Monday, March 31, 2014

Can You Listen and Witness?

Today's video gives the example of a difficulty I particularly have - can you be a listener, rather than a savior?  This is generally the point in society where people divide men from women, as women tend to want to solve their own problems, but they want to be able to share or talk about them with another.  However it's not a gender specific trait, merely a societally trained norm that likely does not need to be continued.

Think about those people who were there at the Cross, being a witness to the pain and suffering Christ experienced - not being able to save Him or solve a problem, but simply being with Him in His last hours.  The ability to stand and witness what is a unique journey for each person is one that should be cherished and encouraged in all people. 

Which is not necessarily to say that people need to wallow in that pain - sometimes the brick method is needed - but that's for another day.

Today, work on listening, being there, when someone needs you to witness for them.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Collaboration

Today's video introduces the topic this week of Collaboration. The brothers give several examples of collaboration that can occur within their monastic life, collectively and personally.

So first, here, the definition of collaboration is the act of working, one with another; cooperating.  One of the brothers talked about the collaboration it took to create the laws under which the brothers live, and that they are constantly in collaboration about those, helping one another to fulfill the tasks and teaching new brothers the ropes, so to speak.  In our own church life, we have the same collaboration for vestry work, committee work, accomplishing any of the many tasks that must occur in the successful running of a church.

So, apply collaboration in your own life?  Do you include God in your collaborations?  (Marriage, children, secular committees and groups) 

And more importantly, are you currently feeling drawn toward collaborating with someone, and/or with God alone, to accomplish something in your own life that will make you more aware of God in your everyday life?

Anything stopping you from starting today?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Praying through Signs and Symbols

If you've missed any of the videos in this week's Lenten series, please see the last five blog posts to catch up.  Given the topics, tomorrow morning's discussion at coffee hour should be interesting as we find individuals' answers to the questions asked.

And if you're all caught up and would like to continue with the Prayer Series found in the Monastic Wisdom section of the SSJE site, today, we'll talk about the sermon given by Br. Curtis Almquist on praying through signs and symbols.  You can either listen or read, or both.

The challenge here is to see the holy, the complex, the infinite in the simple, everyday signs and symbols we are given, and to live each moment of our lives experiencing the revelation of God.  This is a huge challenge!  But these are things we've been addressing in smaller pieces throughout this Lenten season - how does one live life aware of the Divine in all things?  One moment at a time, one thought at a time, one action at a time - and working to keep God at the forefront of our thoughts that we might be gifted with those revelatory insights in everything we do, everyone we meet, every bit of nature we come across. 

You may find that prayer comes easily to you as you realize the Divine in the simple and cannot help but thank God for the insights He provides through His creation.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Speaking Your Name

Today's video talks about the conversation between Christ and Mary Magdalene after He has arisen, and that until He says her name, she does not recognize him.  However, as soon as he does say her name, recognition is instantaneous. 
Our creator is the same and never changes despite the names given Him by people here and in all parts of the world. Even if we gave Him no name at all, He would still be there, within us, waiting to give us good on this earth.  George Washington Carver

Interestingly, there are thousands of names for God, but each of us has our own individual name; each type of plant, animal and rock has a name, but individually, unless they're someone's pet, we don't know individual names for them.  Our name carries with us a unique individual identity.  In some cultures, given names are hidden in the belief that they contain power, and one should not give their power away.  In Middle Eastern societies, names change based on what you have accomplished over the years.  Among Catholics, you choose a name of a saint whom you most admire or wish to emulate to add to your name at confirmation.

And while hearing your full name spoken by a parent often inspires fear in one's heart in the Western world, 'cause you only get the full name when you're in trouble, think back to all the times people have said your name, your nickname, your full name.  Hear the various voices used - the anger, irritation, love, fondness, impatience.

Now put yourself in Mary's place.  Use the "Prayer with Imagination" technique.  And hear the Christ say your name.  With what emotion does He speak?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Invitation to Change?

Today's video makes a really important point with regard to change in your life.  Br. Tom Shaw points out:
And I think the most wonderful thing about it is that I always know that it’s not the voice of God or the movement of God in my life if it’s something that feels too difficult and too isolating. That whenever God is offering me a challenge, I also have this great sense that well this might be difficult but the spirit will be there and the spirit will … well, the yolk will be easy and the burden will be light.
Think about the ways in which you are being led to change - does it match the description above?  Or is it a change of your own, or society's making - that may not be good for you, that feels too difficult or too isolating?  Perhaps that should be the litmus test with regard to whether we're responding to God's call.

And then there's also the possibility that God is drawing you to change, and you're fighting against it - causing yourself untold amounts of problems.  Prayer and some honest soul-searching may be the best way to determine how your life should go forward.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Have You Said Yes?

Today's video provides another very challenging question:  have you responded to Christ's invitation to new life, and said "Yes!" to who you can become in Christ? 

And if you've said, maybe, I'd like to try this, or no, I'm not really qualified to do that - why?  What's holding you back from being everything that Christ needs you to be - that He's asked you to undertake in His name?

Is there a way that you can at least move forward to answer the call, to make yourself better prepared while you work through whatever is holding you back?  Is there education, languages, skills, preparation, money, time for your kids to grow - any of the things that may be holding you back currently?  Is there someone who can help you accommodate all your reservations about saying "Yes!" to Christ and find work-arounds?

When Christ called the apostles, each of them put down what they were doing, and followed him, becoming fishers of men.  If we truly believe in one, holy catholic and Apostolic church, can we do any less?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Unique Connection

Today's video should definitely make you think, and be truly in awe at how interconnected everything and everyone in the universe is.  The concept brought forward in the Gospel of John is a statement about the oneness of the Trinity - through the Word (also known as Christ), God breathed the universe into existence.  That breath of God, the Holy Spirit, inhabits and enlivens each of us, with every breath taken - and knowing how important and powerful the Word can be - it should make you think about your own words, knowing that the Holy Spirit also powers your very breath that allows you to speak.  The Word is not just what is spoken, but every action you take - it is the manifestation of God.

Talk about a responsibility!  Today, spend the day aware of your own importance, in how you interact with the other creations of God; in how you want your words to be heard, your actions perceived; in how the Holy Spirit flows through your every breath.

Then come back and tell us - in what way did you uniquely reflect the love of God today?

 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Attributes of God

Today's video speaks to the attributes of God, and how we, as individuals, tend to focus on attributes of God that we would like to see more of, or would like to embody more of, ourselves. 

There are innumerable attributes of God, so choosing just three to focus on today might be difficult.  The Woodmen Valley Chapel did a project of 365 days of the titles, names and attributes of God - you might check that out to choose just three.  The Blue Letter Bible lists the top 16 with Biblical references.  You can check out the Virtues Guides available through a wide variety of bookstores.

But it all boils down to - what do you value in your everyday life?  What do you value in your spiritual life?  What do you value that you want your children to learn above all other lessons in life?

Are there differences in those lists?  Why or why not?

For this week, I challenge you to consciously embody the three attributes you choose, to manifest them in your thoughts, actions and prayers.  Then come back and tell me how you experienced life this week.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Where's Your Invitation?

In today's video, the brothers discuss areas in which God is calling you to new life, to change, to challenge your status quo.    And each time you accept that challenge, there's both the fear of change and the knowledge that there's a support system in place when you accept the invitation.

Fear of change is basically fear of the unknown, the new, but when we realize in accepting that call from God to try something new, out of your comfort zone, that we're not doing something that Christ hasn't already done.  We know that to take that leap is to have the support of Christ, and that there is safety in God's invitation.

So where are you called that you haven't tried before?  Do you love working with children, but fear saying something wrong?  Do you despise getting up in front of people and leading a discussion, but know that you're good at it, and it's something you can truly offer?  Are you gifted in making people feel more comfortable, and occasionally want to throw your arms around someone who doesn't feel well and just pray with them that they'll feel better (and your hands will stop tingling) - but fear the reaction you might get?

Do you feel drawn to helping those in another country?  Have skills that could be put to use in a developing country far more than they can be used here?  Do you want to tell the world about Christ and give hope to people?

So, what's stopping you?  Make a list - but put fears into a separate list.  Make it a practical list, and then list at least three things you could do to overcome those things.  List people who might assist you (as the brothers mentioned, Lazarus needed help to emerge from his own tomb). 

Will you accept the invitation, and let your light shine?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Praying with Sacred Texts

As with all Saturdays in this Lenten study, today's a catch-up day.  If you've missed any of the videos this week, please see the last five blogs.

And today, we'll continue with the series in Monastic Wisdom from the Society of St. John the Evangelist, Praying with Sacred Texts.  You can listen to the 18-minute sermon, or read it at that link.  It's got some quite interesting things to contemplate, from the age of the world to the age of humanity, to the age of languages in the plural, to the age of our sacred texts - all in comparison with how long the Earth has been around.  Just to think about that time difference sort of blows your mind as to how young we really are.

Brother Mark Brown walks us through an exercise in lectio divina, the divine reading.  He uses Psalm 63, and asks that you pray first that the Holy Spirit will speak to you through the reading, and that you pay attention to whatever words catch your attention, and contemplate them - what new thing do you learn?  Think about?  What different way of hearing the Word were you given?

But then he also speaks of the silent prayer of a snowflake, a "prayer of praise to the Creator in simply being."  And sometimes the sincerity in that wordless, soundless prayer is as profound as any words we might use.

So today, slow down.  Allow things that normally race by in a day to catch your attention.  See what is made new and allow it to be at the center of your attention.  Open the Bible to a random place and pray with that sacred text.  What new Word does God give you in Christ?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Listening for the Heartbeat of God

Today's video was an immediate reminder of a book with the title of this blog, because the book is also based on the picture Br. Koester shows in the video.  This blog asks you to sit, quietly, still, until you are able to hear your own heartbeat.  And then, to put yourself into the position of John in the picture, and listen for the heartbeat of God.

In this same way, there's a section in the book that says:
John's Gospel begins with the Word that was in the beginning:  'All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being' (John 1:3).  The perspective is a universal one.  Matthew's Gospel, on the other hand, begins with the words, 'The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham' (Matthew 1:1).  Here the perspective is particular.  The tendency in the John tradition is always to see God in relation to the whole of creation, in relation to 'all things.'  It refers, for instance, to the Light 'that enlightens every person coming into the world' (John 1:9).  John's canvas is the whole cosmos.  Like his symbol, the eagle in flight, he sees as from a height the whole of life, its beginning and its end.  His perspective is infinite.  In looking at one thing, the life of Christ, his vision includes all things, for Christ is the life of all life.  (p. 96)
So, when you do the exercise, is there a difference in your connection to God in the sound of the heartbeats? 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Pray/Play

Today's video from the brothers of the Society of St. John the Evangelist reminds us of the importance of play, and how we, as adults, need to remember that God is playful as well as serious. 

Look around you in nature, and be reminded that most babies have an instinctive knowledge of how to play.  The video here is a simple reminder to those of us in Montana that while mama moose are to be well-respected, baby moose are still babies, and will play with something as simple as a water sprinkler.  And while today marks the first day of Spring, it's likely not warm enough for us to even be running sprinklers, let alone playing in them.  So go for a walk.  Admire the beauty and thank God for His amazing gifts to us.  Now open your "eyes" a bit further, and feel the wind playing along your skin - picking up leaves to spin in the air - helping birds to fly - move through the tops of the trees, allowing them to dance and sway.  Be still and listen to the absolute cacophony of birds who are picking out the best locations for their nests, flirting with one another - pick out the birds who are scolding, and those being scolded, where the squirrels come in and take their turn at chewing out someone who's disturbed them.  If you need to, borrow a child, and try to see the world in their eyes as you let the love of God that surrounds you bring back that playfulness and joy in His creation, and Thank God for His bounty.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Invitation, Right Now

Today's video blog talks about how you can change your focus in your every day life and chores to God - still accomplishing the chores and tasks, but finding where the invitation from God to be actively present and participating in life. 

A friend of our parish drives a lot in his work.  He read about the concept of Tibetan prayer wheels and decided that he would, instead, make the wheels of his truck prayer wheels, constantly turning in prayer for the people who pass over the same road as him, for people who need healing or comfort, prayers for peace and understanding, and prayers for strength in everyday tasks.  Each time he sees his tires, he's reminded to adjust the prayers as needed; each time he drives, he can hear the wheels turning, as his mind prays along with them.

So, knowing that God invites each of us to be present in our every-day tasks, to be aware of His presence in all things, stop what you're doing and figure out - what's your invitation, right now, and how will you respond to it?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

We Are Beloved

Today's message is a pretty powerful one.  It goes to the fact that we were loved before any human knew of our existence - that God has always loved us, before we were, as we are, and as we shall become.  That's a huge statement - we are beloved of God.

A corollary to that would be, of course, that all of us here on Earth are beloved of God, and in God, we have siblings to cherish and love as well.  Sometimes, though, loving our siblings can be a pretty apathetic act - we acknowledge that we should love them, but do we actually allow our love, the love of God, to flow through us to them? 

What makes it hard to love someone?  For you, specifically?  Does it help to remember and remind yourself that you are beloved of God?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Friendship

Today's video is is the first portion of the series regarding "Invitation", and discusses friendship.  It asks you to consider not only the "beloved disciple" (never actually identified in the Bible) as not just those with whom Jesus was friends in the Bible, but to put yourself in that position, and see Jesus as both our Lord, and also as our friend. 

Looking at the Christ-spirit in each of us, look over the past week and determine - what acts of friendship have you initiated or received?  Were there opportunities that you perhaps missed, in either offering or receiving an act of friendship?  What acts could you do this week, to acknowledge, welcome and initiate that connection with another, that friendship through Christ?

God in Joy (Sunday's post)

The video for Sunday talks about joy and laughter and how that both allows us to not be quite so serious all the time, as well as allows us to speak with others and with God through joy.

Have you ever had one of those moments where your life could be a musical, for God has presented you with something so joyous, such a joy-filled moment that your choices are to weep with happiness or break into song?  And in the next moment, you laugh at your own reactions, even as you feel that joy fill your whole being, and it shines through the smile you give to the next person you meet - spreading from there, for you've just made their day without even thinking about it. 

Is God present to you in joy?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Praying in the Present Moment

Today's Lenten "video" is actually for anyone to catch up on anything they've missed this week - so please see the last five blog entries if you've missed anything this week.

Today, we'll continue with the Monastic Wisdom entry - praying in the present moment.  It's about a 30-minute presentation by Br. Geoffrey Tristam of the Society of St. John the Evangelist.

Consider whatever it is in nature that catches your attention today.  Be present, in that moment, studying, seeing the details, pay attention to how you feel in the presence of God right then.

Exercise for centering and being present in prayer (Transcript from the sermon):  Sit down, back straight and comfortable, feet flat on the floor.  Close your eyes, feel the clothes touching your shoulders, feel your back gently against the chair.  Feel your neck.  Gently move your head forwards, backwards, left and right.  Feel your chest expanding as you inhale, and relaxing as you exhale (By the way, if you listen at the link, Br. Geoffrey will be saying this out loud in a guided meditation - it's more effective to listen rather than read - hint, hint.)  Become aware of the feeling in your right arm, your left arm, your right hand, your left hand.  Now open your hands in a receptive and relaxed manner on your lap.  Feel your hands, lightly move each of your fingers.  Feel the soles of your feet touching your shoes.  Feel the air as it passed through your nose as you breathe in.  Feel the air, how it is - is it warm, cool, dry?  Feel whether more air comes through one nostril than another.  Feel how your lungs fill up as you inhale, how your chest relaxes as you exhale.  Focus on your breathing, but don't try to control it or deepen it.  Just become aware of it.  Breathe in and out.  Just be aware of breathing.  Try not to think about anything else.  Be aware of the movements in your body - your lungs, your diaphragm.  As you inhale, say to yourself, I'm now drawing in the air; and as you exhale, I'm now letting it out.  Just be aware of it.  Now think of how the atmosphere is charged with God's presence.  When you inhale the air that supplies oxygen to your blood, as you inhale, feel also how God enters into you, purifying, renewing, strengthening.  As you breathe in, say to yourself, "Come, Holy Spirit."  When we breathe out, we breathe out impurities.  As you breathe out, breathe out the things you want God to take from you - anger, selfishness, pride, anxiety, all the stuff that's built up during the day.  Breathe it out.  Now as you breathe in, say, "Come Holy Spirit", breathe out all the stuff.  Come Holy Spirit, God take away all the stuff.  And now as you breathe out, the air may be thought of as sending out acts of praise and thanksgiving, love and forgiveness.  Breathe out a blessing on everyone in this chapel.  Come Holy Spirit, bless you.  Amen.

What did you think or feel?  How easy or hard was it to become completely focused on one thing, without your mind constantly moving off to consider other things? 

I would challenge you to try this, every day, until being able to be present, in the moment, and breathing out a prayer in the present moment becomes second nature to you...

Friday, March 14, 2014

Charged with the Grandeur of God

Today's video speaks to the Divine found in the ordinary, and quotes the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins:  “That the world is charged with the grandeur of God.”  The key to this, of course, is slowing down enough to be able to see how God is in everything around us.

There's an article that talks about finding God in the ordinary - but it also points out that where one person finds God, may not be where you find God.  While one may look at washing dishes as:
In submitting to the lordship of Christ, then, I do not treat washing dishes as wasting time I could be spending doing something "meaningful," but rather as a service to those who eat in my home, as a service to those who would have to wash the dishes if I did not, and as an offering of thanksgiving to God that I have food to eat, dishes to eat it on, and running water inside my home to clean with.  (From a blog on centering one's life on Christ)
 One also has to realize that my dish-washing could be your mowing the lawn, or changing a diaper, or working in a soup kitchen.  Where you find God and fulfillment in the ordinary, everyday grandeur of the Divine will be different from where I find the same.

And in knowing that God cherishes every aspect of the world, and that we are part of that world, what do you think God finds especially to cherish about you?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Divine Gifts

Today's video focuses on being aware, being thankful, seeing the bigger picture, and remembering and reflecting on the gifts provided to you, each day.

So today, head up, eyes open - challenge yourself to see God in all things.  From the smile of a tired person at the store, to the beauty that surrounds us, to the laugh of a child, to baby anythings (for God makes them all cute), to reading something that makes your imagination take off, to whatever it is that catches your attention long enough to say, "Thank you, God."

From John 6:35, "I AM the bread of life."  How are you fed today?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Reminders

Today's video asks a great question:  what is your reminder that you are loved?  Now, more specifically, the question is, how can you remind yourself when you need the reminder, that God loves you?

Silly as this might be, so many people drink coffee, I thought it might be a good reminder, every time you pick up a cup - God loves me. :)  Some of you may do cross-stitch or crochet or knit or quilt - making "Reminder pillows" might be a method of helping people remember - God loves me

You see John 3:16 everywhere, but when was the last time you actually thought about what it means?  Each time you see the cross, it should be a reminder of God's love for every one of us, for if we accept that Christ died, not only for the sins of the world, but for my sins, your sins, the sins of every single individual on Earth, it becomes a bit more personal - just how much God loves you.

So what will you use as your reminder when you need it?





 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Playful Love

Today's video discusses and focuses on the the concept of playful love from Jesus, but at the same time, talks about the persistent love that Christ has for all people, from all walks of life.  In focusing on the outward relationships that we can have with other people, Christ removes our inward focus and reminds us that loving ourselves is only half of the equation - He asks that we love others.

So, the challenge for you today is to practice that persistent love of Christ by outwardly showing it in a playful manner.  The brother who was speaking in the video was almost giddy with love and his smile would brighten anyone's day, simply because he is happy to show his love for others.

What about going out of your way to be bright and cheerful to those who have a tendency to exhibit rather more serious and somber demeanor?  Think Tigger to Eeyore, or the final scene of Heartbreak Ridge where Aggie waves a little flag as Highway comes home.  A little bit of effort, a sincere compliment, an unexpected flower or card - these can go a long way in playfully expressing the love of God in relationship.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Who is God?

Today's video asks a pretty significant question:  what do you understand about who God is?

Biblically speaking, Christ has told us:  "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship Iin spirit and in truth."  (John 4:24).  We are also told in 1 John 4:8:  "He who does not love does not know God, for God is love."

But the question here is not asking you to regurgitate the Bible.  It's asking you to internalize what you are told from the Bible, from your own experiences with God, and express your own understanding of who God is.  This is a question we could probably ask 100 Christians, and get 100 different answers to, and they'd all be correct - as this is a pretty personal question.

Then again, looking at the much bigger picture, we also know, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)  This isn't just an individual God, but God for the whole world.

Does that change your understanding about who God is?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Revelation of Love

Today's video is rather interesting, as a conversation between three brothers from the Society of St. John the Evangelist.  It's a bit longer (it's Sunday - hopefully you're not working and you have time for a 5 minute video) than usual, but here are men who have dedicated their lives to God, asking questions and expressing the doubts, vulnerabilites, fears and questions that many of us have at times in our lives.

So in addition to the question they pose to you:  Can you allow yourself to be vulnerable and be embraced?, let's also ask:

Have there been times when you have felt wrapped in God's love? 

Have there been times when, perhaps after the fact rather than in the midst, you have felt God's love and guidance through some pretty tough times?

Have there been times when you've experienced the "tough love" God provides to help us learn something (i.e., the brick thrown when you're going too fast to pay attention)?  What were you doing, and what did you learn?

Are there times when you feel unloveable, and therefore unable to feel the love of God surrounding you?  What do you do to get out of that situation?
 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Praying with Imagination

Well, since today's "video" is a compilation of the past three, I went to the portion of the SSJE website that offers "Monastic Wisdom".  There, there's a five-part series on Living Prayer, each of which gives an example of traditional methods of prayer.  Today, we'll address Praying with Imagination, which you can listen to, or read, as you wish.

Praying with imagination seems to be a bit more than traditional "prayer", but more of a meditation, where you place yourself into an event from one of the Bible's passages.

So after reading or listening to the sermon, and following the guided meditation, think about the following questions:
  • Did you enjoy this method?
  • If you were to try it again, what events would you use to put yourself into?
  • In the spirit of Lent, choose one of the last days in the Gospels leading up to Christ's crucifixion - what do you choose?  What do you learn?
  • Is this potentially a method of prayer that might be used with children, to help them become more connected with Christ?
 

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Wish for Your Journey

Today's video from SSJE gives us more of a meditation than a question, for today, they ask you to determine one wish that you would like to see fulfilled in the journey you're on.

Referring to John 14:23-29, there's an excellent post about finding the way, and the tools that Christ gave to us that we might do so.

So in this Lenten Journey, or in this journey we call life, what is a wish that you would have for your own spiritual edification?  Do you feel like Solomon, having to choose what gift God will grant to you?  Or are you thinking about the multitude of gifts God provides and trying to narrow it down to just one?  Or perhaps you're trying to summarize it all into one grand wish...

No one said you can't have more than one wish for your journey.  Just write down the first one now.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A New Word

Today's video talks about Christ bringing a new Word.  We can look at this in several ways - literally, there are "words" that we focus on, that bring meaning into our lives.  For instance, "service" is a word that can define how you look at the work you do, what you do for others, what you do for the Church, what you can offer to God.  "Love" is a word with so many meanings, and yet, to imbue your life with love for others, with love of God's creation, with love for ourselves that we might exemplify the commandments brought to us by Christ - is to set an example for others to follow.

Another way of looking at the "new Word", with a capital W, would be to note that Christ and the Word have always been synonymous - that Christ has always been and always is, and always will be One with the Father.  The Word has also been synonymous with creation, and each day there are new mysteries and discoveries and vistas to explore.

So what new Word is God speaking to you today?
 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Sermon for Ash Wednesday

PattiAnn Bennett, Rector at St. Michael's and All Angels in Eureka, Montana sent the following sermon on this occasion of Ash Wednesday:

Ash Wednesday March 5, 2014 
 
And we begin the season of Lent with the mark of ashes on our heads and go out into the night marked as Christ’s own forever...not unlike our marking at Baptism with holy oil and those very words...but with this marking we hear, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return..” We join the saints over so many generations who have gathered to do the same thing, receiving the same thing and hearing the same words and leaving with the same intent...
 
We confess that we have sinned against God in thought, word and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved God with our whole heart, we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
 
And each of our repentences will take on it’s own personal, secret form. We may choose to leave something behind, a behavior, a negative energy, a bad habit, then work at it every day on purpose for the next weeks intent to make a change. Perhaps we’ll take something on, a new discipline, something personal that has meaning and makes sense only to us.
 
Take something on, let something go. We fast, are particular, make a deal, a pact, a promise to do something that gets our attention, makes us uneasy, puts us out of our comfort zone, on purpose in the comfort and safety of our own home and life...
 
Why would anyone do that?
 
We do it to grow our relationship with God. We do it to deepen our prayer life. We do it to sharpen our senses and bring us to the edge of this world and the next. The practices we take on in Lent guide us through a season of intentional growth, often uncomfortable, but leading toward wholeness with God in Christ.
 
The Imposition of Ashes comes from the early church where sinners could only come back to the church after a period of repenting. During that period, repentents’ wore sackcloth and covered themselves with ashes...Ashes symbolize our earthiness, our mortality, our here and nowness. Ashes symbolize our commitment to the faith and to being drawn here tonight.
 
They symbolize the beginning of our journey through the next weeks of attempting to set ourselves right with God and our neighbor, correcting wrongs and reflecting on who we are as Christ’s own.
 
The word Lent means the lengthening of daylight hours...it means spring...the season when plants begin to grow after lying dormant all winter...in light of this we might think of ourselves the next few weeks as seeds that are in the dark cold ground, growing up with God’s help, sprouting, rising above and reaching for the light...
 
Matthew writes: whenever you give alms, you shouldn’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret and your father who sees in secret will reward you. And whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your father who is in secret and your father who sees in secret will reward you. And whenever you fast, don’t look dismal but put oil on your head and wash your face so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you...in other words whatever we have decided to do is between us and God, no one else. In secret, not so the world can see and be impressed or feel sorry. But like the spring seed in the ground where only God knows how hard we’re working and what is becoming of us.
 
Lent is a spare season, not like Advent or Epiphany. Lent isn’t bright or loud, it is quiet and still. It casts a different light, a smaller closer light illuminating our-selves to ourselves. We become shadowy as we look within, take stock, turn around, go a different way...repent.
 
When I was young my family went to church this night to receive a cross of ashes on our heads. I didn’t really get what was happening, but I did get that it was important and historical. We went like millions have over the centuries, to be initiated, marked, and then, like them, expected to act differently. It happened at church, not at the store or the movie theater or the gas station but at church on holy ground amidst the mystery of God.
 
Why ashes?
 
Ashes symbolize what’s left when it’s all over. We’re here for a little while really and it matters who we become and how we act and the way we love. We all die, so what we do with the life God has given is important and we need to remember that...So tonight, like every year for centuries, the faithful gather to be marked, reminded that who we are and what we do and how we love matters. Amen.

Ash Wednesday

Today we begin our Lenten series "Love Life" sponsored by the Brothers of the Society of St. John the Evangelist.  The first video can be found here.  The transcript of the video is below it, just in case you can't actually watch it.

The questions to ponder today are "Where can you know abundant life? Where can you still grow?"

The first question refers to John 10:10:  "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."

Does your answer to that first question change any with the addition of the Bible verse?

 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

SSJE: Love Life Series

Just a reminder that our Lenten project, Love Life will begin tomorrow.  There are approximately 9 videos (short ones) to watch before we begin, so head over and watch when you've got about 20 minutes to spare.  Questions, meditations, answers, suggestions, ideas, etc. - these all begin tomorrow, Ash Wednesday.