Saturday, March 12, 2011

I Lent

Readings are here.

Once again the readings take us back to the beginning. Eve and Adam begin their life outside that perfect relationship (called Eden) with God and all creation. And Jesus takes his first steps from his baptism to the cross and beyond. Each responds to the challenges in very different ways.

For Eve and Adam, they live in perfect relationship – an unconscious unity with God and creation. They have all their needs met.

For Jesus – he lives in a totally different place. He is born into a world where needs are not met, the Roman empire rules with legions of soldiers, most live day to day – on the edge of starvation, hoping to have enough to feed the family day by day. Even those who seem powerful in the Gospels (the religious leaders of the community) live in fear – fear of loss of position, loss of status and needing to appease the Roman rulers to keep chaos away from their community. People have forgotten those easy days of perfect relationship with creation and the Creator.

In his baptism Jesus hears his call to life – “this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Our passage today comes directly after those words. Today we hear that Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness. He goes to sort out what being the beloved will mean.

Throughout the Bible and as we know from our lives, temptation comes to us in attractive ways (like the songs "devil with the blue jeans/dress on?") and when we are most vulnerable. The fruit is attractive – the snake is charming. And in a way the snake is right – they won’t die immediately from eating the fruit of this tree. Eve and Adam will have the knowledge that no other creature has. Knowledge that will make them think they can be God. We know about this. We begin to think we are so smart – we do not have to obey the rules of creation. We see it in our time – watch the news. The rules of gravity and geology still hold true - regardless of how smart we become.

Jesus on the other hand, lives fully in right relationship with God and even though lonely, hungry and tired, he remembers who he is – the beloved. The tempter taunts him with “if you are the beloved” – trying to undercut Jesus’ confidence in his essential being. Well, the demonic says, “if you are the beloved (and that’s a big stretch for anyone to believe- he insinuates) then why are you out here starving, poor and alone? If you are the beloved you could change your circumstances in an instant. You can feed yourself – why you can feed the world – just turn these stones into bread. What not powerful enough – oh well – guess you aren’t who you think after all.”

Or “The beloved can have all the kingdoms of the world – think what you could do if you ruled the world – just worship power and wealth.”

Or “How about being spectacular – miraculous – jump off the roof of the temple – surely the beloved can fly – angels bearing you up and all that?”

And so it goes between temptation and Jesus – but Jesus remembers who he is and whose he is – staying steady in the midst of it all. This is the beginning of how he will return us to that perfect state of being – Eden-like – that realm of eternal life that is happening now. Jesus lives in it all the time and invites us into it here and now. His body is the bread of Eden, his blood – the drink of wholeness (salvation).

Each time we come to partake of the bread and the wine we are re-membered – put back into that moment when we walked and talked with God in the garden in perfect relationship. We remember that we are the creatures and not God. We live into our call to serve not rule.

We can do many things for ourselves but it is not the doing that gets our relationship with God back on track, Jesus has already done that for us. We can take that grace, accept it, breathe it in. Taking time for being in relationship with God – taking time to be in the presence of God— being out in God’s creation, praying, taking time for our relationships with others, worshipping and praising, listening, sharing the sacred stories, seeing God in each person – helping them to see that too.

Image by Michael O'Brien

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Ash Wednesday

Readings are here.

Today we begin Lent – taking time for our spiritual lives. Traditionally we have given up things like chocolate or other candy, alcohol, meat, or other physical sacrifices. These are worthy things to do as each time we are are confronted with the thing we have given up we are reminded that it is Lent and a time for reflection on our spiritual journey. Taking on a spiritual discipline is another common practice. Daily reading of scripture, meditation, working for the Food Bank or some other agency that serves those with less, are some ideas. USA Today noted this week that many are doing other activities for Lent. Some are doing a carbon fast – trying to use less electricity and more mass transit. UMC is encouraging all its members to give up alcohol – which Methodists are not supposed to drink in the first place – but to confront the use of it in their midst. I did that one year in solidarity with all who have abuse of alcohol issues. I was amazed then at how many tried to get me to take a drink. I think times have changed as everyone seems to offer alternative beverages now. Maybe that Lenten fast served a purpose – at least I hope so.

When we think of the words of Ash Wednesday - remember you are dust and to dust you shall return - remember that the scientists have learned that we are of the same dust as stars - so remember also you are stardust and to stardust you shall return.

This year I would like to share with you another way of looking at Lent – I used this a few years ago and I still like the ideals it puts forth – a way of keeping Lent that improves my relationships with others, the planet, myself and God.

Fast from judgment, Feast on compassion
Fast from greed, Feast on sharing
Fast from scarcity, Feast on abundance
Fast from fear, Feast on peace
Fast from lies, Feast on truth
Fast from gossip, Feast on praise
Fast from anxiety, Feast on patience
Fast from evil, Feast on kindness
Fast from apathy, Feast on engagement
Fast from discontent, Feast on gratitude
Fast from noise, Feast on silence
Fast from discouragement, Feast on hope
Fast from hatred, Feast on love
What will be your fast? What will be your feast?

After Bishop Arthur Lichtenberger