Archive for the ‘Lent’ Category

Death before Birthday Cake 3-21-2021

Saturday, March 20th, 2021

In a Peanuts episode, Linus enters to find his older and perpetually crabby
sister Lucy crying bitterly.
“Mom promised me a birthday party and now she says I can’t have one,” Lucy
Linus, in his quiet, wise way, offers this advice: “You’re not using the right
strategy. Why not go up to Mom and say to her, ‘I’m sorry, dear mother, I admit I
have been bad. You were right to cancel my party. But from now on I will try to
be good.”
Lucy thinks about it. She prepares her speech for her mother. Then she
thinks about it some more. Finally, in the last panel, the stubborn Lucy cries, “I’d
rather die!”
Lucy cannot bring herself to embrace the faith of the Gospel grain of wheat.
To transform our lives in order to become the people we are meant to be begins by
dying to our own self-centeredness and obtuseness to the needs of others. Today’s
Gospel asks us what values and purposes do we want to center our lives on in
order to make them what we pray they will be; what we are willing to let “die” in
our lives in order that what we seek in the depths of our hearts “to live” might
grow and blossom; what we will put aside and bury in order that the justice and
peace of God may be established here and now. Jesus readily acknowledges that
such change is hard; the struggle to change is, in its own way, an experience of
dying—but such transformation can be an experience of resurrection, as well. The
Gospel of the grain of wheat is Christ’s assurance of the great things we can do and the powerful works we can accomplish by dying to self and rising to the love
and compassion of Jesus, the Servant Redeemer

We are all Nicodemus 3-14-2021

Friday, March 12th, 2021

Nicodemus is one of us. This Jesus has struck a nerve in this
teacher and “ruler” of the Jewish establishment. He has questions – but,
given his position, he has to stay under the radar, so he comes to meet
Jesus privately, late at night.
Jesus talks about God in ways that Nicodemus has never thought
of: a God of compassion rather than a God of order and law; a God of
forgiveness rather than a God of condemnation; a God of light who
illuminates the darkness; a God who constantly calls us back to him; a
God who is Father of all.
Nicodemus’ reaction to all of this is not recorded – but something
clicks. When the Jewish council plots to condemn Jesus, Nicodemus
will protest and defend Jesus; on Good Friday, when the body of Jesus is
taken down from the cross, Nicodemus will be there, with myrrh and
aloes (not an inexpensive contribution) to bury Jesus.
Slowly, Nicodemus moves from the edge of faith to the center
where the Spirit of God dwells. For Nicodemus, Jesus’ image of God is no longer just an ideal but a powerful sign of compassion and mercy
dwelling in our midst.
Nicodemus struggles with Jesus – as we all do. But he possesses
the grace of an open heart and mind and so comes to find God. He seeks
God – and finds God. And so can we.
We are all Nicodemus: We struggle to make sense of Jesus; we
wrestle with trying to reconcile his Gospel with the demands of our
world. In his questioning and confusion, in his fears and doubts,
Nicodemus is welcomed by Jesus with understanding and compassion.
Like Nicodemus, we are all seekers and Christ has assured us of his
company on our journey; like Nicodemus, we find ourselves coming to
Jesus in the middle of our darkest nights, seeking hope and consolation,
direction and comfort – and Jesus neither rejects us nor admonishes us,
but welcomes us. We discover the God that Nicodemus discovers: a
God of light who transforms our despair into hope; a God of wisdom
who enables us to re-create our Good Friday deaths into Easter
resurrections; a God of compassion who heals our broken spirits into hearts made whole. We are all Nicodemus. Amen

Enough 3-7-2021

Saturday, March 6th, 2021

Enough, she said sadly. This wasn’t working. They had some
wonderful times together and he was a nice guy – but it was clear, at
least to her, that each wanted different things out of life. So, with tears
in her eyes and a smile on her face, she wished him well and they parted.
Enough, he said with frustration. The project was going nowhere.
They were wasting valuable time and resources. There were too many
competing visions and goals – and egos. He decided to cancel the next
meeting; instead, he spoke one-on-one with each member of the team.
He reviewed what needed to be done to move forward. Then he and the
team member decided together whether he or she should continue
working on the project. A smaller, more focused and in-sync group then
brought the work to completion.
Enough, they said. It had been a long year, with both Mom and
Dad working at home and the kids attending classes online in their
rooms. Living in the same 3,000 square-feet of space 24/7 can’t help but
lead to impatience, bickering, boredom, and frankly, loneliness. So Mom and Dad announced a cleaning day. Every room of the house –
yes, including your rooms, kids – would be vacuumed, cleaned and
dusted. Clothes would be hung up (laundered, if needed), books and
games put back where they belonged, and stuff not needed would be
donated or tossed. Everyone worked together cleaning the kitchen and
shared family spaces. The day ended with pizza and a movie. Dinner
was restored as “sacred time”, with everyone assigned a role and
attendance mandatory. With a clean and orderly house, they found that
their attitudes had gotten a bit more positive. The started to be a family
again. Just enough…..
We all reach the point of “enough”: when we’re tired of accepting
less than what’s possible, when what’s right and just eludes us because
of selfishness and avarice, when we refuse to remain silent any longer
for the sake of complacency posing as “peace”. Jesus reaches that point
of “enough” in today’s Gospel: “enough” of the commerce and profit
that has degraded the temple – the time had come to restore the temple
as a place of prayer, of welcome and peace, of charity and kindness. What Jesus does in the cleansing of the temple we must do in our lives:
“enough” of the merchants who try to sell us on a set of beliefs and
values based on self-interest and greed; “enough” of the “money
changers” who shortchange us of the time and attention we want for
family and friends; “enough” of the useless, the meaningless, and the
destructive that make our lives less than what God created them to be.