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Archive for February, 2010

…Be gracious to all who have gone astray, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your son… – from the Collect for the Second Sunday in Lent, Book of Common Prayer

The unchangeable truth of your Word…

That is what we must embrace and hold fast.  But, even Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?”

Truth is not the same as honesty, although they are connected.  Jesus said, “The truth will make you free”, not that honesty will make you free.  In the past my need for brutal honesty freed no one; it hurt people and somtimes caused more trouble than it was worth.

My perceptions are confused by the concept of opposites:  black/white, love/hate, good/evil.  These seem so obvious on the surface.  But it is what lies below the surface that Jesus asks us to embrace.  What is the real opposite of truth?

JW – When I first read Sister Joy’s comments this morning, I felt completely stumped; to the point that I looked up the synonyms, antonyms and even the definitions for ‘truth’, thinking I would actually come up with some brilliant way to answer Sister Joy’s question.  I think I’m going to go with, ‘I don’t know the answer’.  It can’t be good anyway, the opposite of truth, and I think Jesus doesn’t mind if I don’t know it.  On the other hand, I do like having that answer, so what should I do if it’s not available, well, at least to me?  Why not simply embrace and hold fast?  At least He knows the answer, and I have to believe that’s good enough for me.

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To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven… – Ecclesiastes 3:1

Seasons are just one more thing not in our control.  That doesn’t sit well.  Lent is a season of waiting, of darkness, and not just because it’s winter.  In the darkness, there’s no clear vision; the outlook is bleak at best.  Yet every year, the earth lies fallow for a season.  While it appears there’s nothing happening below the surface, we know from experience it’s not true.

I don’t understand the exact biological and chemical changes that occur below ground, but I have seen the bulbs I planted in October sprout into daffodils in April.  Six months of waiting… Lent is only six weeks.

Lent can be the fallow ground we crave for our spititual growth… time to be still, to do nothing, to let the wisdom of God’s season work below the surface.

JW – Those of us of a certain age will perhaps hum the same tune I did as I was reading today’s meditation, but I digress…. Since the idea of waiting came up so strongly for me yesterday, I’m thinking that Sister Joy’s mention of control, or the lack thereof, means I need to work on patience today.  Yesterday I mused about the outcome; perhaps today I should muse on the process, and what that means.  Today, perhaps I should just take a deep breath and be mindful of what Sister Joy is suggesting in her mention of six weeks, and what Lent really means to us as Christians, and let it be; what it is.  Okay, I will.  Anyone hearing another tune?

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friday, february 26

…Grant that thy Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may choose suitable persons for the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and may uphold them in their work for the extension of thy kingdom… – from A Collect for Ember Fridays, Book of Common Prayer

Ember Days… the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of certain weeks that occur four times during the liturgical year.  Today is Ember Friday, in the week between the first and second Sundays of Lent.

The appointed prayers specifically cite candidates for ordination, ministry and vocation, and ofen ordinations are held during these weeks.

There are different theories for why we call them Ember, none of which have to do with the smoldering remans of a roaring fire.  But that’s what I think of.  Because if Christ is the fire then we are his remnants.

That means all of us, not only the ordained.  We are holding fast to the glow with our last dying efforts.

JW – Two things came to me this morning; the idea that while ashes are remnants, they are the visible remains of what once was, and the fable of the Phoenix, in the ‘visual image’ sense.  So, the ashes remind me that this time is our time just ‘to be’; still and quiet; to reflect and meditate, as well as, well, wait.  So I reflect, remembering the circumstances of yesterday, and I wait.  The ashes remind me of new life and promise; that new life is coming.  After all, they nourish and replenish.  But something is coming, and what do I suppose it is?  The only thing I know for sure, is that Christ died for me and my sins, and that He will come again.  I’m just beginning to understand what that means.  However, I confess to wondering now, how I can be humbled and excited at the same time.  Okay, I’m chuckling, too.

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thursday, february 25

We repent of the evil that enslaves us, the evil we have done, and the evil done on our behalf… – from the Confession of Sin, Enriching our Worship I

This version of the confession strikes hard.

First, it acknowledges immediately that evil enslaves us.  It doesn’t just charm us or tempt us or seduce us, it dominates our life.  It confines and restricts us from being the creatures God intends, and as slaves, we are not able to free ourselves from its grip.

Second, it goes the extra mile on the accountability food chain… accepting our complicity in what others have done (and are doing) on our behalf.  We are guilty.  Period.  And no amount of feigned innocence, ignorance or noninvolvement can alter the fact.

The key word, of course, is repent.  We can choose to change the pattern.  We can turn.

JW – Who can argue with that?  The scariest part for me was that it took so long to learn to let it go, and feel free to go ahead with whatever I needed to change….. without the guilt.  For me, at least, it was totally counter-intuitive to let that go…… kind of like keeping that old magazine you know you’re never going to read again, but being unable to chuck it.  Stay dry everybody!

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Almighty God, who in the place of Judas chose your faithful servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve:  Grant that your Church… may always be guided and governed by faithful and true pastors… – from the Collect for the feast day of St. Matthias, Book of Common Prayer

St. Matthias won the toss.  He got to be a disciple because the eleven gambled.  I know how easy it is to throw seven farkles out of ten; this was quite a feat.  (Of course, we’re told, the disciples prayed first.)

Okay, But that’s all we know about Matthias, nothing else.  He’s one of those unsung heroes; his fifteen minutes of fame boiled down to a throw of the dice.

If he was martyred, it’s not mentioned; if he gave up the faith, it’s certainly not mentioned.  Whatever his accomplishments, they are known only to God.

We don’t want to be remembered like that.  We want to leave a legacy.  But, like so much of life, our human legacy will be determined by the whims of those who come after us.  Our spiritual legacy… that will be remembered by God.

JW – God and Sister Claire Joy are making me uncomfortable today!  What kind of legacy do I want to leave?  And where in lies the challenge for me?  It may sound naive, and in no way implies what I may do, or what I may fail to do, but I’m drawn to the simple idea of trying to be the good person God asks me to be, and to keep my faith.  If the scribble on my stone said something like ‘he was trying……’, I’m ok with that.  Perhaps the real message for me, is that Matthias was an Apostle, and God did choose him.  Besides, I have to keep it simple:  I’m a terrible gambler, truly awful!

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tuesday, february 23

Living among us, Jesus loved us. He broke bread with outcasts and sinners, healed the sick, and proclaimed good news to the poor. – from Eucharistic Prayer 2, Enriching our Worship 1

It could have gone the other way. Think about it. Living among us, Jesus could have despised us. He certainly experienced firsthand the anger, fear, cruelty, greed, corruption, brutality… that humans exhibit when we are at our worst.

But instead he loved us. He spent long and tiring days wandering a dusty countryside, seeking out forgotten souls, restoring dignity to those trampled by the system and rekindling hope in those who had given up.

His agenda was simple: love God above all, and then prove it… by loving your neighbor as yourself.

How often I say I love God. How often do I think to love my neighbor? To really love my neighbor…?

JW – I have to chuckle here. The best thing that’s happened to me in years is to have found my place: God is God, and I’m the human. He doesn’t expect me to be perfect. I gave it my best shot, though, and what a spectacular failure that experiment was! His ask is simple, and He expects me only to give Him my best, and loves me even when I stumble. I’m trying.

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monday, february 22

Above all,  keep your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not get dominion over me; then shall I be whole and sound, and innocent of a great offense. – Psalm 19:13

Every once in a while there is insight.  Some message, some piece of ancient wisdom… older than humankind, older even than our understanding of sacred.

If we are truly dedicated to being vessels of God’s purpose, then it shouldn’t be necessary to know the master plan.  It’s probably presumptuous to think we need to know it in order to implement it.

A pitcher has no knowledge of its contents… it could be milk to nourish a child – or water that mixes with an herb to cure illness.  God’s hand holds the pitcher.  God’s hand pours the contents.

Trust… trust… trust.

JW – In years gone by, my benchmark for trusting was “will I be hurt?”.  Since I knew the answer, I never trusted; any one, or any thing….. much less God.  I was so preoccupied with committing that presumptuous sin, I never showed up in my own life, thinking all the while that I was the center of it.  A mentor said to me last year in rehab, “Faith is the act of walking into the unknown”.  It hadn’t occurred to me that it means walking into the light.  The last sentence of yesterday’s Gospel, “When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.”, suggests to me that the last thing I should give up on is trusting in God.  In Sister Claire Joy’s second paragraph above, I would have left out that adverb ‘probably’ – no doubt about it!

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