Pathways through Lent, Uncategorized

Thursday in the Third Week of Lent

“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls.”

Luke 11:17

A Life of Privilege

My cousin is a carpenter. He lives with his wife and two young children in rural Minnesota, in a weathered Victorian house high on a hill. The house, when I first saw it, was a husk. Narrow boards had been affixed to span chasms in the floor that would be mended when the better wood arrived; sunbeams shining through tarped holes in the ceiling dappled dusty corners. The work would take time. My cousin’s work room was on the top floor, and nailed onto a shelf above his drafting table was a small, 4” x 8” piece of plywood, on which he had painted the words, “This is a privilege.” This—this dubiously redeemable house, so unsuitable he and his wife and new baby had to live in an apartment while the work progressed—was a privilege. The resilience and optimism of that sentence in that environment winded me. I took a photo.

That was two years ago. I have looked at that photo a lot since then, and its real meaning has become clear. I think of that sentence when I read the news. “Sikh community asks for hate-crime probe after man is told ‘go back to your own country’ and shot.” (“This is a privilege.”) “US losing its national identity, 71 percent of Americans say.” (“This is a privilege.”) “Jewish leaders demand probe into toppled headstones.” (“This is a privilege.”) I now understand what my cousin meant. It is a privilege to have both the agency and the opportunity to improve something you love. It is a privilege to be able to improve something you love through working with your own two hands. It is a privilege to love something so much that you would take real risks on its behalf.

This hard, ceaseless work of improvement is the privilege of every American, native born or newly arrived. Like the sacred covenant of baptism binds us to God, the sacred covenant of citizenship binds us to each other. Two hundred years ago, in a letter to John Taylor, John Adams wrote, “Liberty, according to my metaphysics, is a self-determining power in an intellectual agent. It implies thought and choice and power.” Let us exercise our liberty on behalf of one another. Let us work together to improve and strengthen our union. This is our privilege.

Caroline Baxter

Appointed readings for today: Jeremiah 7:23-28, Psalm 95:6-11, Luke 11:14-23

Pathways through Lent, Uncategorized

Wednesday in the Third Week of Lent

 

A thread that runs through today’s lessons is the call to tell the story, to remember and recount, to do and teach the works and words of God.

“Make Them Hear You,” the powerful song from Ragtime, has become an anthem of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington; we have sung it in front of the Supreme Court Building, at the Lincoln Memorial, at the White House, and in dozens of other public events. It includes these lines:

Go out and tell our story to your daughters and your sons

and tell them in our struggle we were not the only ones.

…Your sword may be a sermon or the power of the pen;

teach everyone to raise their voice…

These lines sound to me like a modern version of Psalm 78. Here is that Psalm in the versification of Isaac Watts:

Let children hear the mighty deeds which God performed of old,

which in our younger years we heard, and which our fathers told.

He bids us make his glories known, his works of power and grace;

and we’ll convey his wonders down through very rising race.

 

Our lips shall tell them to our young, and they again to theirs,

that generations yet unborn may each them to their heirs;

thus shall they learn in God along their hope securely stands,

and they may not forget his works, but honor his commands.

In a few weeks, we will remember “the night on which Jesus was betrayed,” and the Passover meal that was built around remembering and telling the story of God’s deliverance: “…things that we have heard and known, that our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord…”

Make them hear you!

Jack Reiffer

Appointed readings for today: Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 5-9, Psalm 78:1-6, Matthew 5:17-19

Pathways through Lent, Uncategorized

Tuesday in the Third Week of Lent

Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, `Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, `Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, `Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, `You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Matthew 18:21–35

The parable in Matthew 18:21-35 is a difficult and prickly one. It ends the section in Matthew’s Gospel in which Jesus speaks at length about what relationships in the Christian community are like, a section in which he makes the same point over and over again: life in the community of God is the most important thing in the world, and that those who want to be members of it are called to do everything in their power to nourish and strengthen the bonds of the community.

In this vein, Peter wants to know exactly what is required of him. He is looking for a guideline, a limit to how far he must go with this relationship business. “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times seven?” No doubt Peter is thinking that 7 is a lot of times, more times than most of us can forgive anyone, but he gets no credit for his generous suggestion. Jesus replies,” I do not say seven times but seventy times seven.” That is like saying that there is no limit to forgiveness. That forgiving those who have betrayed our trust is not something we ever get done. That it is not a favor we bestow seven times and then withdraw the eighth time. That the way of God is a way of life that never ends.

By the end of the parable, Peter thinks he has the message: do unto others as the king will do unto you. But that is not the message of the parable. I think that message is, “do unto others as the King has already done unto you.” God doesn’t keep score. God wants to remain in relationship with us that we may be able to respond in like manner.

The Rev. Dr. Luis León

Appointed readings for today: Exodus 17:1-7, Psalm 95:6-11, John 4:5-42

Pathways through Lent, Uncategorized

Monday in the Third Week of Lent

Reflection

I’m a Master Gardener and Master Naturalist and as such, recently attended a presentation by Dr. Kathleen Wolf for the Smithsonian Gardens and other federal and local public gardens staff. During the morning Dr. Wolf shared with us research data affirming what we already know—getting outside in God’s green earth is good for what goes on inside of us!

Dr. Wolf’s mission: “To discover and understand the human benefits of nature in cities.” Among the many benefits social scientists have explored include proof offered that natural settings help us heal and learn, help us focus, and enhance our native creativity. Give your ideas legs! Forest schools for preschoolers and forest “bathing” (Shinrin Yoku in Japanese) for urban-dwellers; ‘Hike-it Baby’ walking programs, walking meetings, philosophers’ walks—all these measures, proven to enlarge the human soul, had me imagining Jesus and his disciples.

Breathing deeply the breezes of the Galilean Sea while preaching to hungry crowds, walking from village to village to heal bodies and souls, hiking to Jerusalem through the Judean desert, taking to prayer in a garden in Gethsemane: all are biblical images that reflect the call of the soul to bathe in God’s glorious creation, to take strength, nourishment and refreshment from the natural world around us.

And, by extension, all suggest reasons to be gracious and careful stewards of the natural world given us.

Do you find your days more often “mind-full” rather than “mindful,” as do I? This Lent, let’s get outside, and perhaps even let our legs help us with mindfulness and prayer. As we ask ourselves during this season of study and quiet reflection how we can best model discipleship and share God’s love, let’s go walking, and let’s give our baptismal call legs!

Joanne Hutton

Appointed readings for today: 2 Kings 5:1-15b, Psalm 42:1-7, Luke 4:23-30

Pathways through Lent, Uncategorized

Third Sunday in Lent

At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of
interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses,
and this fragile earth, our island home.
By your will they were created and have their being.

Book of Common Prayer, Eucharistic Prayer C

Each spring, Washingtonians and people from around the world alike pay close attention to the timing of the peak bloom of the Japanese flowering cherry trees by the Tidal Basin. The many unseasonably warm days this winter accelerated the biological process that the trees go through each year. Now a cold snap threatens the blossoms, which, having advanced in the biological process, are no longer protected by the buds. We hope for the best that we will have another beautiful peak bloom, but many people are unsure whether colder temperatures will harm the blooms of certain trees. My favorite term for the recent weather events of an unusual winter in D.C. is “global weirding”, which is another way to think about the impact of climate change.

Remember Eucharistic Prayer C, “At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.” Humans are living at a time where we are conducting a science experiment with our own atmosphere. The results of greenhouse gas emissions being added to the atmosphere are causing alarming consequences that will affect our brothers and sisters around the world.

What does climate change mean for our city? Washingtonians are at greater risk for flooding and heat.  According to a November 2016 report by the D.C. government, Climate Ready DC, “[b]y 2080, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicts up to 3.4 feet of additional sea level rise in DC.” The same report also says that the average summer high temperature is expected to go from 87°F “to between 93°F and 97°F by the 2080.”

I have found that taking environmentally sustainable actions can take on a spiritual component. Actions such as eating vegetarian for a night, telecommuting, or shopping locally are a way to share Christian love. Our neighbors in areas that are vulnerable to flooding or that lack air conditioning to alleviate the sweltering summer heat benefit in incremental ways from our collective actions to help prevent the worst of climate change from occurring. Future generations that get to enjoy a white Christmas, build a snowman or create snow angels will benefit too.

We are, in fact, living on an “island home,” but fortunately God has provided everything we’ll ever need on this island. Sustainable technology is available for our use and making smart choices is a way to show our devotion and love of our neighbor, near and far, now and in the future.

Cal Trepagnier

Appointed readings for today: Exodus 3:1-15, Psalm 63:1-8, Luke 13:1-9

Pathways through Lent, Uncategorized

Saturday in the Second Week of Lent

Heeding The Call

A voice says, “Call out.”
Then he answered, “What shall I call out?”
All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.

 

The grass withers, the flower fades,
When the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.

 

The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.

Isaiah 40:6-8

Today is my birthday. Every year that I’ve submitted to Pathways, I have requested this date (being editor makes it a little more certain that happens!). I ask for it because I continue to love birthdays, even if they have become more melancholy, an occasion for taking stock and reflecting. I don’t suppose that makes me unusual.

So it is this year: I find myself remembering my mom scolding me as a kid for forgetting to do things—take out the garbage, set the table, do my homework, whatever—without being reminded.

And I also think about how, lots of years later, I haven’t made so much progress. I am still too distracted by the minutiae of the day-to-day, looking ahead to something coming up or wallowing in nostalgia—and forgetting what is truly important. It’s a terrible waste of time, and it’s a shame when there is so much that needs to be done—and when I have so much to enjoy and be grateful for in the here and now.

But life has helped me out, giving me a much needed but terrible reminder: a high school friend died last week, only a year older than I am today, and in seemingly perfect health. He left two teenaged sons and a huge circle of friends and colleagues who loved him: he was a devoted father, a community activist and youth sports coach, and an avid competitive swimmer—but one better known for cheering on others than for pushing for his own results. The sort of person, in other words, who rarely forgot to enjoy and make the most of every day he was given and really strove to make a difference in his world.

Even if I struggle to make sense of such a loss, I can try to follow his example: to let his passing be my “call out.” And try not to need reminding again.

Thomas Stork

Appointed readings for today: Micah 7:14-15, 18-20, Psalm 103, Luke 15:11-32

Pathways through Lent, Uncategorized

Friday in the Second Week of Lent

More Than Roses

Today, the feast day of St. Patrick, I am reminded of what Thomas Cahill wrote in his book, How the Irish Saved Civilization.  Speaking of St. Patrick’s revolutionary vision of God’s presence in the world, Cahill says, “This sense of the world as holy, as the Book of God—as a healing mystery, fraught with divine messages—could never have risen out of Greco-Roman civilization, threaded with the profound pessimism of the ancients and their Platonic suspicion of the body as unholy and the world as devoid of meaning.”  Patrick, a bridge between Greco-Roman and Irish traditions, synthesized a new way of looking at the world, advocating part introspection and part extrospection, but always seeking God and the good regardless of what a first glance might show.  It is easy to boil this wisdom down into the clichéd exhortation “stop and smell the roses,” but this Lent I encourage everyone, myself included, to look at Patrick’s vision a little more closely.

Changing your default worldview from cynicism to wonder does not and will not happen overnight, but requires effort.  It is not enough to look at a moody student who doesn’t seem to understand the concept of reading silently and accept that that person is just like that, or to shrug off a coworker’s chronic lateness instead of flying into a rage.  Whether these examples apply to you or not, there are occasions in every walk of life to view frustrating situations as a chance to see wonder in the world.  This does not mean that you should ignore problematic situations or people, but that it is possible to see the healing mystery of the world in the most unlikely of places.

Lent provides a perfect opportunity not only to take a deeper look at ourselves but also at others and the world around us.  Stop or don’t stop, but don’t forget that there is more to God’s mysterious presence in the world than roses.

Katherine McClintic

Appointed readings for today: Genesis 37:3-4, 12-28, Psalm 105:16-22, Matthew 21:33-43