Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Leaning Into Lent

                                                                   (google images)

(This is a re-post of a previous deleted post from April, 2016)

Sometimes I spend too much time leaning over and looking through the rear-view mirror into the past. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Although the celebration of Lent and the events of Easter this year are over, I’m still thinking about them. When I started out I thought, another Lent, another year. Then I read two things: One is a passage from a book and another a passage from a newspaper article.
At church we worship and honor God. It’s a corporate gathering…but even during the Mass when we walk into the upper room to receive Communion, we seek to lessen that distance between the alter and the first pew. We want a closer connection at each worship, a thread that acts as a personal bridge to God.

Things Seen and Unseen by Nora Gallagher, page 81.

"The geography begins in the desert. In the crucible of heat and sand, Jesus was trying to figure out, as Frederick Buechner writes, “what it meant to be Jesus.” In the weeks that follow Ash Wednesday, the Gospel readings recount what Jesus did afterward. He traveled: to a Samaritan city, Sychar, where a woman waited at a well; to a blind beggar’s village; to Bethany, home of Martha and Mary’s brother, Lazarus. He walked from town to town, sat down at the table with tax collectors and gluttons, talked to women, healed on the Sabbath, used the wrong fork. It is not at all clear to me that he knew who he was, as in “I’m the Son of God.” Rather, it looks more like he discovered, step by step, more about himself as time wore on, as he walked, and waited, and healed”.

Boy oh boy.
 Jesus learning to be Jesus. I never looked at it like that - so I spent some time during Lent thinking about that passage, and I’m grateful to Nora Gallagher for those words. Before this past Lent; Him going into the desert for 40 days, tempted, rejecting the temptation, all contained lessons, but it’s difficult to relate to those things in a personal way. In a way God wants.
We exist between the hour and the minute hand of life’s clock; inside the strictures of  defined time and space. After reading that, I passed through Lent grappling with not only Jesus trying to be Jesus, but Jim trying to be Jim. I’m getting old. I know the story of Easter, the Risen Christ, I don’t need a “3 yards and a cloud of dust” lengthy Easter sermon on those aspects of Lent. I don’t need to give up things, I just need to learn to give up Jim. So I just wanted to concentrate on Lent and leave Easter and the Resurrection for another year…until I read a Wall Street Journal article by James Martin, “The Challenge of Easter” published on March 26th.
Son of a gun.

               “If you don’t believe in the Resurrection, you can go on living your life while perhaps admiring Jesus the man, appreciating his example and even putting into practice some of his teachings. At the same time, you can set them aside because he’s just another teacher. A great one, to be sure, but just one of many.
               If you believe that Jesus rose from the dead, however, everything changes. In that case, you cannot set aside any of his teachings. Because a person who rises from the grave…needs to be listened to. What that person says demands a response.
               In short, the Resurrection makes a claim on you.”

Martin goes on to explain that in Luke, Jesus carried his suffering and his wounds through that mystery of Resurrection. He enticed the apostle Thomas, when he met him after his death on the cross and Resurrection, to touch the wounds on his hands and chest wound from the soldier’s sword. Jesus carried those wounds through his earthly death and beyond. He wanted Thomas and others to see evidence that the pain stayed with him. Martin states, “In other words, he remembers his suffering. So when one prays to Jesus, one prays to someone who knows, in the most intimate way possible, what it means to live a human life. One also prays to someone who is not only God but man. Who understands you.”
In your past, present, or future circumstances have you ever found yourself slouching on the outside of life’s window? Clinging for purchase on the other side of the glass? Your hands and face pressed against that opaque surface struggling to look in? Or known anyone who has? Martin reminds us that Jesus is  standing next to us in our pain and fear, his wounded hand reaching out, his invitation of love extending to us.
In this life, I don’t know of any teacher who can do that. Even a good one.

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