Pathways through Lent

The Open Wound

doves1

“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”

I would like to understand if God gave another clue when He told Abraham that his generation would be as the stars of the sky, especially in a world like today where those stars don’t live in peace.

What is a peacemaker in a world like today? The fourth Mark of Mission of The Episcopal Church is “to seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.”

The kingdom of heaven as announced by Jesus is the best way to describe that none of the structures known then as kingdoms applied to where the followers of Jesus belonged. In the world today in 2015,  where democracy still is the best structure but imperfect, can we declare that we are citizens of a government of heaven?

That vision is hard but is needed to be a peacemaker. Nations cannot be Christian, nor should they try to be. Redemption is a personal gift. It has nothing to do with the Hellenic vision of a unified empire under a unique religion. It was not true when the Roman Empire killed Christians and Jews with that purpose.  It was not true when non-Christians were killed in the name of Christianity. It was not true when slavery was justified.  It is not true when violence or fear is used instead of love. The world is not in peace because of all those open wounds.

This Lent I want to be a peacemaker.  I ask for the opportunity to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.

-Fernando Hermoza

Pathways through Lent

A Calling That Colors Everything We Do

woman praying

Ephesians 4:1-7,11-13

“[I] beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called … just as you were called to the one hope of your calling … But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.”

This reading reminds me of an exchange in a Washington Post chat from several years ago, in which humorist Gene Weingarten, one of my favorite writers, asked an honest question of his readers as a non-believer:

“Here is my big question, and perhaps some fundamentalistly religious person can answer it. If you are completely convinced that there is a God who is going to punish you with eternal damnation or reward you with eternal bliss for your deeds on Earth, how can you not essentially totally devote yourself to your religion? I mean, TOTALLY. How can your religion not be the single most important thing in your life? How can you not, basically, become a nun or a monk or whatever it takes?”

When I read this, all I could think was, “Good question!” I had wondered something like that before. Believing that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent creator of all things is no small thing to believe. Shouldn’t it color everything you do? Shouldn’t I go hole up in a chapel somewhere and just pray as much as I possibly can? Not, I would clarify, because of the fear of “eternal damnation,” but just because there are a lot of things to pray for. There are a lot of reasons to ask for God’s help, for me and others. Endless reasons. Maybe I should just make it a full-time gig.

I knew I was probably not going to do that, but did not have a defense for why. Thankfully, someone smarter than I am wrote in with an explanation:

“I am not a fundamentalist, but I will try: A Catholic here – God doesn’t expect us all to be monks or priests or nuns. He expects us to be what we were ‘called’ to do. Would I make a good nun? I don’t think so. Am I a good mom? Yes, I think, overall, I am. Has that made a difference in the world? A small one, but yes … So, basically, we are supposed to do what we were ‘born’ to do. Sometimes it takes 67 years to figure out what the ‘it’ is, but hopefully you find it. Really, this matches a very non-religious concept of doing what you are really passionate about, because it will work out for you.”

I’m not sure all of us will meet St. Paul’s expectations in becoming either apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors or teachers – it seems clear that many of us have to do slightly less saintly things. But as the poster responded, all of us can respond to a calling in our personal lives. We can be good family members and friends. And regardless of what we do at work, we can be good coworkers. We can do whatever we can think of to help people who need help, and make life easier for others. We can have a calling that colors everything we do.

-Virginia Pasley

Pathways through Lent

A Time to Recommit to the Lord

“Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord!’” Mark 11:8-9

“But the crowds shouted all the more, ‘Crucify him!’”

Mark 15:14b

Palm Sunday is honestly one of my least favorite days in the life of the Church. I don’t like what it does to my psyche. We start out triumphant, jubilant, ecstatic, and then by the end of the service we are angry, bloodthirsty, and in a very dark place. At least that is what our gospel readings for the day do to us. There is a turn that takes place in the liturgy, and if you aren’t paying attention then you just might look up and realize that things are different. And they have changed really fast.

And I think that’s why I’ve never really liked Palm Sunday very much. Because if I am being honest, that’s how I am in my own life. I can turn really fast. I can become angry very quickly. I can be unforgiving at the drop of a hat.

Palm Sunday forces me to recognize that at various points in my life I am focused, devout, and in love with Jesus, and then at other points I am distant, uninterested, and careless in my relationship with the Lord.

That’s one of the realizations I have about myself each year as the Church moves into Holy Week. And then I am given the opportunity to refocus, to recommit, and to turn again as I follow Jesus to the cross.

Following you is never easy, O Lord, but I am grateful that you are always with me as I journey. Amen.

-The Rev. Andrew Olivo

Pathways through Lent

Precious Moments

telephone

When I was a young woman, a classmate of mine died in a horrible car accident. During this season of Lent, I found myself thinking of this person and all of the dreams they left unfulfilled. Individual milestones, which most of us take for granted, will never be anything more than a series of unanswered questions for him.

I often give up tangible items like sweets or my favorite glutenous snacks for Lent. This year I have given up something that I think will help me most in the years to come.

Procrastination.

Although many of my greatest aspirations have already been achieved, there are many day-to-day things that I often put off, believing that there will always be another chance to do it in the future.

Last night, I called someone that  I haven’ t been on the greatest of terms with for the past several years. I cannot begin to tell you how much weight has been lifted off of my shoulders with this small action. And that’s what I believe God wants for us. To make the most of the time we have in this life, by reaching out and connecting with others. Don’t wait. Make each precious moment count.

-Anonymous

Pathways through Lent

A Profound Compassion

123Many years ago, I heard a story about a conservative Christian couple who had to confront their beliefs in a very painful way. It struck me and has stayed with me, and this is what I remember of it: The couple’s son struggled with drug addiction and was in and out of jail. Though they tried to convince him to accept Jesus as his Savior so that he could be forgiven and saved, he would not do it. One evening, the son was in a horrible accident, and it was clear that he would not survive. As the parents arrived at the hospital, their grief was tangible. They were losing their son, to this life and also to eternal life, and the situation seemed hopeless. When the minister joined the couple, they all bowed their heads to pray. “God,” the minister said, “We love this man, Your child, greatly and we have forgiven him for his mistakes. We know that Your love and Your compassion is so much more profound than our own. We release him now to Your care.” I can only imagine the sense of peace and hope at that moment.

The God of the Old Testament can be astoundingly angry and vengeful and can evoke great dread. I am much more frightened by the thought that God is a violent and wrathful God than by the thought that God might not exist. But Jesus takes away my fear and changes everything. Jesus demonstrates the radical love, the gentleness, and the compassion of God.  Far from distancing himself from the outcasts and condemned of society, Jesus seeks out their company and recognizes their value. Because of Jesus, we are reassured that God is walking with us, God is suffering alongside of us, God has not abandoned us.  And at the darkest hour, when the light has been extinguished and all hope seems to be lost, God overcomes. God’s Goodness is triumphant.

Jesus shows me that I need not fear a violent God (the type who might require an excruciating sacrifice and forgive with strings attached). In Jesus, I am reassured that we have a radically loving God whose compassion is infinitely deeper than I can even comprehend – a God who is with us always, in the greatest suffering of this life and into the joyful glory that is beyond it.

Thanks be to God! Hallelujah, Hallelujah!

-Erin Waddle

 

Pathways through Lent

From Superstition to Prayer

KnockWood2Last summer I gave up a lifelong compulsion: knocking on wood. Not to “blame” Mom, but it was she who, not obsessively, knocked on wood, drove around the block to avoid black cats, chanted “bread and butter,” and threw salt over her shoulder. So naturally I, as children do, copied her with wild abandon.

My tennis racket had to be wood. (I still lost plenty of matches….) My college roommate taped a pencil above my bed so I could easily access wood after a nightmare. My husband infuriated me by stating, “Come in,” when he heard me knocking. How dare he interrupt my battle with demons! I even quietly knocked on the wood of my chair in church during prophetic moments in the sermon!

Upon boasting to my sister last summer of my “no-more-knocking” victory, her reply was, “FINALLY!” Little did I know my knocking permeated decades of long distance phone calls.

I asked myself why I did this. The fear and worry behind each “knock” was living rent free in my head. Would it not make sense to replace that anxiety with inner peace? To quiet the mind and know God? I take great comfort in these words from The Book of Common Prayer:

May Christ support us all the day long, till the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over and our work is done. Then in his mercy may he grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest and peace at the last.

-Lisa Koehler

Pathways through Lent

A Statement of Faith

holdinghandsHaec dies quam fecit Dominus: exultemus et laetemur in ea, Alleluia.

In recent years my parents initiated a new daily ritual. Somewhere between the morning walk and the bowl of granola, they clasp hands and recite these Easter -familiar lines to each other: This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.

Initially, this struck me as sweet, an upbeat affirmation that probably looks great on a poster. Then I wondered if this might be a daily roadmap to focus on the sunny bits and steer around sickness and fatigue, the nightly news and traffic jams, the demands of others and their own worries.

I recognize now that this is their renewed commitment to receive the day in full, dark and light. Rejoicing is easy some days. Rejoicing in each day is hard. Rejoicing in each day is a statement of faith.

Here is William Byrd’s two minute version:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sw4iz5ZZtpM

-Julia Koster