Ash Wednesday 2018

Ash Wednesday 2018

The ashes of love.
Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday.
The power of the Resurrection is that love is never wasted, despite everything that comes with love, it is never wasted.

The conviction of the Cross, on the other hand, is that we waste so much of the love in our lives, and we waste so much of our lives by not choosing love.
The ashes of love.
The palms from the triumphal celebration of the arrival of Jesus, Palm Sunday, are burned and today those ashes are rubbed into our faces.

We love him then we crucify him.
It is what we do. It is how we do things. Love makes us vulnerable. Something in us strikes out at anything or anyone who is vulnerable, who disarms us.

Why do we do that?
We joke about giving up fun for Lent, and turning it into some kind of a sanctified diet plan, I do that all the time, but what Lent is really about is how we ultimately forsake and betray all that is love.
Why do we do that?
We love when it is easy.
But when love becomes something difficult, something that disarms us, that causes us to relent, to forgive, to change and to give beyond reason…ashes, ashes we all fall down.

A holy Lent.
The symbolic gestures of self denial are a good thing.
Go deeper than that. Confront the power of sin in ourselves that causes us to choose not to live in love.

That ash heap of all the ways we say no to love, Jesus rises from those ashes and turns them into the yes of Resurrection.
A season of repentance.
Of turning from and turning toward.
Of forsaking no and taking up yes.

Love disarms us and makes us vulnerable and we will be betrayed and hurt. It is how things work. Jesus shows us that there is more. Much more. A bid you a holy Lent.

The Return of Wonder

The Return of Wonder

I was a strange teenager.
Well, all teenagers are unique strange creatures, some more than others.
My strangeness came out in studying science and theology, not together, but I studied both separately.
Some of my science journals had strong connections to secular humanism and atheism. Some of my favorite people were indifferent or openly hostile to any expression of divinity or faith.
My Dad always thought that was funny, as I studied the Bible and theology with my atheist literature stacked up nearby.

The world is worthy of attention and care. That is what they both came down to, science and theology.
For theology, creation reveals God. And for Christians, the humanity of Jesus reveals both the fullness of God and the fullness of humanity all at once.

For Science, this world and the Universe is the subject of sustained and disciplined curiosity and wonder, and I would say devotion as well.
As God says, “it is very good”.
I have never really tried to make science and faith agree. I know many spend a great deal of time and energy trying to do that or trying to make them disprove each other.
I just don’t know.
What I do know is that they share an intense attention and devotion to the world and to life.
And I share that devotion and I admire that shared vigilance and wonder at the goodness of all that is.
Wonder. Awe.
Sometimes they break into our lives, a transfiguring moment.
Today we finish the season after the Epiphany, that began with the Wise Men following a star and it ends with Jesus blazing in light in the company of Elijah and Moses. Peter, James, and John are appropriately overwhelmed and blither nonsense in their terror. Words simply fail.

It’s like Jesus becomes the wick of the candle that burns with God’s glory.
Creation, the creature, the humanity of Jesus wicks up the burning light of God and the world beholds.

The world is like that moment, God shines forth through the stuff of life.

Like our stained glass here at Grace, a dull piece of rough glass suddenly becomes something transcendent when the sun shines through, crackling and popping with silent lightning.

And we bask in that light that shines upon us.
Wonder. Awe. Words fail.
When we are at our best we are creatures of wonder and awe. Both science and faith call us back to that essential vocation of being human.

When we lose that devotion and attentiveness to the wonder that is always seeping and dripping through life, we become blind and bitter. The human community becomes exhausted with ideology, pitching science against faith, everything against everything.

Ideological exhaustion and the transfiguration.
Sickness and cure.
The return of wonder. Light shining through the glass once more.

Faith comes to us through people, through relationships.
God’s word is spoken by human tongues.
God born from the flesh of Mary, the mother of God.
God blazes through the life of the singular humanity of Jesus.
A resurrection that is physical.
Sacraments that carry the real presence of Jesus, more than symbol and metaphor, something more than what was before.

Creation, the world, the universe, the firmament, the material stuff of all that is, it is worthy of our attention, devotion and care.
God shines through it. It is very good.
We are strange creatures of distracted attentions.
But when we attend to that great love that lifts up all that is, then…then…well words just fail.
I’d better stop there before I start to blither.

Higher and Higher

Higher and Higher

I have a worm in my ear.
It conjures up a gross image. Ear worms.
Most of us get them.
You know when a song or turn of phrase gets stuck in your head and you sing it over and over?
An ear worm.
I pretty much always have one, they just sort switch one for the next one.
I should keep a list just to see how long my play cycle is.
This week it’s been an old song, “Your love, is lifting me higher, than I’ve ever been lifted before…” I’ve heard several versions over the years.
Jackie Wilson, Rita Coolidge, Rod Stewart.

We all need lifting up.
As a child, I would walk to school, a mile through some woods. Once I was really late and I was running and I wiped out.

My matchbox car metal lunch box exploded. My snoopy milk thermos rolled down the hill. I tore the knees of my pants, bloodied my hands.
This lady walking her dog saw me fall. Never saw her before or after that.

She pulled me up, brushed me off, put my lunch box back together, wiped the tears from my cheeks and sent me on my way.
I was only six years old at the time, but that memory has endured.
It’s the first memory that comes to mind when I think of all the times and all the people who have lifted me up when I was down and bloody over the years.

We see an image and foretaste of resurrection in Mark’s Gospel today. Jesus lifting Simon Peter’s mother in law up by the hands, healing her, she then serves her guests and visitors.
What is Resurrection like?

Some of the oldest Christian images and iconography are of Jesus lifting Adam and Eve up by their hands from the prison of death. The image is sometimes called The Resurrection, sometimes it is called the Harrowing of Hell.

Being lifted from the prison of death and hell.
Then serving our guests and visitors, the ministry of hospitality.
What is resurrection like?

How many times have we witnessed the power of the resurrection, of Jesus at work in the world? The lifting up by the hand. How many times have we missed what was happening?

Lending a hand. The hand is quicker than the eye, there is more going on than we see. A revealing is opened up before us of the ultimate fate of all creatures. We just thought it was being polite when it was really the glory of God pouring into the world. Oh my.
What does Resurrection look like?

It turns out we are surrounded by it all the time. The witness of faith is everywhere. Faithfulness abounds when we think we have fallen, our knees torn, our hands bloodied, we’ll never get up again. A hand lifts us up out of that grave.
Sometimes we become that hand that lifts someone else up.
A truly holy thing, to become part of the witness of faith, to be part of the power of resurrection at work in the world. To be lifted up to in turn lift up others, to serve the guests and visitors in our lives.

A truly holy thing to be part of that great love that is lifting the world up h-i-g-h-e-r and h-i-g-h-e-r. The power of resurrection. It’s everywhere. Like a song you can’t get out of your head.