REMEMBERING OUR JOURNEY: When We Saw That There Was More

GlobeScripture Passage:  John 4: 7-26

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

Do you remember that time when you realized that it was not all about you?  Do you remember that time when you realized that God was not just planted in your home sanctuary waiting for you to enter?  Do you remember the time when you realized that there was, oh, so much more?  There is some point in all of our faith journeys when we realize that the road we are following and the understandings of faith that we hold are not all there is to God.  It happens to all of us as we begin to see that God’s reach is far beyond where we are standing, even greater than the distance that we could possibly traverse or, for that matter, even imagine traversing.  As our journey winds toward Jerusalem, we remember that day when we realized that there was something more.

It’s probably a good thing that the disciples didn’t seem to be around for Jesus’ indiscretions.  They probably would have felt the need to pull him back into what was expected of him, what was expected of all of them.  After all, he was supposedly the Messiah.  This was surely going to be a big ugly black mark on Jesus’ Messiah resume’!  Here he was, not just breaking one big rule, but at least three!  First of all, he approaches, unescorted, and speaks to a woman.  Well see, this was just wrong.  After all, anything could happen!  (After all, there were writings in the Talmud that contended that speaking to a woman would ultimately lead to unchastity–or even worse!) Then, secondly, Jesus speaks to this woman that apparently, for whatever reason, did not have the best reputation. Now, in all probability, this woman was probably just a victim of some form of Levirite marriage process gone terribly bad, where she had been handed in marriage from relative to relative as her husbands died, leaving her penniless and out of options.  But we have to obey the rules, right?  Even if they make no sense!  And, as if all this wasn’t bad enough, here Jesus was speaking to a Samaritan, the so-called “enemy”, one who thought differently and believed differently and worshipped differently than the standard fare of proper society.   And Jesus, in pure Jesus fashion, did not just speak to her but actually engaged her in conversation, engaged her in spiritual and theological dialogue.  (I think Jesus may possibly have been a big talker!) Yeah, good thing the disciples weren’t there to see THAT!

But, really, who made those rules?  I mean, they weren’t bad rules.  They were made to keep the faithful, to insure the identity of people of faith.  On the surface, that doesn’t sound all bad.  After all, this faith journey is hard enough, right?  But, oh, think what you would miss.  The truth is, this story is about more than Jesus breaking rules.  The boundaries of the first century understanding of God and God’s children are crashing down at this moment.  We have grown accustomed to The Gospel being a story of encounters–encounters with God, encounters with each other, encounters with those that believe the way we believe, that can encourage us on our journey.  But in this story, all those pre-set notions of what encounter means begin to fail.  Jesus enters a new phase of the journey.

Up until this point, Jesus’ encounters have been pretty ethno-centric. But, here, the Gospel begins to spread to other ethnicities and other peoples. It begins to include an encounter with the world.  In this story, we finally realize that there is more than what we know, more than that to which we have become accustomed, more than what we can really imagine.  This was the point when we encountered a Savior that was not just ours, a Messiah that did not come just to release us from our tightly-held little world, a God who is created all there is and called it good.  Think back to this moment when you realized that Jesus was indeed the Savior of the World.

This is something that we so easily forget.  Our social language turns to self-preservation, to making ourselves great, and we forget that the needs of the world our ours.  We forget that if we have a voice, we are called to speak out for others.  We forget that if we have a heart, we are called to care what happens even to those that we do not know.  Because just because we do not know them does not mean that they are not our family, that they are not part of us.  The pictures are hard.  We’d rather turn and go back to our comfortable lives and hope and pray that terrorism and tyranny and thoughtlessness never touches our borders.  But the problem is that these pictures are ours.

I posted this before the United States sent 59 Tomahawk missiles to Syria in retaliation, or to prove a point, or just to exercise muscle.  Now, honestly, I would like to say that I’m a pacifist.  I think it’s the right thing.  I think it’s the Gospel thing.  I think it’s what Jesus would have done.  I think it’s the God thing.  But I’ve also walked through Auschwitz.  Surely, we need to do SOMETHING.  So, I guess we did.  I pray that no one was hurt.  I pray that it doesn’t go farther.  But I also pray that we will PAY ATTENTION to others’ needs.

Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib Province, Syria (Ammar Abdullah/Reuters)

Our Lenten journey is not just about preparing our neatly-constructed lives to be interrupted by the Cross.  This Lenten journey calls us to a broadening, a widening, of our minds and our lives.  On this journey, Jesus is gathering us to the Cross–all of us.  So think back to the point when you realized it was about something more, that Jesus was not just your personal Savior, but the One who came to set us free–free from our tightly-bound existence, free to become fully human in unity with all the world, all of God’s children, all of Creation.  The Cross means that we are called to realize not only that there is more than what we see, but that WE are indeed responsible for it–Tomahawks and all.

To belong to a community is to begin to be about more than myself. (Joan Chittister)

As our Lenten journey narrows toward the gates of Jerusalem, let it also be a journey that widens our minds and opens our hearts to all that God is and all that God desires for you.  Let our journey widen to include the world.

Grace and Peace,


A Feast of Fools

April FoolLectionary Text:  1 Corinthians 1: 18-20 (21-24) 25

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?..For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

What an odd day this is!  We have set aside and declared an entire day dedicated to nothing but pranks and fools and all out silliness.  I supposed with everything going on right now, a little silliness is not such a bad thing!  If someone were looking at this world from afar, they would surely think us more than odd. Precursors of our April Fools’ Day include the Roman festival of Hilaria, held on March 25th (which, interestingly enough, is also the Feast of the Anunciation, exactly nine months before the Feast of the Birth of Christ) and the Medieval Feast of Fools set of December 28th, when pranks are played in Spanish-speaking countries. In Iran, jokes are played on the 13th day of the Persian new year (Nowruz), which falls on April 1 or 2.  This day, celebrated as far back as 536 B.C.E. is called Sizdah Bedar and is the oldest prank tradition in the world still alive today.  In Poland, Prima Aprilis (“April 1st”, in Lat.) is a day full of jokes.  Hoaxes are prepared by people, media, and even public institutions.  Serious activities are usually avoided.  This conviction is so strong that the anti-Turkish alliance with Leopold I, signed on April 1, 1683, was backdated to March 31st.  Did I say that we were an odd bunch?

So what is this “foolishness” of which Paul writes?  He was really the only one that really ever dared to speak of the foolishness of the Cross, the veritable foolishness of God.  And he’s right, because in terms of the world, the Cross IS utter foolishness.  The world says “mind your own business”, Jesus says “there is no such thing as your own business.”  The world says “buy low, sell high”; Jesus says “give it all away.”  The world says “take care of your health”; Jesus says “surrender your life to me.”  The world says, “Drive carefully–the life you save could be your own”; Jesus says “whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  The world says “get what you are due”; Jesus says “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Essentially, if someone were looking at us from afar, they would think us all a bit odd.  After all, who gives up what they’ve gained, what they’ve accomplished, changes one’s life completely, and follows someone to an instrument of death?:  That, indeed is just foolishness in terms of this world.

In his book, The Faces of Jesus, Frederick Buechner says that “if the world is sane, then Jesus is mad as a hatter and the Last Supper is the Mad Tea Party…In terms of the world’s sanity, Jesus is crazy as a coot, and anybody who thinks he can follow him without being a little crazy too is laboring less under a cross than under delusion.” (Buechner, The Faces of Jesus, p. 61)  Think about it.  It is really pretty ludicrous.  (At first glance, it probably resembles an April Fool’s prank.)  It’s actually downright absurd.  Here in this season, we are called to enter Christ’s suffering, called to follow Christ to the Cross.  Are we nuts?  That could get someone killed!

And yet, there…there up on the altar every single Sunday is that beautiful gleaming cross.  Yeah, we all have them.  We polish them, we wear them, and we hang them on our walls.  I’ve seen them on bumper stickers, billboards, tattoos, and cupcakes. (You know, I guess you can put anything on top of a cupcake!)  But maybe sometimes we clean it (the cross, not the cupcake) up too much.  Maybe we have forgotten the stench of death emanating from it or the sight of a mangled body hanging from it.  Maybe we have forgotten the foolishness of it all.  Maybe it is just too much for us.  After all, we’re good Methodists, people of the “empty cross”.  But it’s NOT empty; it’s full of life–life born from death, life recreated from despair and hopelessness and the end of all we knew.  But this promise of life did not just pop out of a cupcake.  It did not just appear in the midst of an array of carefully-placed lilies one Easter morning surrounded by spirited renditions of Handel’s best music.  God took something so horrific, so dirty, so unacceptable and recreated it into Hope Everlasting.  Daniel Migliore calls it God’s greatest act of Creation yet.  But in terms of what we know, what we expect, even what we deserve, it is an act of utter foolishness.  Who writes this stuff?  In terms of this world, it is fool’s gold; but in terms of God’s Kingdom coming into being, it is a veritable Feast of Fools because it takes us and turns us into the wise.  But perhaps wisdom is not about worshipping a gleaming, pristine cross but rather looking at an instrument of death and seeing the life it holds.  I know…none of it makes sense.  If it all made sense, we wouldn’t need it at all.

And, truth be told, the Scriptures are full of accounts of the wise and powerful ones mocking and getting mocked, never really understanding this lowly carpenter’s son born of a scared young girl from a no-name town.  But notice that it is the ones who are considered fools–the outsiders, the shunned, the ones who do not measure up to society’s standards–that get it.  So, maybe you have to be a fool. After all, don’t you think that those who followed Jesus to the Cross thought to the very end that something else would happen.  Perhaps they thought that at the last moment, someone would jump up and yell “April Fool’s”, implying that it would have been the most tasteless prank ever.  But that’s not how it happened.  Jesus died that day and in that moment, Creation changed as the Sacred and the Holy poured into this foolish world.  And we, we have been gathered in, into a Feast of Fools.  Thanks be to God!

Faith, you see, is largely an intuitive process, not a summing up of “data.” Faith listens to life and hears something new. Faith drifts off during a sermon and lands on new terrain. Faith sings a new song and suddenly knows more. Faith feeds a stranger and responds differently to one’s own meal. Faith makes wild leaps, risks strange thoughts, dashes outside the box, asks foolish questions, hears unexpected voices. Little by little, faith’s “whole being”grows deeper and deeper, broader and broader.  (Tom Ehrich)

On this Lenten journey, think what it means to play the fool.  Think what it means to let go of the wisdom of this world and take on the Wisdom that is God.  (No joke!)

Grace and Peace,


You, Resurrected


The Raising of Lazarus, Duccio de Buoninsegna, 1308-11

Scripture Text:  John 11: (1-16) 17-44 (45) (Lent 5A)

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

This has always been at the very least a strange story to me.  I think I once had some image of Lazarus walking out of the tomb, with tattered grave clothes dangling and an unbearable stench following him, and then dressing and sitting down for a nice fish dinner with Jesus and his sisters.  But the Scripture is not here to show us magic or to in some way depict a God that with the veritable snap of a finger can just put everything back like it was before. (Well, I don’t know, I supposed God CAN, but why?  That’s not really the way God works.  God has something much better in store.)  This story is taken as a precursor to Jesus’ own Resurrection.  It was Jesus’ way of promising life.  But, ironically, it is also the act that turns the tables toward Jesus’ demise.  Here, standing within two miles or so from Jerusalem, the journey as we know it begins to wind to an end.  Even now, the Sanhedrins are gathering their swords and the night is beginning to fall.

So, why would Jesus do that?  Surely he knew what might happen.  Surely he knew how many red flags his presence near Jerusalem had already raised.  And what about Lazarus?  Who was this mysterious man whose main part in the whole Biblical story is to die and be raised?  Why do this with someone as seemingly insignificant as this?  Maybe its because Lazarus is us–you and me.  Maybe the whole point of the passage is not to point to Jesus’ Resurrection but to our own.  Do you think of yourself as journeying toward resurrection?  Do you believe this?  Sure, we talk about journeying to God, about journeying to the Promised Land, whatever that might be, and about journeying to where God call us.  But do you think of it as resurrection?  Do you think of yourself dying and then raised?  Maybe each of us is Lazarus.  Maybe that’s what Jesus wanted us so badly to believe and live.

We talk a lot of this Lenten journey as our journey to the Cross, our journey with Christ.  So, does it stop there?  I think the story goes on.  Jesus is Resurrected.  Maybe that’s what Jesus was trying to show us–not that we would be somehow plucked from death in the nick of time and not that God really has need of putting our lives back together like some sort of Humpty-Dumpty character, but that we, too, are journeying toward resurrection, toward new life.  Lent is the journey that shows us that.  Lent shows us that the journey is sometimes hard, sometimes painful. Lent shows us not that death will not claim us but that death will not have the final word.  Lent shows us that our faith tells us that there is more.  Lent shows us what it means for Christ to unbind even us–even you and me–and let us go.  Through all of life’s transitions, through all of life’s sad endings, through all of life’s unbearable turns, there is always a beginning.  There is always resurrection–over and over and over again.

There was, indeed, something I had missed about Christianity, and now all of a sudden I could see what it was.  It was the Resurrection!  How could I have been a church historian and a person of prayer who loved God and still not known that the most fundamental Christian reality is not the suffering of the cross but the life it brings?…The foundation of the universe for which God made us, to which God draws us, and in which God keeps us is not death, but joy.  (Roberta Bondi)

As our Lenten Journey begins to turn toward Jerusalem, what does it mean to be a part of it?  And what does it mean to envision you, resurrected?

Grace and Peace,




An Ambiguous Journey

AmbiguityScripture Text:  Genesis 2: 15-17

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

Well, you know the rest of the story.  The first couple ate from the forbidden tree (which, most artistic renditions notwithstanding, was not depicted as an apple tree) and the ambiguous journey began.  Life is full of ambiguities; faith is full of ambiguities; and this season of Lent is fraught with ambiguity.  We begin the season in the desert wilderness where Jesus, the fully human one, the one who we so try to emulate in every way is tempted.  Jesus, tempted?  Are you kidding me?  Then the ministry begins as he gathers this sort of wild and motley crew of followers who seem to be somewhat confused and completely inexperienced.  They then spend a couple of years hanging around this lake in the region of Galilee essentially trying to get people to wake up and look at themselves and their lives and in the process, they continually antagonize the religious establishment.  This would be the religious establishment of Jesus’ own religion, the one into which he was born.  And then after years of ministry, the scene moves to Jerusalem, to the holy city, the place of the Temple.  And there, there Jesus is tried, convicted, and put to death.  Ambiguity doesn’t begin to describe it.  The journey we take is not a straight and pre-paved pathway.  It is fraught with questions and the perils of ambiguity that challenge us and call us to go deeper into the journey and, at the same time, to go deeper into ourselves.

But Ray Anderson says that “spirituality is the ability to live with ambiguity.”  In other words, perhaps it’s MEANT to be this way.  It is part of our faith journey.  It is the way that we wind our way to God.  Because, think about it, what if the story was different?  What if the first couple had not eaten of the forbidden tree and had instead spent their lives living in some sort of utopian paradise we affectionately call “The Garden”?  Sure, they would have been good children and all but they never would have grown.  They never would have grown to understand God not as a rule-maker but as one who calls us forth into life, ambiguous though it may be.  And if Jesus had not been tempted?  Well, what good would that do us?  We would never even understand the perils that humanity faces.  And what if the disciples had been a group of impeccably well-trained rabbinical seminary professors who had no need to massage their own needs and egos? (No comment.)  And what if the religious establishment had just accepted Jesus and his new way of seeing and the Passion would never have transpired and Jesus had died of old age sometime in his late 40’s.  What if the journey were straight and predictable?  Well, we wouldn’t need faith.  We wouldn’t need to grow.  We would be wonderful little rule-followers with no need for spirituality. Hey, we probably never really would have gotten out of the garden.  And think what we would have missed!  Maybe this is a good lesson to remember in this strange time in which our society and our politics seems to have landed.  Maybe the ambiguities should prompt us to journey, to question, to change.

Lent (and life) is indeed ambiguous.  There is wilderness and city, darkness and light, temptation and grace, repentance and forgiveness, anointing and betrayal, dust and wine, death and life.  Maybe Lent is an ambiguous journey to teach us how to live, to teach us how to traverse the ambiguities that are part of our faith journey.  Ambiguity is not bad.  So many of us try to rid ourselves of it, try to “nail down” what life and what God means.  Is that really what you want, a God that you can explain, can “nail down”?  Do you really want a God that holds no mystery, no wonder, no awe?  And what would you do if everything about this God was explained and understood?  What if you DID have God all figured out?  Where would you be then?  You would miss this ambiguous journey, a journey of searching and questing, of broadening and growth, of corners and turns around which you will always find life anew.  You would have no need for faith, no need for spirituality.  You would have no need for God to lead you through this ambiguous journey.

Meaning does not come to us in finished form, ready-made; it must be found, created, received, constructed. We grow our way toward it.(Ann Bedford Ulanov)

On this ambiguous journey, think of those things that you have found anew.  Think of the life that they give.

Grace and Peace,


Fast Track

FastingScripture Text:  Deuteronomy 8:3

[God] humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Lent is typically a season for fasting, for self-emptying oneself  of whatever overfills us.  And yet, fasting, is something that postively eludes most of us who live in this world of instant gratification and excessive consumption.  In fact, “going without” is completely anathema for us so fasting has more than likely been shoved to the back of the storage closet with all those other archaic things. After all, we want to believe in a God that blesses us with showers of abundance rather than a God that might on some days expect us to go without.  I’m afraid many of our somewhat fragile identities have a lot to do with what we have.  What if, instead, we were defined by what we could do without?  (That’s purely rhetorical…I have no answer!)

But fasting has for centuries and centuries been a part of just about every religious tradition.  The ancient Hebrews (and those of the Jewish tradition today) observe a special period of fasting as a sign of repentance on the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur.  Fasting was a sign of mourning or act of reparation for sins.  It was both a way to express repentance as well as prepare oneself inwardly for receiving the necessary strength and grace to complete a mission of faithful service in God’s name.  This was the reason that Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness–not to prove something but to prepare himself for a life of ministry.  Fasting is neither abstinence from nor avoidance of, but a journey into a place that’s empty enough to fill with what God offers.  Essentially, it is allowing oneself to die to self and to our selfishness and rise again in Christ.

So, why is it so hard?  Maybe it is not merely because we have a hard time going without (although I think that is a large part of it.)  Maybe it is because we are expecting it to produce results that it is not meant to produce. Fasting is not meant to make us lose weight or make us decrease our sugar consumption or whatever else you’re trying to cut back on.  Fasting is not meant to be manipulated in that way. It is meant to clear rather than produce.  Think of fasting as response–a response to grief or sin, a response to graciousness or thankfulness, a response to a God who calls us out ourselves.  But perhaps fasting is also about return, a return to our own self before we developed all these needs, before we stored everything away, a return to the self that God created–with proper perspective and an awareness of what basic needs actually are. If you look up the physiology of fasting, you will find that a body can survive for 40 days or more without eating (Well, isn’t THAT interesting?)  In that time, depriving a body of food is not starvation but rather a burning of stored energy.

But I have to say that fasting has never been a huge part of my spiritual discipline.  Being the good Methodist that I am, I have always maintained that I can “add” to my Lenten practice and do the same thing as fasting.  I’m not real sure, though, that that is the case.  Maybe, even metaphorically, I am only storing in excess, building and building for the future, trying to take as much of God’s abundance as I can and stash it away.  Maybe in this 40 days of fasting, we are indeed called to let something go, to return to who we are before we stored it all away–the “leaner”, fuller, more focused self who knew that our basic daily needs would be met and that the abundance of God was really about allowing God to fill our needs and fill our lives and show us the way.  In other words, we are called to give up our self-imposed “fast track” for a new and freeing Fast Track, a journey toward God with God.  And once our bodies and our minds and our souls (and our houses!) are cleared of all the stored excess, we will be open to what we need–the very breath of God who breathed life into us in the beginning and each and every day–if there’s room.

Fasting makes me vulnerable and reminds me of my frailty.  It leads me to remember that if i am not fed I will die…Standing before God hungry, I suddenly know who I am.  I am one who is poor, called to be rich in a way that the world does not understand.  I am one who is empty, called to be filled with the fullness of God.  I am one who is hungry, called to taste all the goodness that can be mine in Christ.  (Macrina Wiederkehr)

We are more than halfway through our Lenten journey.  Many of you may already be fasting from something for Lent.  But why don’t you try giving up those things that are not blamed for your weight or your high blood sugar, but the things that get in the way of your self, that person that God created you to be.  Try giving up anger or resentment or greed or worry.  Try giving up the need to be in control.  You may come up with others.  Just try it through the week-end and if that works out, make it part of first your Lenten discipline and then your Life discipline.

Grace and Peace on this Lenten Journey,


Deep Waters

Diving into watersScripture Passage:  Ephesians 3: 18-19

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

What does it mean to “go deep”?  (No, I’m not talking about a football pass.)  Depth is a hard thing for many of us to master.  Depth takes time.  Depth takes patience.  Depth is allowing oneself to essentially go beyond where one is comfortable standing.  So many in our culture tend to be content to sort of skirt along the shallow surface, always in a hurry, always trying to move forward, never standing long enough to be able to sink into the depths that call us forth.  Standing in shallow waters feels safe, controlled.  But going deeper gives one insights into newness.  It is a return to the place from which we came.

Think about the earth.  Its surface is beautiful, more beautiful than any of us can even articulate.  But beneath that beauty is oh, so much more.  Just dig into the earth a bit.  That hard sun-bleached dirt on top gives way to that first level of top soil.  It is darker, more full of nutrients.  But dig a little deeper.  Dig into the rich dark earth that rests below that, capable of holding what is good longer, capable of holding water long past any drought.  It’s the reason that deep watering systems are so optimal.  The slow watering drives the water down deep into that rich soil underneath that is capable of holding the water.  And the slow watering encourages the roots of the plants to go deeper, to rich down beyond themselves, beyond what they were initially capable of doing, to be watered continuously by the deep, dark earth.  But there is more beneath that.  Beneath all that dirt are layers upon layers from which we have learned to extract nutrients and fossil fuels that give us energy and much, much more than what we could ever obtain from the surface that we see.

Our life is no different.  What we see is beautiful but it’s just the surface.  We need to go deeper, to delve into the rich, dark earth that brings us life.  I have to admit that our religious traditions often do not encourage us to do that.  We seem to be more worried that the church service might run a little long.  So there seems to be some level of contentment at just skirting along the surface of the meaning of faith.  Maybe it’s because it’s easier.  Maybe it’s because it’s safer. Maybe it’s because deep down (pun intended), we’re all a little afraid of the unknown or the questionable or the difficulties that deep discussion brings about.  Maybe we’re afraid we’ll be left with more questions than answers.  (ACTUALLY, I can tell you that will probably be the case.)  And I don’t really think that we should shy away from going deeper for fear that those new to the tradition will not “understand”.  I think we all want to be challenged.  We want to learn.  We want to traverse the never-ending nuances that make up our faith, the pathways that lead us to God.  But it takes time.  It is not a really good sermon or an overnight retreat project or a short-term study series or even 36 weeks of Disciple I.  It is rather a lifetime of swimming downward into the deep waters of one’s soul.  There is no bottom but rather an infinite depth that we are called to traverse, growing as we go.

The Lenten season is by its very nature one of descent.  It is one of going deep, journeying deep within oneself to a place that is often successfully hidden from view.  It is the way of transformation, a search beyond what we know.  When I was little, I think I had this image of God high above me, looking down.  I assumed that I was supposed to rise above where I was.  I have now realized that I must go deep.  God has in all of us a deep well of living water.  We are called not to just perch on its edge and look down into it, but to plunge deep, immersing ourselves in the questions of faith.  Our finite minds cannot truly wrap themselves around the unfathomable depths of God’s love.  So we have to live it, breathe it, become it.

Every question in life is an invitation to live with a touch more depth, a breath more meaning. (Joan Chittister)

On this Lenten journey, think of those places where you are just skirting the surface of life.  Do not hold back.  Go deep, dive into the deep waters of God. 

Grace and Peace,


The Pilgrim’s Way

the_journeyScripture Passage:  Genesis 12: 1

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.

Have you ever noticed that no one spends much time standing still in the Bible?  The story begins with God breathing life into Creation and, in essence, making us a home, a place.  But it doesn’t take but a few chapters before we are on the move–aliens, immigrants, sojourners.  It’s pretty clear that God calls us to be pilgrims on this Way, traveling light and gathering all of Creation together as we move. And along the way, we hear lots of words like “sent forth” and “go” and “follow”.  We are called to be a people on the move (at least figuratively and probably even a little literally), essentially migrating from one place to the next, from one way of being to another.  And most of the time, those that came before us moved freely through their journey without a map, without real plans or even real provisions.  Most of the time they were just journeying to a place they did not know but that they knew that God would show them.

So what has happened to us?  How did we become so planted? How did our lives become so safe?  It was never that way in the beginning.  The journey of faith was a wildly unpredictable one into places unknown. The journey of faith called its travelers to be pilgrims in the wilderness, sojourners through foreign lands.  Oh, we like to think of ourselves as journeyers, particularly we Methodists who readily espouse Wesley’s notion of faith as movement, as, to coin his words, “going on to perfection”.  (Gee, there’s that “go” thing again!)  And yet, we will do everything possible to avoid getting driven to the wilderness or left without everything that we need (or at least the latest technological gadget).  We tend to separate ourselves from discomfort or inconvenience or chaos.  We stick to our plans.  But wildness and chaos often creates a certain energy.  It wakes us up; it makes us pay attention.  This week on the Today Show, Al Roker is doing some sort of “Tech Out” series, meaning not that he techs out but that he TAKES tech out.  He’s going analog and old school and EVEN vinyl.  (Remember those words?  They existed before we became so technologically advanced.  On Monday, he looked at vinyl (yes, vinyl) records.  The interesting thing is that a company that was about to go belly up a few years ago is searching for old LP printing machines because the sale of albums has surpassed the sale of streaming music this year.  Who would’ve thought THAT?  (I mean, because we’re so advanced and all.)

Maybe on some level we really DO crave wilderness.  Maybe that’s why Lent begins in the wilderness.  Have you ever noticed that when you travel you see a lot more than when you’re just driving to and from work?  Is it because there’s more to see?  Or is it that when one is unfamiliar territory, one is more aware of the surroundings, more open to seeing things as they are?  Seeing oneself as a pilgrim, a wanderer, is the same thing.  It keeps our eyes open and our minds alert.  We notice God’s Presence; we notice God’s People; we do not see ourselves as “owners” or even squatters.  We see ourselves as part of Creation.  We begin to see that we are called not to arrive but to journey.  Our faith IS the journey.  So Lent begins in the wilderness and asks us to travel deep within ourselves, beyond our preconceptions, beyond our assumptions, beyond our plans.  We go, open to what God has to show us along the way. (So, maybe it would help if we put down our smart phones just for a little while so that we could see the world!)

It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work. And when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. (Wendell Berry)

So as we make this Lenten journey, what do you see?  What are you missing?  Where are you being called to go? (And does that have to involve your cell phone?)

Grace and Peace,