Dawning Light

Tags

, , , ,

6:39AM: The snow of the past 48 hours has finally stopped and we will see temperatures above 40 degrees today (perhaps). It is a day, then, for morning praise. I choose J. Philip Newell for my prayer partner:

For the first showings of the morning light and the emerging outline of the day, thanks be to You, O God. For earth’s colors drawn forth by the sun, it’s brilliance piercing clouds of darkness and shimmering through the leaves and flowing waters, thanks be to You. Show me this day amidst life’s dark streaks of wrong and suffering the light that endures in every person. Dispel the confusions that cling close to my soul, that I may see with eyes washed by Your grace, that I may see myself and all people with eyes cleansed by the freshness of the new day’s light. (Celtic Benediction, p. 40)

Newell then suggests that we pray for the coming day and for the life of the world. I suggest we try for a rising of hope in that prayer. We need it!

No Babbling!

Tags

, , , , ,

I find myself sometimes in conversation—more often as I get older—saying to whoever seems to be listening: “I’m babbling, so I’ll stop now…” I smiled, therefore, when I saw the gospel reading for today from Matthew 6. Listen:

Jesus said to his disciples: In praying, do not babble like the pagans who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

What follows is The Lord’s Prayer, a great example of how to be concise yet meaningful. No wonder it is prayed by people all over the world who are of all Christian denominations. Today may be a good day to take apart the prayer and reflect on each of the thoughts, to go deeper in considering what they might mean for your life now. A lovely reflection for a Tuesday at the beginning of Lent, don’t you think? Think of how many people in the world are saying this prayer today. Why not join in virtually to that great throng?

The Chair of Peter

Tags

, , , ,

Today’s feast could seem strange to people who are literalists. Why, when religious feasts are commonly associated with saints, would there be one (today – February 22nd), celebrating a piece of furniture: the “chair of Peter?” It really isn’t a difficult puzzle to solve but it does have an interesting story (too long for this post) that is an example of a “synecdoche (sin-NEK-da-kee), a figure of speech in which a term for a part of something refers to the whole of something or vice versa,”—e.g. the chair of Peter for the role of Peter in Christianity. (Language teachers love that one…)

I thought of that not only because St. Peter was so central to the growth of the Church. I was also aware of Peter’s relationship with Jesus. He certainly wasn’t perfect; the gospels are full of his missteps but that is another gift to the Church, I think. Jesus needed someone to lean on occasionally—or maybe more often…He needed a friend, someone to go with him up into the hills to pray with him when things got too much to handle…when people turned against Jesus or when they didn’t understand him. He needed support when people were wondering who he was and Peter was the only one who recognized the mission of Jesus early on.

Peter’s mission was that of companion to Jesus as well as representative of the “beloved community” that was building because of the presence of Christ in the world. We all need that. I think today that I will spend time reflecting on those generous people who have offered me friendship during my life and giving thanks to God for the gifts that I have received because of them. Won’t you join me in that endeavor?

Reminding God

Tags

, , , , ,

Psalm 25 presents us with a fervent prayer of hope in the goodness of God. It’s as if the psalmist is reminding God of all past promises and urging God to keep them in mind. The refrain is clear: Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant. Were we to hear the entire psalm we would see that the psalmist moves from speaking directly to God, to making a case to all listeners about God’s willingness to forgive our faults – and then back again to direct address to God, asking for that forgiveness for faults and mistakes while again reminding God of the need to be compassionate toward our failures. It moves from complimenting God for such great kindness to reminding God of the necessity for remembrance! I might wonder about the trust of the psalmist in God’s memory!

So then I am led to question my trust level. Do I really think God loves me unconditionally – to such a degree that God will forgive any failing as long as I admit what I’ve done or not done, as long as I repent? Do I really believe God is with me at every moment, loving and guiding me to a deeper life of love? What is my trust quotient today?

Light in the Darkness…If

Tags

, , , , , , ,

I have been delighting in a website called Tinybeans which keeps me up to date with the growth and progress of a friend’s baby. Today was the saga of his introduction to carrots and it didn’t go well. John made it perfectly clear that he was not going to eat those orange things, regardless of the efforts of both his parents to encourage it. It is fascinating to see how babies react to tastes. (I, for one, found carrots in the top three vegetables and still do!) At this point, John does not have language to refuse – only facial clues – no matter how his parents coax him. Later on, perhaps, they will cajole or demand compliance when encouraging acceptable behavior, or will make “deals” with him in the traditional “if/then” process: “If you eat your vegetables, then you can have dessert…” but for now, he wins.

It may be stretch, but John made me think of this morning’s reading from the prophet Isaiah. (58: 9b ->). The stakes are much higher in what Isaiah is proposing, however, and the promises are quite tempting. Listen to yourself reading it aloud:

Thus says the Lord: If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech, if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted, then light shall rise for you in the darkness and the gloom shall become for you like midday. Then the Lord will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.

Can you feel the light rising in you? If not, try turning off all the lights in the room you’re in and stand in the dark for a moment or two. Then turn all the lights on at once and see what you can see. And thank God for all the promises you have been given.

.

Isaiah’s Punch

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

In a contest of people who “tell it like it is,” the Prophet Isaiah would always (it seems to me) win hands down! The words “fast and abstinence” had great meaning when I was a child who always knew that there were rules about eating during Lent. We understood that our two smaller meals – usually breakfast and lunch – could not equal, or at least not be larger when put together, than our main meal and we worked hard at making sure of that. And there was also the question of dessert…when to have it and when to pass it up. This was serious business and whether we knew Isaiah or not, we knew that God meant business.

I doubt we ever heard the scathing criticism in Chapter 58 of Isaiah’s prophecy that we read today. He speaks for God in his estimation of the people’s fasting, saying: Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits and drive all your laborers. Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw. …Is this the manner of fasting I wish? Had we been truly awake when we heard the next part, we might have wondered if God was speaking to us or if it was some mean taskmaster! But listen and see if you can find yourself in this kind of attitude and action. Did we ever wonder whether the practice of controlling our eating had anything to do with our consciousness during the rest the rest of our day?

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless, clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own…

Things seem much more dire now when there are so many hungry and poor people in our midst, more homeless and oppressed people…What do we do for them? Do we notice? How do we help? How is it that our light can shine in response to such great need? All God asks is our best. What is that for you?

Renewal

Tags

, , , , , , ,

It seems strange to say that today is a day that people long for – make themselves ready for even – when the Scriptures are full of commands. Listen:

*Blow a trumpet in Zion! Proclaim a fast, call an assembly. Gather the people, notify the congregation; assemble the elders, gather the children…” (Joel 2)

* A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me… Give me back the joy of your salvation and a willing spirit sustain in me…(PS 51)

* Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation! (2 Cor 5)

Taking each of those statements at a time – one after the other – from today’s lectionary readings – should bring us to a place of longing…an interior “heart space” where we can hear God say to us, “Even now, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness…even now.”

It’s as if we’re being given a “Get-out-of-jail-free” card…as if we’ve won the lottery and all is forgotten…as if we a as clean as new-fallen snow and innocent of all our faults and poor choices – sins even of the most grievous kind…because our God is a God like no other, the one who forgives, and forgives, and forgives again.

Today we start over, as if we were just born. What will you do with this gift? How will you spend these 40 days of Lent? Are you up to the challenge of Divine Love?

Always Another Chance

Tags

, , , , , ,

It seems – in light of recent events – that there is no normal in our world and yet we continue to survive. We are in the midst of the most horrific pandemic our age that is taking lives wantonly…and yet now, less than a year into it, we have not one but at least three different vaccines that seem able to stem the tide of the disease. We have had four years of a government that had no preparation for governing, whose members floundered and then got replaced with others equally unqualified…and yet now we have a president prepared by almost four decades in national politics to repair what has been undone because he understands how to govern and is, in addition, a humane, upright individual who knows suffering and love and is willing to do his best for us all. It is as if we have been given “one more chance” and, when we fail to recognize it or to step up to the challenge, God says, “All right, I’ll give you another chance at paying attention…just one more time…”

When will we learn? The frustration of Jesus is seen this morning in Mark’s gospel (Ch. 8) when he says: “Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And do you not remember?…”

Lent begins tomorrow. Today is Mardi Gras…Will there be wild dancing, eating and drinking – regardless of the rules about masks and social distancing? Will we pay attention and perhaps take the forty days to come asking ourselves the questions that Jesus asked today? Do you not understand or comprehend?…Will this time be different?

Early and Late

Tags

, , ,

I started up the stairs with the intention of an early post this morning but – as often happens – many things intervened. I had, however, already read Psalm 90, the lectionary psalm for the day, so a melody was already on replay inside me as I walked. Whether good fortune or not I am often “gifted” with a song in my head for a day or more when that happens. Today was no different but today I know it to be good fortune, just the kind of reminder I need in the run-up to Lent. Here’s the refrain (even though it took me till 1:00PM to say it!). See if you can accept and affirm it perhaps as a mantra for the entire six weeks.

In every age, O God, You have been our refuge. In every age, O God, You have been our hope.

If said repeatedly each day when reviewing happenings, it might put a new spin on things, helping to find a new perspective sometimes, or a new level of trust in the events of the day. Even if none of that happens, you may grow more positive, knowing that God is present in every event of every day.

Sensing Hope

Tags

, , , , , ,

With all the “bad news” (inconceivable, really) of what has been revealed during this past week in our country, one would think that faith of any goodness would be hard to find…and yet…and yet: I received a text – a beautiful, colorfully crafted image of dancers—shadowy figures swirling around each other with the words, Somewhere something incredible is waiting to be known. (Carl Sagan). In the same hour I came across a quote from civil rights leader, Howard Thurman, whose theology of radical non-violence was a key influence on civil rights workers in the 20th century. Thurman’s advice was the following:

Don’t ask what the world needs; ask what makes you come alive and go do it because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

It will be a test of faith, I think, to believe in those two short quotes enough to get through this day but I need something to move me to prayer and useful work so I will summon all my energy and move into this day with hope. I invite you to join me.