Beyond the Wilderness

 

Moses and the Burning BushScripture Text:  Exodus 3: 1-5

 Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. 3Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 4When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

We sometimes miss that nuance when we read this story.  I think I read this for years as if this miraculous burning bush was placed right in Moses’ path, impeding his way, something that he could not possibly miss, perhaps something that he would just trip over if he wasn’t paying attention.  But the passage says that Moses had to “go over” or turn aside to see it, had to actually get off the path that he was on to see this incredible sight.

Here is Moses, who has led his flock to a place “beyond the wilderness”.  I’m not sure what that is.  But it’s apparently a place to which only a journey through the wilderness can take you.  If it’s a literal place, then it’s WAY off any map that we have.  I think it’s more than likely that it’s the place to which you come when you yield to the wilderness, when you let yourself relinquish control and let go of what you are holding so tightly, when, finally, you trust God enough to turn aside to see what God has in store for you.  But, whatever this place is, Moses is leading his flock off the beaten path into a mysterious and unknown place right up to the mountain of God.

And there, off the path, not where he could stumble over it, but where he had to leave his planned pathway to investigate, he sees it—a bush blazing brightly with a fire that did not consume.  This was beyond what was normal.  Well, needless to say, his curiosity was piqued.  He needed to know more, needed to get a closer look.  So he steps toward it.  And then he hears his name.  “Moses, Moses.”  Startled, Moses stammered out a meager response:  “Here I am.”

Now in that moment, I think it’s probable that Moses didn’t even completely understand what was happening.  After all, remember, in early Hebrew thought, if you see God, if you hear God, you die.  And then this great voice tells him to take off his shoes, to take off his shoes because he was standing on holy ground.  Holy ground?  Well, it was ordinary a minute ago!  How did it get to be holy? And then God tells Moses what Moses is called to do.  This shepherd, this ordinary person standing in bare feet on the side of what used to be an ordinary mountain is called to deliver the people of Israel, to lead them to freedom.  This is Moses’ commissioning. And somehow he began to process and understand what was happening.  So, he began to take control of the situation and try his best to get out of what was happening.  After all, Holy Ground is a dangerous place.  For there, you touch the Divine and are changed forever.  There is no going back.

Our Lenten journey is one that will take us beyond the wilderness, to a place where you will see and know things that you’ve never seen and known before, to a place where you will finally turn aside from your plans, from your routine and, there, find yourself standing on Holy Ground.

Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty if waiting in every crumb. Life wants to lead you from crumbs to angels, but this can happen only if you are willing to unwrap the ordinary by staying with it long enough to harvest its treasure. (Macrina Wiederkher, A Tree Full of Angels)

FOR TODAY: Journey to a place beyond the wilderness, beyond the place where you have so far allowed yourself to go. Then turn aside.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

How Can This Be?

AnnunciationScripture Text:  Luke 1:28b-35

“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.

 

How can this be?  It is the most profound question; it is the question of faith.  It is the question that we ask when life makes no sense, when what we have planned and what we have imagined is suddenly crumbling around us and life doesn’t look like anything that we know.  We Protestants don’t often give much credence to this story, choosing instead to whisk past it to stories of mangers in the days of Caesar Augustus.  But it is so very important.  After all, as I’ve said before, God did not just drop out of the sky in the form of Jesus.  The Divine did not come into our midst in the form of a cloud, or a storm, or even, this time, a burning bush.  All of those were indeed incarnations of the Divine.  But THIS time, THIS time, God chose to come in human form, as one of us.  God chose to cross all the boundaries and be one of us.  And that takes time.  About nine months to be exact.  It also means that someone, a woman, a young woman, a woman that had her life planned, has to say “yes”.  Believe it or not, God chose not to do this alone.

 

So, this angel comes to this young woman.  “Mary,” the angel says, “I know this may be a little out of the box, a little hard to believe, but God has a plan for you.  Now, it’s not the plan that you imagined.  Basically, God is asking you to agree to become pregnant even though you have yet to celebrate your wedding feast.  Now, we all know that your husband, your family, and your community (not to mention generations of those who will follow you) will find this hard to believe.  The trip to have the child will be difficult.  And then when you get there, it will be as if no one has made plans at all.  (I mean, really, God asks Mary to do this.  Why did someone not think to make a reservation at the local inn?)  But, somehow, we will make it work.  And then, the child will be born into a world that will struggle to accept him.  He will live his life on the edge of society and will endure pain and suffering at the end.  You will grieve his life and you will grieve his death.  In all probability, you will never fully understand this child that you bring into the world.  And, oh yeah, you will be birthing the salvation of the world.  So, what do you think? Are we on?”

 

I don’t know if God planned to ask Mary.  Was she destined from birth?  Or was she the second, or the 46th, or the 8,729th person that God approached?  None of that matters.  Because God has given a part of the Godself to us.  It’s called free will.  God doesn’t push us into things.  God draws us toward the Divine, desiring that each and every child that God created and loved will choose, will choose to return to God in their own special way, will choose to respond to what God envisions he or she can do.  And so the world waits, hanging in suspended motion, eager to hear Mary’s answer.  Salvation is waiting to be.  She hesitates, not really knowing what to do or say or even think.  How can this be?  It makes no sense.  I mean, this is REALLY going to mess up my life.  But the dawn was beginning to form and Mary saw a light that she had never seen before.  For the first time, Mary knew who she was.  How can this be?  Let it be…Let it be according to thy word.

 

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

 

We are no different.  God approaches…over and over and over again, inviting us to dance, inviting us to live.  How can this be?  Let it be…let it be according to thy word.

 

The glad hosannas are no longer heard.  The shouting is over, the palms are gathered; the shadows lengthen; the plotting begins in earnest. Knowing the outcome, we come with heavy hearts.  And what do we hear?  An unchanged and unchanging message of love; God’s love, a poet’s love, a woman’s love.  God’s love, foretold by Isaiah, in the shape of a servant.  (Moira B. Laidlaw)

 

FOR TODAY:  Where is God calling you to go?  Who is God calling you to be?  Let it be according to thy word.

 

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

At the Gate

 

The Lion's Gate, Jerusalem
The Lion’s Gate, Jerusalem

Scripture Text:  Matthew 21: 1-11 (Palm A)

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, “Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

I know…you were expecting palms.  Most of us love this day.  Since my childhood, I have been waving palm branches on Palm Sunday morning, shouting “Hosanna”, and reenacting that first century parade with Jesus riding on that donkey.  It was Jesus’ grand procession (or something like it) as he entered the city.  And so we wave our palm branches and try to pretend that we are oblivious to all that comes next.  We look at the palm branches and we ignore the heavy gate just up ahead.  You see, Jesus was already setting himself up for accusation.  He was entering through the East gate, the gate through which the prophets had long ago proclaimed the Messiah would enter.  So Jesus was setting himself up for blasphemy charges for claiming that he WAS the Messiah.  The truth is that this is not just a parade.  It is full of overtones of the suffering to come. The rumblings of what would come next were all around them. So, this “celebration” is not merely a parade; it is the beginning of where the journey will now take us.  It is the procession that takes us to the gate.

I think if we see this day as merely a parade, it is too easy to walk away, too easy to just lay our palm branch down, and fall off with the crowd.  The “hosannas” are easy.  The hard part is to stay with Jesus as he walks through the gate.  Because, sadly, the parade would fizzle. As it turns and begins moving toward Bethany, toward the edge of the walled city, people turn and go back to their lives. And Jesus, virtually alone, with a few disciples in tow, enters the gate. Jesus is in Jerusalem.

This procession represents transition, a movement from one life to the next, a change in the journey. Processions are a call to begin something different, to enter that new thing that God is doing. Essentially, this Palm Sunday processional is exactly that—a calling to move to a different place. The palm branch means nothing by itself.  In a way, it is a parody of our life as we know it, a life that reveres Christ without following and celebrates without speaking out.  This procession of palms is the way to the gate, the way to the threshold of what life holds.  It is scary for us because we know what lies ahead. We know that just beyond those city gates lies a city that will not be kind over the next several days, a city that will certainly not act in a way befitting of who it is and who it is called to be. It is a city that is not in procession, a city that will attempt to silence the cries to change the world.

The Eastern Gate (or Golden Gate), Jerusalem (sealed in 1541)
The Eastern Gate (or Golden Gate), Jerusalem (sealed in 1541)

So where do we stand?  On this side of the gate, the one with all the palm branches, is celebration and safety and comfort and the way we’ve always been.  Beyond the gate is anointing and questions, betrayal and handing over, last meals together and mock trials, declarations of guilt and death.  But there is another gate beyond that, the one that brings us Life, the one that takes us to who we are called to be.  Havelock Ellis once said that “the promised land always lies on the other side of a wilderness.” This is our wilderness. This is our procession from slavery to freedom, from who we are to who we will be, from the life we’ve designed for ourselves to the one that God envisions for us. This is our procession to life. This IS the Way. So, keep walking. “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”

 

Our hosannas sung, our palms waved, let us go with passion into this week…. It is a time to greet Jesus as the Lord’s Anointed One,to lavishly break our alabaster and pour perfume out for him without counting the cost. It is a time for preparation. (Ann Weems, Kneeling in Jerusalem)

As this holiest of weeks begins, where are you standing?  The journey has brought you to a gate.  Jesus has entered Jerusalem.  Are you willing to give up what you know for Life?  What will you leave behind?

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

When Things Began to Change

clouds-floating-over-a-mountainScripture Text:  Matthew 17: 1-9

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

And then our journey brought us to the mountain.  We should have known.  Mountains have always been places of change even as far back as Moses and the Commandments.  But we followed.  Maybe we knew that things would change and maybe we were just being naive.  So we followed Jesus up the mountain that day not knowing what was about to happen.  And there was Jesus, his clothes having taken on a dazzling hue, blinding, whiter than anything we had ever seen before.  And he was not alone.  There was Moses.  There was Elijah.  It was the most amazing thing, surely not of this world, surely something miraculous.  Peter was funny, wanting to build a dwelling for the three.  But at least he spoke.  The rest of us just sort of stood there dumbfounded.  What would we do next?  What was about to happen to us?  And the voice!  Who’s voice was that?  I think it was God.  I know that sounds far-fetched, but I think it was God.  It was God telling us to listen, to listen to Jesus, to listen to our hearts, to listen to the journey.  It was obvious that things had begun to change.  We fell down trying to shield ourselves. 

And then in a moment, it was quiet.  We looked up.  The light was gone.  Elijah and Moses were gone.  And there was Jesus.  He looked the same and yet he was different.  Maybe we were different.  Maybe our eyes had been scarred by the bright lights.   Or maybe we had finally learned to look at things differently, to see the change we were being called to see, to traverse the journey ahead with new eyes.  We gathered our things together without speaking.  There were no words that belonged in the holy silence that embraced us.  We wanted to stay, stay there on that mountain with memories of the bright lights and that Presence.  But Jesus took our hands and beckoned us to follow.  We began to walk down the mountain.  There, there was Jerusalem in the distance.  Things were about to change.  We knew it.  But we descended from the mountain that day.  Jesus told us not to say anything.  We would understand it later.  But, for now, we had to return to the world.  The mountain was not ours.

Change is hard.  We try desperately to hold on to what we know, to what is safe and secure, to what feels comfortable.  But every once in awhile, we have a mountain we have to climb.  We ascend into the fog and something happens there.  Our world changes.  And for a little while, God stops talking, perhaps waiting for our silence so that we, too, can listen for what comes next.  On this day, we ascended the mountain as learners following a master.  And, looking back, the ones who walked down the other side together were different.  There was work to do and we were the ones that were called to do it. 

Jerusalem-First SightLent teaches us that the world is not ours to plan or control. It is ours to embrace and journey through.  Sometimes we will have things that shake us to our core.  And so we descend the mountain in silence listening for God.  There is more to do.  There is more holy work.  And what God has in store for us is nothing short of a miracle.  And so for now, things are beginning to change.  Jerusalem awaits.

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, Give me a light that I might go safely out into the darkness. And he replied, Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be more to you than a light, and safer than a known way. (M.L. Haskins)

On this day before Holy Week begins, we know that things will change.  Embrace them.  Live them.  Change with them.  And walk.  The journey is yours alone.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

 

 

When We Started to Become

WaterScripture Text:  Mark 1: 4-11

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Looking back from our journey, we remember, we remember the day that we started to become.  At this point, we remember that day in the Jordan, all of Creation dripping from the sacred waters. And, yet, that whole idea of Jesus being baptized is sometimes odd for us.  After all, part of what we associate with baptism is forgiveness.  How can one who is supposed to be sinless be forgiven?  But the fact that Jesus was baptized only suggests that Jesus associated himself with the need to gather God’s people and to prepare for the Lord’s coming with a gesture of repentance, an entrusting of oneself wholly and completely to God. It also reminds us that Baptism is not about us. We cannot baptize ourselves. It is about God’s presence in our life.

I think the Baptism account from the Gospel According to Mark is my favorite.  Only in this version do we hear of the “heavens being torn apart”—not opened for a time as in Matthew and Luke—but torn apart. The Greek word for this means “schism” (which, interestingly enough, is similar to chaos, similar to what God’s Creation ordered.). It’s not the same as the word open. You open a door; you close a door; the door still looks the same. But torn—the ragged edges never go back in quite the same way again. At this point of Jesus’ baptism, God’s Spirit becomes present on earth in a new way. A brand new ordering of Creation has begun. The heavens have torn apart. They cannot go back. Nothing will ever be the same. Everything that we have known, everything that we have thought has been torn apart and that is the place where God comes through. And the heavens can never again close as tightly as before.  This is when we started to become.

This story of Jesus’ Baptism calls us to remember our own. It is more than being showered or sprinkled with remnants of God’s forgiveness.  It is our beginning, our very “becoming”, as the gift of God’s grace washes away those things that impede our relationship with God and gives us new birth, new life. Just as God swept over the waters when Creation came to be, God swept across the waters so that we would become.  And it calls us to do something with our life.  But I actually don’t remember the day of my baptism. It happened when I was a little over seven months old, on Palm Sunday, April 15, 1962. It was at First United Methodist Church, Brookshire, TX and Rev. Bert Condrey was the officiant. I had a special dress and lots of family present. That would be all I really know.  And yet we are reminded to “remember our baptism”. What does that mean for those of us who don’t? I think “remembering” is something bigger than a chronological recount of our own memories. It is bigger than remembering what we wore or where we stood or who the actual person was that touched our head with or even immersed us in water. It means remembering our very identity, our creation, what it is that made us, that collective memory that is part of our tradition, our liturgy, our family.  It means remembering not just how the journey began but that in its very beginning we became part of it.  And now this same journey takes us to the cross.

That is what “remembering” our baptism is. It’s not just remembering the moment that we felt that baptismal stream; it is remembering the story into which we entered. It is at that point that the Christian family became our own as we began to become who God intends us to be. And for each of us, whether or not we noticed it, the heavens tore apart, spilled out, and the Holy Spirit emerged. And we, too, were conferred with a title. “This is my child, my daughter or son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”  You are part of something beyond yourself, beyond what you know, and beyond what you can remember. Rainer Maria Rilke once said that “the future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.” Your past now reaches far back before you were here and your future is being transformed and redeemed in you even as we speak.

After he was baptized, Jesus stood, dripping wet, to enter his ministry. The heavens tore apart and poured into the earth. All of humanity was there in that moment—those gone, those to come, you, me. So we remember now how we still stand, wet with those same waters, as we, too, are called into ministry in the name of Christ. It is up to us to further the story. This day and every day, remember your baptism, remember that you are a daughter or son of God with whom God is well pleased and be thankful. You are now part of the story, part of this ordering of chaos, part of light emerging from darkness, part of life born from death. You are part of God’s re-creation. And it is very, very good.  This is the journey for which we live; this is the journey for which we were created; this is the journey that gives us Life.  And, in this moment, we remember when we started to Become. 

Your life is shaped by the end you live for.  You are made in the image of what you desire. (Thomas Merton)

On this Lenten journey, we continue to gather our past into our Lives and we remember what made us, remember when we became who we are, when we began this journey.  What does it mean to you to “Remember your Baptism”?

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

Returning Home

Returning HomeScripture Text:  Joel 2: 12-13

Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.

By my count, this is the 28th day of Lent.  We are coming closer.  Our journey’s footprint is beginning to narrow, honing in on our destination.  Things are beginning to change.  You can feel it in the air.  If you listen, really listen, you can hear the voices growing louder.  There’s a part of us that wants to go back, perhaps hide away until it is all over but we know that’s not the way it works.  The journey with all of its twists and turns are part of life.  We speak of going out into the world, of “broadening” our mission, often with a sense of leaving home behind.  But Lent teaches us something different.  Our journey’s map is one of widening circles as we gather the world in and, yet, the point of it, the center, tends to become a little clearer with each step.  We begin to sense the center of all these circles.  We begin to feel at home.

I have several times had the wonderful gift of sharing final journeys.  It is a time of remembering, yes, but it is more.  In the last few years of my grandmother’s life, she seemed to be gathering her memories around her, trying to recap them, trying to capture what was important so that she could leave it behind intact.  Maybe that’s what we should do when things begin to change.  Rather than walking blindly and fearlessly into the unknown as if we have some sort of prideful martyr complex, maybe we are called to gather what we have learned, those whom we have loved, those memories that are part of us, and claim them.  God calls us forward on this journey to leave behind things like material items and things to which we hold to our detriment, things that are not ours to hold.  God calls us forward not to leave our selves behind but to claim the real self that we are.  And those memories, those things we have learned, those we have loved are part of our real self.  They are part of God’s way of returning us to God.

Ann Danielson said that “home is where your story begins“.  I don’t think that’s limited to the place that you were born, the place in which you began.  Home is not meant to be a place.  It is meant to be a way of being.  Maybe that means that each new beginning, each time our story begins, is home.  Our journey is not one of going to a place we do not know but one of returning, returning to who we are called to be, returning to God.  That is what Lent teaches us.  It is a season of reflection and introspection.  It is a season of gathering and pruning, of knowing which things we are called to release and what we are called to hold.  Lent is the season when we reset our journey once again so that it is calibrated with our story, so that the journey is one both of returning home and being home.  It is a journey of returning and re-turning.  Lent is a season when we finally know what it means to be home, to know what claims us, to know what give us life.

Our true home is in the present moment.  The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment. Peace is all around us–in the world and in nature–and within us–in our bodies and our spirits. Once we learn to touch this peace, we will be healed and transformed. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

On this 28th day of Lent, as the pathway begins to turn, remember from where you’ve come.  Gather what is important, what is part of you, those things you need to claim.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

 

This is the One

David, the Shepherd BoyScripture Passage: 1 Samuel 16: 1-13 (Lent 4A)

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.  When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

In this Lenten season, what would change about our journey if we knew where we would end up, if we thought that we might end up in a place that we didn’t plan?  And what would change about our life if we knew how it was all going to turn out?  I mean, think about it…the boy David is out in the field just minding his own business and doing what probably generations of family members before him had done.  Perhaps his mind is drifting off in daydreams as he sits there with the sheep.  Perhaps he is thinking about what his life will be, where he plans to go, what he plans to do.  He sees his brothers leave and go inside one by one, probably wandering what in the world is going on.  Finally, he is called in.  “You’re the one!”  “What do you mean I’m the one?” he probably thought.  “What in the world are you talking about?  Don’t I even get a choice?”  “Not so much.”  And so David was anointed.  “You’re the one!”

What would have happened if David has just turned and walked away?  Well, I’m pretty sure that God would have found someone else, but the road would have turned away from where it was.  It would have been a good road, a life-filled road, a road that would have gotten us where we needed to be.  But it wouldn’t have been the road that God envisioned it to be. We know how it all turned out.  David started out by playing the supposed evil out of Saul with his lyre.  He ultimately became a great king (with several bumps–OK, LOTS of bumps–along the way!) and generations later, a child was brought forth into the world, descended from David.  The child grew and became himself anointed—this time not for lyre-playing or kingship but as Messiah, as Savior, as Emmanuel, God-Incarnate.  And in turn, God then anoints the ones who are to fall in line.  “You’re the one”.

Do we even get a choice, you ask?  Sure, you get a choice.  You can close yourself off and try your best to hold on to what is really not yours anyway or you can walk forward into life as the one anointed to build the specific part of God’s Kingdom that is yours.  We are all called to different roads in different ways.  But the calling is specifically yours.  And in the midst of it, there is a choice between death and life.  Is there a choice?  Not so much!  Seeing the way to walk is not necessary about seeing where the road is going but knowing that the road is the Way.  So just keep walking and enjoy the scenery along the way! 

See, we are no different.  We are all chosen, all, on some level, anointed to this holy work.  We can ignore it.  We can cover our ears and cover our eyes and shroud ourselves with excuses and keep walking the way that we would like.  It will get us somewhere, perhaps somewhere that is good and wonderful and makes us feel good.  But what happens when God calls us from the fields and interrupts our daydreams?  What happens when God has something else in store for us?  Each of us given specific and unique gifts.  We are all called.  It’s not a goal to pursue but a calling to hear.  Our lives are the way we live into that call.  This is the one.  We are the ones.  We are the ones for which we’ve been waiting.

You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour.  Now you must go back and tell the people that this is The Hour.  And there are things to be considered:  Where are you living?  What are you doing?  What are your relationships? Aare you in right relation?  Where is your water? Know your garden. It is time to speak your Truth. Create your community. Be good to each other. And do not look outside yourself for the leader.  This could be a good time! There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly.  Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate.  At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally. Least of all, ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.  The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!  Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.  All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. (The Elders Oraibi, Arizona Hopi Nation)

Lent is a time of holy questioning and holy listening.  Where are you living?  What are you doing?  Where is your water?  For what are you being called?  For what are you the one?

Grace and Peace,

Shelli