Dang! It’s been about forever since I’ve posted. So much is happening with candidacy and serminary application, that I can’t quite find it in me to spare the mental bandwidth to write here.
Come to think of it, I guess I haven’t been serving as assisting minister much in a while, either. But, it leaves space for others to start serving, and that’s important to me. I’m very taken with the thought that we’re all equally means of grace for each other. And I can sure use some grace!
Noah and his sons, after the great flood. God’s promise to never again send the flood waters that destroy all flesh. Rainbows. Puppies. Kittens. Well, rainbows, anyway! Being the first Sunday of Lent, I find myself reflecting on the meaning of Lent. I was recently reminded that “lent” comes from “lenchthen”, as in the lengthening of days. Our embedded theology (we carry forth what we pick up along the way from our Christian friends) tends to treat this time like a 40-day death march to the cross.
But, is it really? That thought of the lengthening of days is sticking in my mind for some reason. Winter is cold, and dark, and it kind of goes two ways, really. You can say everything is dead, and we’re waiting for new life. Or, you can say everything is sleeping, and waiting to arise again. I’m more of the latter mind (glass half-full). What if this could be some kind of ascension to the resurrection, instead? What if this is a 40-day preparation for the decisive event that changes everything for us? And 40 days of reflecting on our brokenness, to prepare ourselves for Easter Sunday?
This reading from Genesis, with God promising to never again send the flood waters, somehow feels like a promise that we’re going to be liberated from the law that prosecutes and condemns us. God sent the waters, and set the law. Either way, we’re toast. But, never again.
But in any case, I had a lot of trouble focusing on writing intercessions at 6:00 am, this morning. Looking through my handy Lutheran Study Bible (which I also have installed in my Olive Tree Bible Reader for Mac – even handier!), I found this study question – “What does God’s commitment to all nonhuman creatures mean for our response to the environment?” Now, I’m not NOT a steward of the environment, but I wasn’t so in the mood for a green gospel today. But then again, coming off a stint of service with the stewardship committee, I don’t think I could ever skip a chance to get into the liberation of everything belonging to God, and not us.
But, it doesn’t stop with recognizing rightful ownership of the world and everything in it. Really, we see God’s glory in the flora and fauna surrounding us. I’d go so far as to say that if you can’t, then you ought to ask yourself some harder questions. But that’s my bad attitude flaring. In any case, I found myself writing a prayer from this theme of seeing God’s grace surrounding us, and providing for us.
God of Creation, help us to care for creatures of the air, the sea, and the dry land, as signs of Your creation, and Your glory. Teach us how to be good stewards of everything You have given to us, for it all comes from your gracious hand, in Your loving kindness.
The other readings for today were 1 Peter 3:18-22 and Mark 1:9-15. Except, I didn’t really incorporate them into my other intercessions. Christ Church has chosen a hunger theme for the year. Last week, on Ash Wednesday, we shared a meal to raise awareness of the food deserts that pervade urban America. It’s hard to buy fresh produce or healthy meals, when you don’t have a car, and the nearby stores are all up in the Hamburger Helper and your favorite frozen TV dinners.
Herb Brokering and Rusty Edwards have a hymn titled God of Feasting and of Hunger:
God of feasting and of hunger, give us eyes to see your bread in the miracle of wonder, till all tables will be fed. See the silent ones who wait when the blessing seems too late.
God of seed and God of harvest turn the desert into bloom. Purify the sky and forest, give your wisdom, send it soon. See the silent ones who wait when the blessing seems too late.
God of storm and heat and danger deep inside and high above, break into fear and anger, ‘til you reign o’er the earth in love. See the silent ones who wait when the blessing seems too late.
God of taking and of giving, give us back our dignity; in our universal living, break down all inequity. See the silent ones who wait when the blessing seems too late.
I can’t help but feel the burden on my heart, for the children of God around me, who lack what I have in abundance. The silent ones in front of me, who I just don’t see (my vision, curving inward in my sinfulness). Say what you want about a social gospel, but I hear Amos saying “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24) A flood of another water….
Lord of Feasting and Fasting, we pray for those around us who hunger, who lack what they need for strength, for nutrition, and for wholeness. Grant us compassion and a burden, to share our abundance with them, and to care for their wellbeing, both in our community, and throughout the world.
And being the first Sunday of Lent, it seems unacceptable to engage the liturgical calendar. What are we to do with ourselves for the next few weeks? Well, again, reflecting on my brokenness is pretty massive for me of late. At Christ Church, we’ve rearranged the sanctuary into something of an antiphonal arrangement. In turn, the confession and absolution have been tweaked to have each half of the assembly extending relief and release to the other. It’s difficult to say exactly why certain thoughts come to mind, but I found myself reflecting on these changes to our worship form. With this morning being the first morning of this new form, it seemed helpful to incorporate it into the intercessions.
Spirit of Mercy, we pray for our journey through these Lenten days. Help us to reflect on our brokenness, to admit the depth of our wrongs, to ourselves and to each other, and in our humanity, draw us back to You, in Your infinite mercy and grace.
This week will be a good time to reflect on the incomprehensible. How could a God that’s pure and holy, possibly want to draw us close to Him? Let’s be clear – God does not need our help. And yet, God invites, and asks, and calls, and promises to not drown us in the floodwaters. How can it ever be, and yet it absolutely is. Thanks be to God.