Sunday, March 25, 2007

Judas or Mary?

I recently started watching a new TV series on Fox Monday nights at 9pm called “The Riches.” This show, starring Eddie Izzard as Wayne, and Minnie Driver, as Dahlia, tells the story of a family of Travelers. These gypsy like people travel around in RV’s and steal for a living.

The opening scene in the pilot episode of this dark comedy shows Wayne and his kids at a high school class reunion. Wayne has posed as another guest, a comedian, who is supposed to entertain the crowd. In the meantime he and the kids are stealing out of coats, pockets, and purses. They make a hilarious get away just before they would have been caught. Next we learn that they are on their way to pick up Dahlia, the wife and mother, who is being released from prison for stealing. From here they end up back at the family gathering place where the entire band of Travelers has gathered. The show takes a dark turn with the release of Dahlia. While Wayne is often funny, Minnie Driver brilliantly portrays Dahlia as someone on the edge of sanity.

Dahlia is a member of the royalty of this vagabond group of travelers and the large extended family treasurers her. All is going well until the clan leader tells Wayne and Dahlia that their daughter has to marry a dim witted young man from another family. Wayne refuses and the family flees looking for a better place to live. But trouble will follow them; it’s not so easy to get out of this family of thieves and travelers.

On the road Wayne and Dahlia come upon a terrible car accident. In a desperate effort they try to save the injured couple, but cannot. There is a scene played exquisitely by Izzard as he ponders what to do next…all this emotion crosses over his face in a moment’s time.

And what he decides to do shapes the plot for the series: they take over the identities of this couple, a very wealthy couple who were just about to move into a new home in a new town. It’s perfect; no one knows the couple or anything about them. It is easy for them to move in and start a life…

Whether or not I continue to watch the series remains to be seen. But I am intrigued by any show that attempts to unpack the complexity of human life and the fine line we walk between making the right decision and the wrong one. It’s hard to know if Wayne is a bad person or a good person who has just made some bad choices…

And that is our question for today: can you think of a time in your life when you had to make a decision but you weren’t quite sure what the right thing to do was?

I mean the right thing to do in terms of what God wants for us: to make decisions that improve our relationships with God, with one another, and with ourselves. At the very least to avoid decisions that hurt others, hurt ourselves, or hurt our relationship with God.

Maybe this kind of decision was as simple as choosing to let someone into the lane in front of you instead of being impatient with the traffic? Maybe this decision was about being nice to that person who really annoys you? Maybe that decision was about being a truth teller - you know some one is doing something wrong at work or at school, but do you tell or not?

Think of a time when you have encountered something like this in your life. Now, you don’t need to share the circumstances but can you share what it felt like to face such a decision?

Maybe you only came to realize that the decision was good or bad after you had already lived into it…what did it feel like then, to face the consequences of a bad decision?

Were you able to admit it to yourself? To others?

Well today our Gospel reading compares the decisions and actions of Mary and contrasts them with the decisions and actions of Judas, each making significant decisions.

Judas’ decisions are covert and secretive. He acts like he is doing one thing, when he is actually doing another – he says, “couldn’t you have sold that nard and used the money for the poor” – but what he is really doing is embezzling from the money that ought to go to the poor. He is a thief.

And now Jesus has given him the opportunity to rethink his actions, to do something different. And what does he do? We know; we know the rest of the story…

But at this moment in time, in the context of our reading, Judas may not know exactly what he will do. Maybe he will spend the next few hours or days pondering his plan…maybe he is already certain what he will do…Of course we know he makes a bad decision. He sells Jesus to the Roman soldiers and causes Jesus’ death. He does this for money. Perhaps more money than he has ever seen before. Perhaps he thinks it will be great to have money, that all of his problems will be solved, that he will be happy…but then, unable to live with the consequences of this decision: the loss of his friends, the death of Jesus, the reality of what he has really done… he takes his own life.

But Mary... She makes some very different choices. She has been a disciple, a friend, a follower of Jesus for some time. Jesus is her friend, a family friend to Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus. In fact, if we had read one chapter earlier we’d know that Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead and they are having a meal together. Somehow Mary knows that Jesus’ time is short, that who he is will cost him his life. He is too kind. He is too accepting. He loves every one equally. He threatens the leaders of the community and he threatens the Romans as well. He will not be able to continue this way.

And knowing this Mary comes to anoint Jesus. She brings the best of oils.

When I was a massage therapist I loved using good oil with a gentle fragrance. Good oil glides on better and feels wonderful. A gentle fragrance lingers with you and reminds one of the treatment. It’s like whenever we are anointed using the chrism oil. This oil is scented with a wonderful fragrance, made of ancient herbs. We use it for all our baptisms and we use it whenever we anoint one another with prayers for healing. It carries with it the scent of healing that comes from one of our deepest primary sacraments the new life of baptism.

It is this kind of healing that Mary offers Jesus. It is a deep healing that is not about curing the body of illness, but of restoring the soul to its relationship with God, of filling us with a profound sense of peace. The peace of Christ is just this, a fragrant sense of deep inner peace.

The traditional Christian understanding of who Jesus is and his relationship to God tells us that Jesus would not need healing, the spirit of Jesus is divine, of God, he is already whole.

But Jesus is also human. And the human in him would be filled with some anxiety, some trepidation of what was about to come to fruition. In the Gospel of John Jesus knows who he is and what is going to happen, he is the Word of God expressed into this world from the beginning of creation, speaking God in all the earth. But now, the Word of God is also a man about to face a terrible trauma.

And Mary cares for him. Her actions are not hidden or secretive but open and public. In the Gospel of John, all things that are of God are things that happen in the light, in the open. Mary is of God and she is meeting God’s son and caring for him in a time of need.
Mary rubs Jesus feet with her hair and takes into herself the essence of Jesus, the same essence that fills the oil with fragrance.

In their two decisions Judas and Mary portray for us the extremes of human life. One makes a clear decision that costs him his integrity and his life – he is lost. When we make decisions that cause a brokenness of relationship with God, or with other, or even with our selves, we too are lost. We too live in darkness.

As we approach Holy Week and the climax of the Christian story we will hear again and again about the lost and the broken: the disciples who deny Jesus and run away, the people who misunderstand and make bad choices. Bad choices that break relationship with God by denying God’s love poured out in Christ. Bad choices that break relationship with Jesus by running away and denying the friendship. Bad choices that break relationship with self by failing to be a person of integrity.

And then we will have Mary. Who builds relationship with God by caring for God’s love. Who builds relationship with Jesus, her friend. She stays by his side. She is there at the crucifixion and the cross. She never leaves him. She comforts his mother. And she comes to anoint his body once again in the tomb.

The power of the Christian story is one of ongoing possibility; no matter how tragic our lives, no matter how lost we are, God is with us. And sometimes God’s love is revealed to us through the person standing right next to us, caring for us. Like Mary caring for Jesus. All of his friends abandon him, but not Mary, she stays. And by staying she represents the love of God to him. Decisions like that are risky. But God is like that, loving us no matter the cost. Lucky for us, God finds someone through whom to pour out God’s love. Someone willing to make the right decision, one that builds healthy relationships, willing to do the hard work this takes.

So, this week, as you live out the Christian story of life and faith, as you make decisions in your every day life, pay attention to the tough ones, the decisions that make you pause and wonder, what do I do now? Think about Judas and Mary. Aim to make decisions that will bring you closer to God. Closer to other humans, caring deeply for others in our lives at work, school, or the neighborhood. Strive to be like Mary, open and public with your faith.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Lent 4C: Abundant Grace (Luke 15:11-32)

The survey we took last Spring, and reviewed a few weeks ago, told us many things about ourselves, one of them being that we, as a parish, do not know how to talk about our faith.

A group of us last week participated in the Magnetic Church Conference, which took a good look at Evangelism. We looked at our biases and prejudices and fears of evangelism. And we began to see evangelism in a whole new light, as the ability to be comfortable sharing our faith with others in a way that is authentic to who we are.

It’s about conversation, relationship, about being ourselves and affirming others.

Then, I read an article about helping congregations grow in their ability to share their experience of faith by inviting the parish to dialogue during the sermon time. When all the emphasis for talking about faith is the responsibility of the clergy its no wonder the rest of the people don’t know how to do it.

So, today I’m going to initiate something new in the sermon time.

We are going to practice talking about our faith. And I assure you that it won’t feel laborious or scary. It begins with a question. And I invite you to respond as you feel called...but by the same token, I hope a few of you respond so I’m not left hanging here by myself…

Whenever we preach this way the question we ask will inevitably be connected to the heart of the Gospel and will hopefully help each of us see how we are living lives of faith, in the ordinary way we live our lives, and how we can have a conversation about faith with out it being too churchy.

So, here is the question for today:

How many of you have had an experience of being deeply loved just for being who you are? Raise your hand if you’ve had this kind of experience ever in your life.

Now, what did it feel like?

Anyone care to share, not the circumstances per se, just what it felt like to loved in that way….

Well, that’s what we’re looking at today: what it feels like to be loved for being exactly who we are. If we read verses 1-3 in Chap 15 of Luke, the ones just before our reading today, we would hear that as usual, two groups of people are gathered around Jesus: the faithful and the unfaithful, those who follow the ancient Jewish laws and those who do not, the sinners.

Some of the people are grumbling. …they are grumbling and confused about Jesus. They wonder how Jesus can be so welcoming and accepting of all people. They are especially concerned about the way Jesus cares for sinners its as if Jesus is approving and sanctioning their behavior.

Jesus doesn’t see it in exactly this way. He is not concerned with who is a “sinner,” in terms of the “law”

Jesus is concerned with who is lost.

Because for Jesus sin is about what is in your heart. Sin is how we hurt other people. Sin is about broken relationship in all its various aspect: broken relationship with God, broken relationship with others, broken within our selves.

So he tells them this parable….

“There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will be coming to me.’ So he divided his property between them.”

In this story we come to see that both sons are lost – one because he wanders far from father and the other because he has been hurt and is angry.

“A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything…he began to be in he hired himself out...(but) no one gave him anything.”

The lost son has wandered far from the father/God, squandered everything, and is starving –

a metaphor for our lives

when we wander far from God, we too end up starving,

a spiritual starvation…that is the sign of broken relationship with God…

“I will go to my father…and I will say to him, treat me like one of your hired hands…”

“But while he was still far off the father saw him and was filled with compassion…”

The father runs to his son, and immediately all is forgiven. So, too, when we, like the son, turn back to the father/God we will be received unconditionally…all we need to do is initiate the turning back and the father/God, who has been anticipating our return will come running to us.

“…let’s eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found…”

The feast becomes a metaphor – not only does God rejoice when we return, loving us for being exactly who are – but our spiritual lives are nourished and fed when we work on our relationship with God.

The elder son returned from the field and saw the celebration. He said to his father,

“Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours comes back, who has devoured your property...(you celebrate).”

The oldest son has been deeply hurt by the selfish actions of his brother, he is feeling the consequences of broken relationship between them…and now he is hurt by his father’s apparent acceptance of that behavior…yet another broken relationship…

He could just stuff his feelings under, and pretend that all was ok, he could mask his true feelings, but that would only lead to broken relationship with himself, he wouldn’t be true to his own feelings of hurt and pain….

So, the oldest brother summons up his courage and tells his father how hurt he is.

He may anticipate that the father will fail to understand.

He may worry that he will be shut down for his feelings.

We all worry that we will be rejected for telling someone that they have hurt our feelings….

“Then the father said to him, ‘You have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.”

The father/God hears the older son, and understands. Although they are celebrating, this is not the end of the story. Later the brothers will need to work out their broken relationship, one will need to ask for forgiveness and the other will need to forgive…

The father/God models this ability in the way he willingly and with great generosity loves both his sons equally, he does not play favorites based on behavior, they are both his sons.

This story leaves us standing on holy ground, in a space between the sacred and the ordinary.

God loves all humanity equally…just for being who we are.

We are not perfect.

We do mean things that hurt other people.

We get our feelings hurt and may not say anything about those hurt feelings.

But this parable points us to think about the ways we hurt others

and the ways we have been hurt

and how we might be different,

how we might behave with the same kind of love that God offers.

A love that shares feelings

A love that forgives

a love that understands our hurt and pain.

The father/God running to meet the younger son is a symbol of divine grace. God pours out God’s grace to all who turn to God, to all who will receive it. This kind of grace is radical, it is indiscriminate, it is freely given.

In the reality of human life God works in and through us, we are the face of Christ to others in this broken world. We, as Christians, are called to bring forth God’s healing love into the broken places of our lives.

So, our assignment for this week, as we strive to live the gospel and share our faith, is to look for opportunities to love others with a deep and radical generosity that might surprise them. And pay attention to any occasion when are generously loved by another. This might be an occasion of forgiving someone, or of asking for forgiveness. It might be an occasion of telling someone how much they mean to you.

It might be an occasion of standing up for yourself and honoring your own feelings, giving another the opportunity to apologize. It might be doing something kind and unexpected for another. It might be finding a way to be gracious to the very person who annoys you. Whatever the occasion, remember the graciousness with which God loves you and strive to love with that same kind of gratitude and radical hospitality.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Lent 3C: Fertile Soil Fertile Souls (Luke 13:1-9)

Being There, a movie from 1979 starring Peter Sellers, tells the story of Chancy Gardiner. His real name is Chance, he grew up secluded in a house in Washington DC the apparent offspring of a very wealthy eccentric named Jennings. Chance is always fed on schedule, by the long term cook who has known him all his life, is allowed to garden in the small plot in the walled in backyard, and dressed in expensive handmade suits. His only knowledge of the outside world comes from watching television. But when Jennings dies, and no provisions are made for Chance’s up keep, the attorneys kick him out and sell the house. Chance walks out of the house for the first time in his life and encounters a street gang, which he tries to make go away with a remote control TV changer, and then, in a freak accident ends up in the home of a wealthy but dying industrialist and his wife, played by Shirley McLaine.

McLaine’s character misunderstands Chance when he says his name is Chance, the Gardner, she thinks he says Chancy Gardiner. Over time the characters in the movie find great wisdom in Chancy, his simple minded statements about gardening are applied to life as if they exemplified the greatest wisdom.

He says such things as:
“First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.”
- On economics (actually on gardening):
"In a garden, growth has its long as the roots are not severed, all is well, and all will be well in the garden."

The movie is a political satire commenting on American culture; of people persuaded by appearances, Chancy wears very expensive clothes and in 1979 they couldn’t Google him to learn more, these high powered wealthy people judged him on his appearance and found wisdom where there may only have been a simple minded innocence.

The movie reminds us that we are a people looking desperately for meaning. We want to know that our lives have a purpose.

We just don’t always look in the right places…

Often we want to believe that we can create that plan ourselves and direct the course of our lives. First college, then a career, then relationship, marriage, family, house, fulfillment.

I went to college in 1974, I was 17 years old, having graduated from High School a year early. I chose to major in Agriculture. I had this naive dream of having a small farm and raising all my own crops and a flock of chicks. I thought it would be a lovely life, raising kids, raising food, living simply off the land. But then, I was only 17 and it was 1974.

Within a year or so I changed my major, and then I changed it again.

The naiveté of childhood grows up and we have to face the reality that life is full of change, and sometimes bad things happen to good people.

People get sick.

People lose their jobs.

We struggle.

We wonder where God is.

We wonder why bad things happen.

And sometimes we may wonder why God is doing this?

Is this God punishing people?

In the 21st century acts of terrorism and natural disasters catch our attention most. And in the midst of these disasters some people will point out that somehow “they,” whoever the injured might be, deserved it….This kind of thinking, blaming the problem on some action of the person or community, begs the question asked by the Galileans: “Will this happen to us too?”

To this, Jesus responds:

“Do you think that these Galileans suffered this way because they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you, unless you repent you will perish as they did…”

As always, Jesus points us to stop looking at others, and to look at our selves first.

What are we doing?

Regardless of whether are lives are going well or are filled with challenges, we are called to look at own lives, judging, if you will, where we are, and not judging others. Yes, bad things happen. No we can’t prevent every thing that happens.
And, no I don’t think God is doling out punishment for our benefit.

Bad things just happen.

So, remember, to repent means to turn to God. Jesus is telling the people to turn to God. To turn or return to God, because if we don’t we will loose our grounding in life, we will wander lost and confused. We will “perish.”

With God at the center of our lives we can be rooted even in the worst of times.

God may not cause the bad things to happen to us, but God will help us through them.

In Lent each of us are called to ponder if God is at the center of our lives.

Or, do we need to turn back to God?

Do we need to work at ways to have God be an active presence in our lives?

In times of strife this is all the more challenging. But it is also the time we are most likely to invite God in.

This morning Jesus reminds us that we are not to wait until problems come to nurture our relationship with God. We are to do this all the time. No, I tell you unless you repent you will perish as they did…

turn and return to God.

Seek ways to be firmly rooted in God.

“For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?”

Nurturing our spiritual lives, our lives of faith, needs to be an ongoing process. We are shaped and formed as Christians over a life time. The purpose of our intentional formation is to give us deep roots into fertile soil from which we can produce good fruit.

Deep roots of faith.

Deep roots of connectedness.

Deep roots of belonging to this faith community, to these people.

Deep roots that can sustain us and make us stable.

The roots of trees grow all winter long, that’s why we plant them in the fall, so the roots have time to grow. While the world seems cold and barren, covered in snow, the roots of trees are growing deeper into the ground, stronger, more firm. These strong roots are then able to support the rest of the tree as it blossoms in the spring and sends out green leaves and produces fruit.

The winter of our souls are also times for growing deeper roots in order to make us stronger, healthier, more stable and to prepare us for spring, to prepare us for producing fruit.

As a faith community we are living in winter. We have many worries and concerns. I encourage us to see this as a time to grow stronger roots, to become more stable, and to prepare for Spring.

“Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.”

As we are seeing, this reading is a parable, which means that it has multiple layers of meaning for us to unpack.

In the end I think I’ve become a gardener of sorts. I’ve had small gardens in my back yard and raised lettuce, cucumbers, green peppers, the usual Midwest crop. But mostly I think I have been the gardener of my spiritual life. And I have also become the gardener of the spiritual lives of a congregation, a garden of people.

One thing I know, from a life time of gardening…it isn’t just about the quality and expertise of the gardener. That helps.

But gardening is about much more, and a good produce depends on other factors.

“Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.”

So, consider that we are all the gardener, the caretaker of the fig tree. And the fig tree is a metaphor for our spiritual lives. We are supposed to nurture our own spiritual lives, to make ourselves available to God. We do this through prayer, through worship, through bible study, through our Lenten program, singing, helping others, and through our relationships with one another…it is in and through our relationships with others that we come to know God in ways that are most rich and full.

These are ways we fertilize our faith and bring nourishment into our lives.

But it also means we need to take action, to do something.

Nurturing our spiritual lives doesn’t just happen.

It requires us to be active in seeking out ways to grow.

So, even as I am a gardener, each one of you is ultimately responsible for how you respond to the opportunities offered to nurture your spiritual lives. Each one of us is responsible for our own spiritual life. And, each of us working together creates the environment for a healthy fruit to be produced.

We need to make the time to prune and fertilize our souls,

our spirits,

our lives,

in order that we can produce healthy fruit.

As a church congregation the healthy fruit we produce will manifest as an energy around vibrant and dynamic ministry, a focus for us, which will both nurture our faith and help the world around us. The church can offer us the soil in which to grow, the medium into which we can thrust our roots, the source of water and nutrients to nourish our spiritual lives.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Sermon Lent 2C: Oriented, Disoriented, Reoriented (Psalm 27, Luke 13:22-35)

Two particular components of worship are emphasized in our liturgy this season of Lent: singing, especially the use of Taize, and our healing service.

Taize music comes from a monastic community in France begun by Roger, a young man with tuberculosis in the early 1940’s. This was during WWII and Roger, a citizen of Switzerland had a dream to live in France, where his mother was born, and help young people affected by the war. He bought an abandoned house in Taize, along the demarcation line that divided France. It came with some buildings on the property and soon he began the process of setting up a community to house refugees. But within a few years it became too dangerous and they had to flee. A few years later they were able to return and have lived on this property ever since.

The community of Taize is now a formal monastic order made up of men from all denominations and backgrounds. A women’s monastic community set up near by and the two communities do a lot of work together. Taize models compassion and hospitality in a truly ecumenical sense. It is a community dedicated to helping the truly poor – poor in spirit, poor in body, poor in life.

The hallmark of the community is their simple worship marked by singing repetitive chants. These chants, made up of short phrases sung over and over invite the singer into a meditative place of prayer. Singing the words over and over allows us to let go of the hymn book, let go of the words, and open ourselves to God’s presence. The hymns are easy to learn with phrases taken from scripture. The one we will sing (at 10:00) as we head to the font for healing contains variations of the words of Psalm 27, which we prayed this morning:

O Lord, hear my prayer, O Lord hear my prayer, when I call, answer me.

The church, softly lit with candles invites us into a space where we can be present to God in the simplicity of the season, reinforced by the simplicity of the words. And God can meet us in that place of our inner most being that yearns for God.

The Psalms, sung or said, offer us a pathway into scripture and into the tradition of people searching for God. Walter Brueggerman, a scholar and theologian who has written extensively on the psalms breaks the psalms down into three categories:

psalms of orientation,

psalms of disorientation, and

psalms of re-orientation.

By these he means that psalms of orientation speak of God and as a known entity, the psalmist knows God and is confident in God’s presence.

Psalms of disorientation speak of a loss of God, a fear of abandonment, the psalmist is lamenting,

Oh God, where are you?.

Our psalm this morning is a psalm of disorientation.

O, Lord, hear my prayer, O Lord, hear my prayer…is a lament, a plea for God to be present.

Come, and listen to me…

these are words of one in sorrow,

in pain,


And they remind us that we yearn most for God when we are lost, feeling low and unwell.

The psalms remind us that every occasion of being lost and disoriented is followed by a new place of being oriented, a re-orientation in God. Because God never abandons us but journeys with us and in the process we are changed. But even as God journeys with us, God does not force God’s way into our lives. God waits for us to invite God in.

Our Gospel points us in that direction with the question, “will only a few be saved”? The fear is not, will I be saved, but how many will be saved? The Gospel points to a process of excluding some and not others. This kind of thinking can lead to panic and greed. “Lord, we will knock on the door and you will say,”

“I do not know you….”

We wonder, what does it take to be known by God, known by Jesus??

Jesus responds:

“There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, and you will throw yourselves out.”

Did you hear that…

You will throw yourselves out…

It is we who throw ourselves out, fearful and feeling unable to do make it through the narrow way, we will throw ourselves out.

How does this happen? How do we throw ourselves out?

Listening carefully we hear Jesus say to the people, “strive to enter the narrow door”.

His response is not about how many, his response addresses the struggle of following Christ, of being a person of faith. This scripture tells us that we throw ourselves out, when we self-select, when we choose to do something else instead of striving for the narrow door…

The narrow door is a metaphor for the spiritual journey, the challenges we face just trying to be good Christian people who love God, love neighbor, and love self, with the radical hospitality that Jesus showed.

Strive to enter the narrow door.

The image of a narrow door tells us that the process of living a life of faith will be a struggle. We may feel as though the conflicting demands of life are pressing in on us, squeezing us.

The irony is that when faced with such a struggle the best thing one can do is let go.

Rather than force the issue or tighten up the best way to get through is to loosen up.

Those who open themselves to the struggle, will find peace in the process.

They will find God, and they will be known by Christ because the struggle will change their hearts.

They will come to know that in all their efforts to squeeze in,

it is in the letting go of anxiety,

letting go of anger,

letting go of fear,

that enables us to get through

and God to come in.

The irony of the squeeze is that it is an opening not a tightening…

From this open place in our spirits, in our souls, in our hearts, it is the grace of God that gets into us, not we who get into God.

God waits for us to invite God in.

The invitation from us comes in the effort to let go and yet squeeze through the narrow door. Maybe it helps to think of our spirits as pliable like water able to be big or small thick or thin, able to adapt to what is requires. Frozen water is not pliable, liquid water is…In this flexible way we need to shape and form ourselves as a people of faith, which actually causes us to open up to God, to trust God, and to follow God.

Someone once asked Fritz Pearls, a psychologist, if he was saved. His response was, “I’m not worried about being saved, I’m trying to figure out how to be spent.”

It’s not about saving, and its not about being narrow, it’s not about being frozen solid…its about opening up, being expansive, and it’s about spending…(and I don’t mean money, I mean)spending ourselves in the name of God…

I’m trying to figure out how to be spent…

The struggle through the narrow door comes with a cost, at the expense of opening our inner most being to God…

Spending all of ourselves in the effort is the price of being saved by a God who loves us.

This God yearns to be in us and with us and part of us.

Like the words of our Taize hymn sung at the Offertory:
Within our darkest night, you kindle the fire that never dies away…

When God resides in our being it is a fire that sustains us through the darkest night. And as we sing it at the Offertory we add this prayer of assurance, “Within in our darkest night you kindle the fire that never dies away..”to that which we offer back to God, our bread and wine, our money, ourselves…

In the season of Lent we are invited to ponder the ways we seek to enter the narrow door.
And one way we do this is to examine the broken and spent places in our own lives,

the sorrow,

the pain,

the hurt,

the grief,

the anxiety,

the stress,

the strain,

the burdens,

the illness,

the disease,


in examining them to give them over to God.

In Lent we are invited to come forward to be anointed with the chrism oil, to open ourselves to God, to be healed of that which wounds us. This holy oil was used at our baptism to mark us as Christ’s own forever. That mark, the sign of the cross, leaves an impression on our foreheads, a pathway to the spirit. In the healing prayer the oil follows this same pathway to remind us of who we are and whose we are, a beloved of God.

God yearns to take our burdens, to lighten our load, and bring us into a place of wholeness. The prayer for healing is an invitation for us to open our hearts to God and give over our burdens and let God in.

In the prayers and the anointing we can be healed of our burdens. In the healing and the anointing, in the laying on of hands, all of our hands, and in the prayers Jesus comes to us, like a hen gathering her brood under her wings.

To love us.

To heal us.

To lead us through this life.

Strive to enter the narrow door

Let our lives be spent in loving as Christ loves.