would prefer not to do Lent. I would prefer to raise my hands and voice in praise and glory, and never drop to my knees in confession and penitence. I would prefer to shout Alleluias and never pray Lord have mercy. That is why I’m not the one in charge. That’s why God is God and I am not. That is the wonder and glory of our church. We are called to places that we would prefer not to go, like desert and wilderness. Remember the ashes. Remember the seed. Remember the fertile ground.

The new life that God promises is ours. It is ours today, right now. God’s abundant and amazing love washes over and through and among us. We don’t work for it, we don’t give things up, or make things right to get God’s love, because God’s love is not dependent on us at all.

But as you and I know, we get so easily distracted. We are often like babies, easily entertained by the baubles and bangles all around us. We tend to let the narrative of narcissism and greed get the best of us, not just as individuals, but in our common life as well. We take when we really need to give. We argue when we really need to be partners in conversation so that we may effect change for the common good. We close our eyes and fall asleep when we need to remain vigilant in our advocacy for those who do not have a voice to speak.

Lent reminds us of whom we truly are. We are creatures made of dust, and to dust we shall return. We are loved abundantly and amazingly by God our creator, we know this because God has come into our lives and shown us how to live fully and completely. Living fully and completely means that wilderness and desolation, as well as joy and thanksgiving, are all part of our lives.

Lent calls us to turn around, to kneel down, and to play in the mud and the mess. Lent calls us to get our hands dirty in the soil that will give rise to the wheat, or the shrubs or the trees. Remember that wilderness is not nothing, but wilderness is something. Under the surface life is teeming. Under the surface is where the work takes place. Under the surface is water is collected, deep down and in other places we cannot see, collected so that new life may erupt. When we emerge from the wilderness, when the seedlings peek their greenness up from the ground, we will bask in the sunshine again. But we can’t get there without this journey. We can’t get there without Lent. We can’t get there without lying still for a while.

This is lent, the laying quiet, being watered by these waters of the river Jordan, the waters of baptism. Letting our brokenness be healed. Letting our scattered and fragmented selves be but back together again. Like after the rain, as the sun comes out, and you see a rainbow in the sky. Your whole self, made new by God’s amazing love appears, full of color, full of life, nothing like you looked before.

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy: Come let us adore him.