Archive for the ‘2010 Lenten Blog’ Category

… grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit… – from the Collect for Easter Sunday, Book of Common Prayer

Easter confuses me.  Today is the day of celebration, the ultimate day of joy.  Why then, do I sometimes feel so blah?

Because the Risen Christ is not the same as the walking, talking human Jesus.  I have gained a savior but I have lost a friend.  Mary Magdalene was the first to understand that mixed sense of joy and loss, which grows on each of us as we let it.

Leonard Cohen was on to something when he wrote those profound words:  “love is not a victory march, it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah…”.  And in the midst of this irony it is up to us to find (and extend) the peace of Christ, the peace that passes all understanding.

JW – There’s lots of irony here, yes there is.  We have change, the most reliable constant in our lives, yet most of us approach it as though it was a slightly bad odor, if not worse.  God created us in His image, yet we aren’t quite perfect.  … “And God saw that it was good.”, so He must have done that on purpose.  All that irony and so much more.  Perhaps the confusion is all in our heads.  Perhaps the key is in the words “…passes all understanding.”  Perhaps we aren’t supposed to be in our heads at all, trying to suss it out.  He wants us to be in our hearts.  Peace, Joy… Love.  It’s all there, in our hearts.  It has been… all this time.  He gave us the table.  He set it.  He provided the bounty on it.  Let’s go eat.  I’m hungry.


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They also serve who only stand and wait. – from “On His Blindness” by John Milton

They also serve… Waiting is one of the hardest things we do.  It seems so useless, only intensifying the helplessness.  No wonder people fall asleep in waiting rooms.  Sleep has been called “the best bridge between despair and hope”.

And on Holy Saturday we stand on that bridge… and wait.

It ought to be anticlimactic – like I’ve skipped to the end of the chapter, and know already that my hero has triumphed.  So why am I still reeling from yesterday’s agony?

Because I was there at the cross.  And I am not the hero.  I am one of the rescued.  The best I can do for Him is wait.

JW – I’m ok to stand and wait.  I’m pooped.  This journey through Lent has been quite something for me, and it’ll be a while before it’s all sunk in.  But I’m grateful to have had the gift of reflecting in this way, learning what it’s like to be really loved, and what responsibility I’m asked to bear.  Today, I’m at the wake, the vigil, still confused about what’s happened; wondering what comes next.  The miracle is knowing that I’ve brought to this event, what I can bring; myself.  The miracle is knowing it’s a journey.  Things will change, unfamiliarity can become my friend, I will always be able to depend on the guidelines.  Tomorrow will be noisy, full of celebration, yet still confusing.  Because the journey, looking different, will continue.  So today is quiet enough for me to say thank you.  I’ll still be here tomorrow, but I’ll probably be celebrating as much as reflecting… I may even get a little noisy.  So.  Thank you.

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Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross… – from the Collect for Good Friday, Book of Common Prayer

I don’t care what we call it, there’s nothing GOOD about it.  Except in God’s economy… which rankles.

I understand (sort of) that Jesus’ humanity meant that he would suffer pain, our pain, human pain.  But there’s pain and then there’s PAIN.

Good Friday makes me physically ill.  Thoughts of torture curdle my stomach and the vague possibility that I could or might ever be tortured… well, I can’t think about it for long.

So pondering this atrocity, which I must somehow transform into a gift to me and for me, is too much.

Look at the ways we have chosen to torture each other, mentally and physically, and we haven’t been at all horrified.

Maybe that is part of what Good Friday is about.  Why isn’t it working?

JW – It’s a conundrum, this horror we face every year.  God’s plan is sometimes way too big for me to understand.  And I have to accept that I can’t unravel the mysteries of the plan, faith, all that is bad about how we act; what we are asked to do about it.  It’s too big.  I just have to keep trying, in my own little way.  A couple of years ago I wasn’t even doing that, so something’s working.

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I give you a new commandment:  that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another. – John 13:34

A new commandment?  What’s new about us loving one another?  We already had that commandment, right?  Love God and love one another.  Wrong.

Jesus said, “Just as I have loved you…” and in that subtle phrase lies the difference between generous charity and selfless commitment.

It’s a difficult and thankless job, to always be the servant and not the served… to constantly put another’s needs before our own.  Those of us who have cared for aging parents or children or siblings with disabilities know only too well how drained we are by these obligations.  Jesus’ lesson, I think, was that we (like him) could transcend the heavy and wearying sense of duty by approaching this commandment with the eyes and through the heart… of love.

JW – I bet the passage from John could be read as, ‘I give you this commandment again, and again, and again’… until you get it.  And God gave us the biggest reminder He could think of; the life and death of His only son.  This and the first great commandment recently saved my life, literally.  So I could use way too many words describing how I feel, but I won’t… just this one – love – will do.  This small, often-repeated, easily remembered, one-syllable verb is the big one here.

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All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. – Isaiah 53:6

Sheep really are silly and stupid.  I once spent a summer near a sheep farm.  Going astray is apparently what they do; it’s in their very nature.  Yet straying out of stupidity is not the same as iniquity.

The part about each of us turning to our own waythat rings of iniquity.  My way is the “right” way and I am more than willing to instruct (force) you in that way.

Then there are the times I must do it (whatever it is) differently, just because being different makes me unique.  We are like sheep, silly and willful.

It boggles my mind that one man would carry the burden for all this silliness… one amazing man who loved us more than life itself.

JW – Well. I know I don’t have the answer.  Nope, I admit it.  I also don’t know what to say about this meditation.  Can I get away with ‘I agree’?  Can I get away with ‘I’ll pass’?  I really don’t know the answer.  These days, I’m not sure I’m supposed to know the answer.  Perhaps that’s one of the components of acceptance.  Now for the hard stuff…

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Wash me through and through from my wickedness, and cleanse me from my sin.  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. – Psalm 51:2-3

Wash me throughly, it says in the King James Version (the Bible I grew up reading).  We’re not talking bubble bath, not a gentle cleansing with Ivory Snow.

No, when we are sinful, we are soiled… needing to be spotted, soaked and scrubbed with a stiff brush.  Cleansing is such an inocuous word.  It sounds easy.

But cleansing is not a gentle action.  It takes work, it takes “elbow grease”.  It uproots wickedness from the fiber or our beings.  it’s not bleach that does this, but blood.  And not our own blood.

Knowing our need for cleansing is the first step.  Accepting the radical gift of how that happens takes a little longer.

JW – First reading the above, I started getting a little defensive; thinking ‘God must think I’m a murderer’!  Further down I got it, realizing I was categorizing and rating my sins.  Oops!  So much for sticking to the point of the whole deal.  Sister Joy’s last two sentences made me feel warm, loved and ok again… even if it isn’t easy.

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Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified… – from the Collect for Monday in Holy Week, Book of Common Prayer

I am very glad not all weeks are holy.

Even though we read the Passion Gospel yesterday, we now begin the countdown of the actual events.  In our community Monday is our sabbath, our day off.  But in Holy Week Monday is called desert day.

I think Monday through Wednesday in Holy Week should be called desert days because nothing much happens, at least not liturgically.  Certain events are recorded, but we don’t know when they occurred.

When was Lazarus raised?  When did the mysterious woman of Bethany anoint Jesus with expensive perfume?  When did he raid the temple?  Any one of these events could have been the last straw.

JW – As we come to the end of this time of reflection, we’re going to go into shock, mourning, and a state of awe… in that order and very intimately.  No one in history has attended a memorial service and celebration of life, that is still in progress.  As alive today, the events of two thousand odd years ago, so too the message.  For me, it’s as if God was saying with Jesus’ life and death, “Ok, it’s time to give you the tools you’re going to need from here on out”.  I certainly used the ‘last straw’ line more than once, usually when I was delivering yet another lecture.  I also said many times, ‘Gee, you didn’t come with instructions’.  I was wrong.  We did.  I’m so grateful that I’ve been reminded simply and beautifully, during this Lent, what they are.

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