Pathways through Lent

Wonder, Love and Praise

Psalm 48:1-9
1 Samuel 24:7b-19
Philemon 1-9a
Luke 23:1-9

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
– Auguries of Innocence, William Blake

My family frequents a small piece of the George Washington National Forest in Virginia, where our children, nieces and nephews attended a conservation education camp.  One of the most delightful and revealing experiences we’ve enjoyed there is taking a night hike.  Walking in the woods gives me a different sense of the greatness of creation, of its infinite complexities and interconnectedness.  And something about the darkness sharpens, awakens all the senses to what is both far and near.

One such night hike found our path to Buttermilk Springs spangled with tiny jewels twinkling in our flashlights’ beams:  they were the eyes of spiders, catching the light, and they were everywhere that night, alive to our intrusion on their nocturnal hunting grounds.  I’ve walked to Buttermilk Springs many times since, but never witnessed this galaxy of arachnid luminescence again.  It was the season for these spiders, and we were mere witnesses of the show.

What else lines the footpaths of our lives, unremarked until a chance beam of light might fall?  And, listening to the voice of Micah in our lectionary recently, I’m musing:  how do we not merely celebrate but do real justice toward and walk humbly with all God’s creatures, great and small?  How can we take those injunctions to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God and apply them to more sustainable patterns of living?

It surely begins with remembering who and whose we are, and with awareness of the wider world and our various footprints on it, that we might walk humbly and lightly while on this fragile earth, our island home.

– Joanne Hutton

April 19 - stars


Pathways through Lent

Who Crucified Jesus? (Let’s Name Names)

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

Sometimes the most challenging questions on religion come from persons of other faiths. In one such instance a co-worker, after discussing how we observed particular traditions, asked me, “Do you mind telling me who you think crucified Jesus?”

The Gospels offer two possible answers, either the Roman soldiers who physically did the deed or the temple authorities in Jerusalem who persuaded the Roman governor to permit the execution and maintain peace. Historians tell us Pontius Pilate previously had caused a brutal slaughter of Jews and likely feared dismissal by the Emperor over further incidents.

But my questioner emphasized, “who do you think crucified Jesus,” just as Jesus asked, “who do you say I am?” What personal stake do I have in the issue? In a cost-benefit assessment, the Crucifixion can look rather lopsided:  here is a piece of God in human form, put through abject human pain and anguish, somehow not avoiding the ordeal, and, in some people’s eyes, making the final sin offering for all eternity. From it, we obtain a divine companion with a distinct recollection of our sufferings.

One way to adjust the formula is to view my own unkindness, anger, selfishness and acquisitiveness as part of the nailing, the thorns, the sour wine and the spear thrust. Doing so yields an answer to the question, with at least one name specified: “I did it. I contributed to the incident.  But Jesus somehow found a way to forgive me.”

– Greg Capaldini

April 18 - crucified

Pathways through Lent

The Face of Suffering

Psalm 116:1, 10-17
Exodus 12:1-14
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-1731b-35

We’ve all seen it—in the newspaper photograph of a desperate, elderly man in the heart of the Syrian conflict; in a neighborhood’s struggle to understand how an eight-year-old could be shot in mindless crossfire; and in the quiet pain of a co-worker who lives every day with the loss of his children in a tragic accident. Suffering surrounds us and we risk becoming immune to it in the throng of the media that envelops us.

As I try to comprehend the suffering of Christ and the burden of sorrow that he carried, I look into those faces around me. It can be difficult to know how to respond to a suffering soul and often is easier to turn away. But by looking into someone’s eyes, offering a simple gesture such as a smile or a hug, by acknowledging a person’s suffering, I might help alleviate it.  In choosing to face the sorrow of those around me, I may come closer to understanding what our Lord went through for us on His road to the cross.

“… so that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10  

– Barbara Van Woerkom

April 17 - Suffering

Pathways through Lent

Living In the Light, Leading From My Heart

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

Each year, I select a theme to live by and this year it’s about Living in the Light, the place of divine understanding, love and grace.  Last year, I was “living into the light;” this year I fully own it. “Leading from my heart” is about letting my heart and soul guide me, and the decisions I make, as well as the interactions that I have with others. “Leading from my heart” doesn’t discount the power of reasoned thought, but it’s about following what you know to be true, your truth, and the truth of God.

I can imagine Jesus on his journey, being confronted with many thoughtful, well-meaning people who had lost their way or could not see or feel the Light of God in their lives. It would be easy to doubt what’s right and yet for most of us, if we listen with our heart, and don’t ignore the pang in our belly that reminds us of what we know we are called to do, we are almost always much more fulfilled in our decisions.

Has there been a time that you knew what you wanted to do and yet you thought your way out of it, only to have regrets later, or worse?  Perhaps you missed an opportunity to express your love to a now-departed loved one.  Perhaps you missed a career opportunity that would have made your heart sing because you believed that you were making the “smarter” decision.  Jesus followed a path that took him to his death, and much suffering along the way, because he knew it was his calling.  He knew he would live in the Light forever.

As you quietly reflect on this Lenten season…are you leading from your heart, following the Light and the Grace of God?

– Lisa Kirchenbauer

Enjoying the sun

Pathways through Lent

A Path

Psalm 71:1-14
Isaiah 49:1-7
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
John 12:20-36

These notes are about significant changes in my life which, for years, I thought of as “just happening,” but after later reflection, felt there must have been spiritual input.

The first came after my parents’ marriage ended in 1935, the year of my birth. Taken in by paternal grandparents, I was with them for 12 years. Every Sunday, we attended morning and evening sermons at a Church of the Brethren near their Kansas farm. Grandmother ensured I also attended Sunday School and Summer Bible Classes. Although not a good Bible scholar and less than attentive during sermons, I believe that period gave me a Christian foundation. At age 13, I went to live with my father and stepmother in Colorado. I enjoyed being with them but the ensuing teenage years weren’t positive. It seemed I could do nothing right.

As a desperate resort, I joined the Army. It was a good move; the discipline improved my life.  For years, I attributed that step to “luck,” but eventually I had to question that term. After many personal mistakes, I doubted having the ability to make a wise choice by myself. As years went by, I came to believe there was intervention from higher realms. In any case, Army service made my life better. I learned about responsibility.

As my enlistment came to a close, the Army offered options which enticed me, but I also wanted a college degree. I wavered; should I re-enlist or return to civilian life? One Sunday, after Church, I prayed to God for help in making that decision.  Shortly thereafter, I was a civilian enrolled at the University of Maryland. I joined the Trinity Baptist Church near Campus and was baptized.  Fifty-five years later, Trinity Baptist forwarded my “letter” to St. John’s.

Daily, I thank God for the guidance that helped me on my journey.

– Cecil V. Hornbaker II

April 15 - Path


Pathways through Lent

Jesus Visits Martha and Mary

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

“Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’” Luke 10:38-42

This wonderful little passage is one I’ve often recalled from Sunday School days. I had a favorite aunt named, appropriately, Martha, who in her Edwardian fashion seemed to be constantly bustling from one task to another. “Busy hands are happy hands” was her mantra. In my own life I have tried to emulate Martha rather than Mary, thinking along the same lines. To be constantly busy and productive was the wholesome, righteous way to live.  Mary, lolling at the Master’s feet merely listening, to be brushed aside.

The Cloud of Unknowing was written by a nameless author in the 14th Century as a guide for contemplation. The writer addresses this passage in a manner quite different from my thinking or my Aunt Martha’s. Allegorically, one sister represents contemplation and the other, action/activity. In the writer’s consideration, being active is good, contemplation is better — but a combination of the two is best. Best, if one emphasizes the question: what is it that Christ offers?

Being busy has its place, but listening and reflecting on what the Lord teaches gives life richness beyond the material rewards of tasks accomplished.

Martha’s enterprise is not to be scorned, but Mary’s attentiveness has the greater value.

– Chris Rogers

April 14 - Mary and Martha

Pathways through Lent

Riding Palm Sunday’s Rollercoaster

Psalm 137:1-9, 144 or 42, 43
Exodus 10:21-11:8
2 Corinthians 4:13-18
Mark 10:46-52

 “To thee, before thy passion,
they sang their hymns of praise;
to thee, now high exalted,
our melody we raise.”
– All Glory, Laud, and Honor, Theodulph of Orleans, 9th Century
Translation by John Mason Neale

The Palm Sunday service we celebrate tomorrow is, in my opinion, Lent’s emotional rollercoaster. We’re asked to take a break from our Lenten seriousness – to raise our voices in song and to reenact Jesus’ parade into Jerusalem.  Then, we conclude the service by listening to The Passion and are abruptly reminded that the party’s over; the human betrayal and crucifixion await.  Talk about conflicting emotions!

The service juxtaposes the human spectrum, showing us the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Thankfully and mercifully, the result is Christ’s resurrection.  So while we “peak and valley” in the matter of an hour on Sunday morning, let’s participate in all emotions fully, for that is what we are called to do.

Palm Sunday gives us the opportunity to grow deeper in our spiritual journey and human experience – and to accept the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Our relationship with God is not perfect in our eyes, but it is perfect in God’s eyes.  By singing wholeheartedly and mourning contemplatively we are challenged to experience all the feelings and facets of Lent.

– Sara McGanity

April 12 - Palm