Friday, February 24, 2012

Start Over


The Lake, on this 24th day of February, is free of ice. This picture and the one on the last blog were taken last week when what ice left on the Lake was being driven down into our cove by the wind out of the northwest. I didn't want to let the season pass without recording this picture which I find to be an optical illusion. The ice is flat, but it looks as if it is being swept up into a sort of plateau.
I also wanted to use the disappearing ice as a symbol of Lent. "Lent" is an old English word for spring, related to "lengthen," referring to the days' growing longer. It's a time of new life, of starting over. God melts our hard hearts.
The story of Noah and the Flood is a story about God's willingness to always start over with our human race. No matter how much sin we've spread around, no matter how much of a mess we've made of God's world, God never gives up on us. This is the eternal truth captured by the myth.
In Genesis 9:1-17 God is talking about a new creation. He says to Noah and his sons, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth." This is exactly what God tells the Man and the Woman in the first creation story (1:28.) God tells Noah and his sons how precious life is and makes the first covenant with human beings. God promises that the earth will never again be destroyed by a flood. God gives the rainbow as the symbol of this promise. Divine Mercy and Love is always ready to start over with mankind.
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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday


"Proclaim a solemn assembly.
Call the people together
Summon the community."
So commands the Lord in the passage from the prophet Joel that we read in today's liturgy (it overlaps with the passage that Jews use on Yom Kippur, their Day of Atonement.) All around the world today the community of believers gathers in solemn assembly to put ashes on ourselves. Not just as individuals, but as a worldwide congregation, we proclaim that we are sinners, that we have disfigured God's world, and that we intend to change.
It was customary in the time of the prophet for repentent sinners, not just to throw ashes on themselves, but to tear their clothes. In today's passage the Lord declares, "Come back to me with all your heart....Tear your hearts and not your clothes." God is looking for an interior conversion, a change of hearts and minds, a change of lives.
By putting ashes on ourselves we put ourselves as a solemn assembly at God's disposal. We bring each other to God and make our common prayer, "Change our hearts this time." Only God can melt the hard heart of the world.
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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Caribbean Sunset


"The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire." -- Psalm 29:7
I had put the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible on my Kindle before going on vacation and read this brilliant verse while walking around on our deck.
From where we stayed on St. Lucia we could see not only the Atlantic but the Caribbean. One evening we were treated to this dazzling sunset whose colors lasted a long time. Generally we have not seen many great sunsets in the Caribbean. I'm told you need polution to have good sunsets.
The expansive view we had, maybe 270 degrees, was a powerful reminder of God who is Unending Beauty. Thanks to that and to some of what I was reading, this vacation came closer to being a retreat than any I've been on with our winter group. I read "Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life" by Richard Rohr. He talks about how our spirituality changes as we get older. I found what he says in the later chapters about the second half of life echoes my own experience.
In chapter 10 this sentence grabbed me, "You learn to positively ignore and withdraw your energy from evil or stupid things rather than fight them directly." As I learn to do that, I find myself able to be joyful while much of what is happening in the church and in the nation seems "evil or stupid."
In the same chapter I found this wise observation: "Law is still necessary, of course, but it is not your guiding star, or even close. It has been wrong and cruel too many times." I came to this position on Church law a good many years ago and it has served me well.
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Monday, February 20, 2012

Atlantic Dawn


I'm back from my annual winter trip to the Caribbean with some friends. This year we stayed at a great house on St. Lucia that had this striking view of the Atlantic. I never got tired of meditating on the way these mountains, in the soft light of dawn, slid so gracefullly down into the ocean.
Now back in the hills of home, I am experiencing a soft winter, as I prepare for Ash Wednesday and Lent. One of the phrases that the priest can use when he puts ashes on our heads this Wednesday is "Repent and believe in the Good News." This is among the first things that Jesus says in Mark's Gospel. We heard the passage a month ago and we will hear it again this coming Sunday.
When I hear "Repent" the first thought that comes to mind is "Be sorry for your sins." The Greek word that is translated "repent," however, has a much broader meaning. It involves changing our hearts, changing our minds, changing our lives.
That's what Lent is for. Whatever I choose to do during Lent is meant to start me on a new way of living, something that will continue and grow after Lent is over. I don't want to give us something for Lent and then take it up again at Easter.
The most important resolution I can make is to get to know and love God better. I want to put myself at God's disposal so God can help me grow in my understanding of who and what God is. As that begins to happen, I can't continue to relate to God the way I used to. Prayer changes. Love grows. It's God's work. I will try to make my prayer the first words of a Lenten hymn, "Change our hearts this time."
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