Archive for March, 2009

Lent V: In humility is great power

March 31, 2009

Travel is my excuse for being late with posting notes from last Sunday.  At least in the LCC lectionary, the readings last for a week, so it is still current!

This week brings us to a consideration of humility – a theme well positioned as we are between the Annunciation (last week, March 25) when the angel announces the Incarnation, the fullness of divinity humbled in frail human flesh, and the beginning of Holy Week (next Sunday), when the Incarnate One submits to betrayal, suffering, and death.  Do our lives show forth the presence and activity of such a Creator, who humbles himself in love and service before his creatures?

Today’s gospel, the parable of the publican and the Pharisee, shows us humility and pride at work in our religious life.  Can we be who we are, without comparison or guile, in God’s presence?  Or do we prefer to veil ourselves in manufactured identities, titles, outfits, affiliations, degrees, certifications, and comparisons to others?  Humility is about honesty, and a willingness to put aside our personality, our preferences, our pet ideas.  Father Paul Blighton remarked that in humility is great power, for when we get our little selves out of the way, then God can act. No longer impeded by our notions of how things should be, the New Life can flow freely, carving out surprising new paths.  This is the renewing of the mind that we read about in the epistle, a renewal that enables us to prove in our lives what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

As the humble Christ comes to feed us in bread and wine today, may we open ourselves to him, in all the wild strangeness of his ways, that he may feed others through us.

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Lent IV: Wisdom and power

March 23, 2009

Sorry to be late posting notes from yesterday:

With Refreshment Sunday, the Lenten purple lightens for a moment to pink.  The weather is warmer, flowers are blooming, Easter is coming.  Lent, like life, is rhythmic, and today we come up for a breath of air.  What is the spiritual refreshment in which we share this Sunday?  The collect tells us that God is a fountain of wisdom, a tower of strength, and an ever-shining sun of beauty and harmony.  As we participate in these qualities, we find the refreshment, the newness of life that we need to carry us forward.

The wisdom of God rests upon us, allowing us in whatsoever state we are, to be content.  (Phil. 4) We can be abased and we can abound, for we know that God’s wisdom passeth all understanding, and does not conform to the practical knowledge of the world. God’s wisdom is not a self-help book leading to worldly happiness.  Rather, it is an indwelling presence which enables us to meet the circumstances of life, in all their rhythms, with joy and peace.  Rev Mario Schoenmaker once remarked that he did not wish his students happiness (which is all too often a matter of small personal satisfactions); rather, he wished them peace – a harder and more profound reality.   Likewise, God’s power does not turn us into superheroes, at least not of the Dr Manhattan sort!  It is definitely not “name it and claim it” which is simply ego writ large.  Divine power is that which gives effective strength to wisdom.  We may have only two barley loaves and two small fish (John 6), but we can see how to use even the most limited resources to serve and nourish others, and we can find the strength to make it happen.

As our limited knowledge and egoic drives are increasingly suffused with divine wisdom and power, we shine with the sun of beauty and harmony, Christ radiating in us.  Perhaps one day we can repeat the truly frightening words of Paul: Those things, which ye have both learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you.  Does the light of Christ shine so brightly in us that we can offer ourselves as an example to others?   With a question like that, the purple of Lenten reflection and metanoia returns…

III Lent: No condemnation

March 13, 2009

Having wrestled last week with truth and the governance of our words, we move deeper into this week’s intent of “understanding.”  (Readings: I Peter 3, John 8)  The intent is not just a vague notion of developing understanding as self-improvement, but a call to embody the understanding and compassion of God as seen in Jesus Christ.  We all act toward the good, even if our vision of the good is very limited and selfish.  Most of us are quick to absolve ourselves and explain away our actions.  However, we don’t give others the latitude we give ourselves, condemning them and therefore failing to see them in truth.

The collect tells us that God’s way is quite different.  God is the one who knowest all things and art therefore all-forgiving.  God’s knowledge, God’s justice, and God’s mercy are – unlike ours – identical, and extend toward us in the form of forgiveness.  Through a living participation in Christ’s forgiveness, we not only cover the multitude of sin, but come to a true understanding of ourselves and others.  Knowledge that is devoid of mercy and forgiveness is not only lacking, but simply false.  Jesus shows us that the way of transformation is not through condemnation, but through forgiveness.  Mercy melts the veils which hide us from one another, making the New Life possible.  Let us listen deeply this Lent, hearing Jesus say to us:  Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more.

Lent II: Speaking from the abundance of the heart

March 7, 2009

In James 3, we are reminded that with our tongue, we bless God and we curse our brothers and sisters who are made in the image of God.   Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing.  My brethren, these things ought not to be so.  This is always a challenging Sunday, for who of us cannot see ourselves in these words?

However, as liberal, 21st century people, I think we often mishear James’ instruction to offend not in word as a counsel to Be Nice.   We are to speak truthfully, insofar as we can, and that is not always well-received.  While there are times when, from charity, one should remain silent rather than speaking an unwelcome  or painful truth, that is not always possible.  What we are not to do is bring forth that which is evil (Luke 6) or to curse our sisters and brothers, effectively denying the image of God shining in them – and in ourselves.  Some inner traditions hold that when someone curses another, the curse travels through the curser first – and the same with blessing.

In examining our speech, especially in difficult and potentially hurtful situations, may we ask ouselves if we are speaking from the abundance of the heart, and in a way that honors and blesses the image of God in all of us.