Pathways through Lent

Awakening

Psalm 31:1–4, 15–16 Job 14:1–14 or Lamentations 3:1–9, 19–24 1 Peter 4:1–8 Matthew 27:57–66 or John 19:38–42

In 2012 I received a new life. In truth, it was my same old life, but finally my eyes are open. Last year I went rapidly from robust good health to cancer diagnosis, to surgery, to the news that the cancer had not spread, and so back to good health. One might think that I have come full circle, but that is not quite the case. My world, like Dorothy’s when she stepped from her wrecked house, has gone from black and white to vivid Technicolor.

I have always been an early riser, not by choice and, at times, not without frustration. But now I leap up at first light and raise the shade to another day stretching out before me like a golden highway. I have been given another day to experience God’s timeless peace and love. I can engage in useful work. I can read a book. I can dig the garden, play with a child, mend a quarrel, laugh with friends, listen to music. Like anyone, I do not know how many more dawns I will be given, but now it no longer matters.

Today we await Easter, as we do all during Lent, all through our lives. But there is another Easter that dawns repeatedly within our hearts, even when we least expect it.

Every day can be an Easter Day.

–Livy More

Photo by Anita Gould
Photo by Anita Gould
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Pathways through Lent

In Memory of a Loss

Psalm 22 Isaiah 52:13–53:12 Hebrews 10:16–25 or Hebrews 4:14–16, 5:7–9 John 18:1–19:42

Upon entering the temple we see him

Lying prominently in the immense sanctuary

Engulfed by multitudes of mourners

Who have come to grieve a tragic loss.

What appears as death is but an illusion.

Though draped by a symbolic cloth His presence in death as in life Is penetratingly stark And not difficult to perceive.

All is transition, merely a change of form.

Family and friends extol his noble qualities

And innumerable achievements

That we all aspire towards but he, poignantly, embodied.

. . . The body is a garment which he wears a season.

Later, we somberly gather at the grave site

As the coffin is lowered to its designated resting place.

And each takes our turn to bid a final farewell by casting soil onto it:

Thus, sending him to his eternal abode while we remain behind.

To begin life in other spheres.

Earlier, the rabbi noted that we are all like flowers on this earth

Meant to bloom into our potential like the deceased did.

He bloomed magnificently and we were fortunate

To have his exemplary presence among us!

Nothing dies; it simply changes form.*

–Janet Helgert

Italicized quotes from Henrietta Posner’s poem There Is No Death, 1955

March29

Pathways through Lent

Loneliness and Community

Psalm 116:1, 10–17 Exodus 12:1–14 1 Corinthians 11:23–26 John 13:1–17, 31b–35

Loneliness may be the hardest human emotion, and nothing is worse than feeling alone when surrounded by friends.

Washington, D.C., can be a lonely city. There is no shortage of things to do or people to do them with, but here where the line between personal and professional relationships is blurred, where every gathering can become a networking event, it is hard to maintain authentic friendships.

Tonight, we perform the strange and wonderful rituals of foot washing and stripping the altar. We remember Jesus at the Last Supper, surrounded by friends, lovingly washing their feet but deeply alone. We keep the watch as Jesus approaches his loneliest hour. And in doing this we are reminded that Jesus goes before us and beside us in our loneliness.

This Lent, we can fight the temptation to be alone together. In this city, we don’t often share our struggles and joys with others—even in church— because the pressure to appear put together is so great.

Let us consider the idea that we are called to allow people into the messy parts of our lives and that in doing so we can find reprieve from our isolation and also serve as a source of strength for others.

Also let us consider that, when someone is in need, we may not be called to solve their problems but rather to simply be present, to be a companion, to hold a hand, to stay awake, and to just show up and trust that grace will work through us.

–Robin M. Rotman

Photo: The Upper Room | Jerusalem
Photo: The Upper Room | Jerusalem
Pathways through Lent

In the Darkness

Psalm 70 Isaiah 50:4–9a Hebrews 12:1–3 John 13:21–32

I associate Lent with darkness—because of the shorter days, because of Jesus’ last week, and because of what we are called to do during this time: reflect, sacrifice, repent.

Lent this year follows what for me has already been a dark time—when I could not believe in a God who sacrificed His own child and when my life seemed to depend on believing just that. In November last year, I was happily expecting our third child when, at four months pregnant, I miscarried. In that darkness, two threads keep me connected to God and to others.

God’s sacrifice and Jesus’ crucifixion, however unfathomable, mean that our God understands great pain. That God cries with us in our suffering. I realize that, even in my doubt, even as I shout Why? I am still asking God to help my unbelief, to incline His ear to me. Despite how distant I feel from God, this is a thread holding on to me.

The psalms also remind me that every human emotion, including my own desperation, has been felt before. Psalm 102 says I am sleepless, and I moan . . . and [I] mingle my drink with tears because . . . you lifted me up only to cast me down. That someone has borne these trials and lived these feelings, thousands of years ago and thousands of times before, brings me some solace. I am not alone.

And these threads of connection—however thin they sometimes feel—are enough.

–Alison McIntire

Photo by Neal Fowler
Photo by Neal Fowler
Pathways through Lent

Prayers Answered

Psalm 6 Isaiah 49:1–7 1 Corinthians 1:18–31 John 12:20–36

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; O Lord, heal me . . . . The Lord has heard my supplication; the Lord accepts my prayer.

–Psalm 6:2, 9

In the reading from the psalms today, David appeals in sorrow to God for mercy and relief and, when those prayers are answered, finds renewed confidence.

As it was with David, events in our lives can suddenly turn our worlds upside down. Whether it’s a family issue, job insecurity, personal loss, or health concern, we all face challenges that shake our confidence, no matter how many times God has answered our prayers in the past.

This year, my family faced a few of those challenges. But by knowing that God loves us and is merciful, and drawing upon the support of our community, we found the courage to keep moving, look for possibility, and act boldly to serve God. And, like David, we found our prayers answered.

This Lent, we have finally moved through our crisis and find ourselves in a new and better place, with renewed confidence. And we stand—in Lent, and every day thereafter—as proof to those around us that God, in His mercy, does indeed answer our prayers.

–Betsy Daise

Photo by Ryan Wiedmaier
Photo by Ryan Wiedmaier
Pathways through Lent

Abide With Me

Psalm 36:5–11 Isaiah 42:1–9 Hebrews 9:11–15 John 12:1–11

Come, abide within me; let my soul, like Mary, be thine earthly sanctuary. –Hymn 475, The Hymnal 1982

Today marks the confluence in Lent of three significant events:

– the Feast of the Annunciation, – the Monday of Holy Week, and – a march in Washington, led by the bishop of Washington with the bishops of Connecticut, to stop gun violence in our country.

All these events challenge us to receive God in our bodies, hearts, and souls— and to manifest the presence and power of God in our world today.

They also remind me of St. John’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land last fall, when we visited the site of the Annunciation in Nazareth, walked the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, and witnessed the heart-wrenching struggles of people in conflict trying to live together in one land. My thoughts and emotions about those extraordinary 12 days are complex and profound—and, in the context of my faith, are enduringly positive because:

– a village maiden became the mother of the incarnate God, – the shameful walk to Golgotha became the pathway to heaven, and – hope endures among people who still strive to make the desert bloom.

During Lent—and today especially—please join me in praying that:

– we, like Mary, will say yes to God’s invitation to bear incarnate love, – we, like Jesus, will have the strength to walk our way of the Cross, and – we, like our bishops, will have the courage to be God’s agents in action.

–Ben Hutto

March 25_Andy Castro

 

Pathways through Lent

God Can Free Us

Psalm 137:1-6 Jeremiah 31:27-34 Romans 11:26-36 John 11:28-44

Jesus said to Mary, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

And so they took away the stone.

–John 11:40–41

Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead is one of the most intriguing stories in the Bible.

Lazarus has died, and Mary and Martha are standing by their brother, distraught because they had called for Jesus and Jesus had not arrived until after Lazarus had died. Mary says to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” and in response Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. His last words in the story are a command to those around Lazarus: “Unbind him, and let him go.”

The late Rev. Dr. Peter Gomes, in a sermon here at St. John’s, once said that Jesus’ command was also His invitation to us at Easter to let go of whatever is binding us—those things that cause us to not fully engage with Christ. Perhaps it is drinking too much, or working too much, or spending too much, or watching too much TV. Whatever they are, they prevent us from enjoying the pure pleasure of being in Christ’s presence.

May this be the time of year to chart a new course, to change our priorities, and look forward to the future. May we, like Lazarus, be let go—and see the glory of God.

–Ralph Olson

March23