Allowing Time

This Wednesday, right in the middle of Lent, 9 months before Christmas, we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation – the commemoration of the Angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary when God said, “Have I got an opportunity for you!”

Well, not verbatim, perhaps. But still, while we are in the middle of our Lenten fast, nearing Holy Week, some of us still snowed under (looking at you East Coast), we recall the moment when God impregnated Creation with something to be born, something that will grow, someone who will change the world…slowly and yet in an instant.

We might admit that this plan of salvation when God became human could have been a bit speedier. Being gestated and born; growing from a tiny baby to a man; having that man preach, heal, and be present with humanity for a three year active ministry as recalled in the Gospels (of John, anyway) – this takes time. Then, after all that time, we get into Passiontide and Holy Week. And finally, finally we reach the Triduum and the big moment of Resurrection.

Which we think is the end, but it isn’t, because God always has more to say. So another 50 days later, and Pentecost. Then another 2000 years, give or take a few, and God is still creating. Not exactly instantaneous. God, it seems, enjoys working slowly.

We, however, get impatient if our web pages don’t load in milliseconds and our prayers aren’t answered with certain time limits.

So one can see how our impatience and God’s long view of time can clash on occasion. We humans like things to happen yesterday, in an instant, and on our time. And when they don’t, we take matters into our own hands, usually forcing a resolution and growth that isn’t sustainable or healthy.

The great shifts, the great healings, the great times of forgiveness and reconciliation, and the great redemptions and births of something new into our lives rarely happen in an instant. They take time to develop, to take root and be nurtured into fullness and strength. Rushing them can lead those very plants (and things) we so desperately wanted to grow to sprout quickly and wither under the forces of this thing called life, if they ever sprout at all.

God knows this. We often forget.

In our Lenten fast, God reminds us of the value of slowness with the Feast of the Annunciation. Yes, there are miraculous moments where life is changed in an instant. Mary was not pregnant, and then she was carrying within her God Incarnate. Jesus was dead, and now he is living. In an instant.

The impact of these instantaneous holy events in our selves and souls takes time to gestate and grow. The Holy may suddenly be present, but we need time to move from the newness that is present into the fullness and birth that will come. And to move through that time, we will experience times of uncertainty, instability, and even pain. Growth and change rarely come without some discomfort. I don’t know why, but there you go.

Teilhard de Chardin, in his beautiful prayer, reminds us to trust in the slow work of God. I think its words capture a truth of the Feast of the Annunciation and even Easter…and all the times in our lives when God is shifting us, moving us, and changing us as we prepare to birth something new into our lives.

As we near the end of our Lenten time and prepare to enter into Holy Week, don’t skip over this moment of Annunciation, where we are – again – reminded to give time – God’s time – for the work of God within us and our communities. We are again reminded to allow ourselves to trust in the slow work of God. We are again reminded to give God the time God needs to let the things planted within us to grow and develop in holy time rather than at our expected demands.

 

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

 

 

Easter is coming…but not right now

Easter is coming.

Not that much of the eastern United States would quite believe that now, between the snow and record cold. Easter is a spring event, with flowering crosses and greenery.  But the truth remains, spring always follows winter. The seeds resting under the dirt and ice and snow, the buds invisible to our eyes, the streams of sunlight that claim a bit more of the day – yes, spring is coming.

But not right now.

That’s the way the world works. We ease from the darkness and chill of winter into the life of spring by inches, maybe even minuscule movements foreword imperceptible to our eyes. But we do move. Right now, we have almost an hour more daylight than we did during Advent. And by Holy Week, we will have even more daylight. The barren ground will thaw. Plants with begin to grow. Life is going to live in a new way.

Easter is coming, but not right now.

We are just beginning Lent, the holy season of preparation. We are preparing our soil for the life that is growing. We are preparing our lives for the Resurrected Jesus. We are preparing our communities for the gift of the Resurrection. But preparation is hard, often inconvenient work.  Why not just skip Lent, ignore it, act like it’s something from an ancient church that we don’t need now?

But we do need Lent. We need to prepare. We need gradually to move from the stasis of winter to the vigorous new life of spring. We need time to reflect and to sit with our selves and souls, exploring what needs to grow and what might need to be transformed by God. Much like trying to run a marathon without ever running around the block, Lent offers us a way to exercise and stretch our selves and souls in small and great ways. And the Church, in her wisdom, encourages (strongly) that we do this as a community. Because Lent is a communal experience, as is Easter.

Easter is coming, but not right now.

So take this time to prepare. Embrace the days of Lent as darkness begins to slide away. Revel in the charge of the church to spend time in repentance and in reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word. Indulge your soul in nourishing it in prayer and worship, both alone and with community. And get ready…

Because Easter is coming, but not right now.

Our Journey into the Ordinary

Well, we’ve arrived. Fifty days (or actually a few more) after we first encountered the empty tomb; fifty days of thoughts, reflections, images, questions; fifty days of the reality that the exuberance of Easter Day does give way to the day in and day out of ordinary life – all which ask us to engage Easter as more than one day in the course of our year, but truly a way that changes us as we live into the great miracle and mystery of the Resurrection, day in and day out.

Thank you for journeying with us and for reading and sharing reflections. Hopefully, we’ll be back next year. And on occasion, posts will appear during the year so you know we’re still here. Many of the contributors have blogs and regularly write in other forums, so follow their posts in those forums to continue your reading relationship with them.

We now enter into the season of the year called Ordinary Time. We often make a great effort to say, “It’s called ordinary after ordinal, the use of numbers for the Sundays, not because it’s ordinary.” But why not both? After all, life is often ordinary. We get up, make our coffee, do what needs to be done for the day, return home, rest, and do it all again. Ordinary mortars the big moments of our life together into a whole. Jesus did some of his most amazing teaching while doing quite ordinary things like eating, walking, even spitting. Jesus’ ministry was actually quite ordinary as he was with people, day in and day out. The extraordinary events of Holy Week and Easter gave new meaning to the ordinary – for Jesus and for us.

The Christian year moves us forward and around in the magic of our ordinary lives. Our lives change for better and for worse; grief and joy move through our lives; exciting and boring things happen. Sacred seasons come and go. Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and Easter have come and gone, and they will come again. Our lives will be different, maybe in small ways, maybe in significant ways, when we sing the seasonal Easter hymns, pray the prayers, and gather again for the next fifty days of fabulous. But in those days, we will live, we will be with Jesus on our journeys of faith. Some moments will be extraordinary, and many will be ordinary.  God will be with us, journeying with us through them all. Day in and day out.

For that, we give thanks. Amen. Alleluia!

 

 

Fearless (A Bonus Post!)

READ
But recall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and persecution, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion for those who were in prison, and you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting. Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. (Hebrews 10:32-35)

REFLECT
This week we commemorated the feast of the Martyrs of Uganda (read more here: http://lectionarypage.net/LesserFF/Jun/Uganda.html]) and this passage from Hebrews is the first lesson. It is a fitting lesson for a martyrs’ feast day. For most readers of this website, the idea of martyrdom will seem remote and incomprehensible. But the reality is that even in our time, there are Christians whose faith is a witness in danger, and martyrdom is a real possibility.

Thanks be to God, most of us will not be called to offer witness at the expense of our lives. We should not, however, imagine that the Christian’s task is to dwell in comfort and safely. Discipleship is meant to be costly, filled with risk. If being a Christian seems easy and safe, we’re not doing it right.

In this Easter season, we should practice being fearless. After all, we celebrate the fact that God’s love is stronger than death. What then should we fear?

What does a fearless faith look like? Willing martyrs are one sign of a fearless faith. So are truly prophetic preachers, Christians who enter dangerous places to care for those in need, and even more mundane acts of love and faith. The practice of forgiveness after great wrong requires some fearlessness. Believing that a dwindling congregation could end its life — or change dramatically to grow again — requires fearlessness. Every day we are given some choices. Will we have a confident, fearless faith? Will we take the easy path or the risky path? What kind of disciples are we?

-Scott Gunn

RESPOND
Do one fearless thing today. Share what that’s like on your Facebook page, or email a friend, or talk with someone. If we could all encourage one another in bold faith, the world will surely change.

Windows into Heaven

Read
When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs– in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

`In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ ”

Acts 2:1-21

Reflect
The fiery Holy Spirit has lit on many heads over the centuries, blazing up brightly in some hearts and burning into a deep and persistent bed of coals in others. In some, the Spirit has produced the sheer holy boldness to confront and transform worldly injustice or to dream unimagined possibilities. Pentecost in many places means glorious music and exuberant additions to
the divine drama of worship‹kites and banners, balloons, and even birthday cakes! In some medieval cathedrals the reading of the great story of the tongues of fire was accompanied by showers of rose petals falling from tiny windows in the ceiling. As the spirit falls afresh on us, what are we receiving through that window into heaven? What fire is being lighted in you, what passion, what gift for transformation? How will that fire join with others to light up the world with possibility? The creative and mysterious gift of language is often a window for discovering the interrelatedness of many human tongues and the varied insights on the world they offer, like the fact that beloved and believe both have roots in what we give our hearts to. It works in Latin, too: credo is that which I give my heart to. Creed is not so much about wrapping our minds around impossible-sounding ideas as it is inviting the heart to let the Spirit work within. May the window open wide enough for a sparking spirit to set the tinder in our hearts alight.

-Katharine Jefferts Schori

Respond
What have you given your heart to this Easter season? Take a picture or tweet your credo with #credo

Presiding Bishop Schori’s reflection is from her contribution to Seeking God Day by Day, a collection of daily reflections and devotions.  It is available for order from Forward Movement. Click here for more information.

Trust in the Divine

Read
The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

Reflect
Our journey from Lent through Easter is nearly compete. We have collectively moved from death and despair to new life and hope; from crucifixion and darkness to resurrection and light. As with any pilgrimage, we come to the end of the journey transformed. We are at a different place emotionally, spiritually, and physically from where we first embarked and we are indelibly changed by our pilgrimage.

Every journey has its defining moments, critical times when we decide whether to forge ahead or turn back and it is these moments of introspection that define our lives as Christian people. When we realize that we could not have endured except by the grace of God, and when we realize that we could not have kept going except with God’s help, we have given ourselves up to the journey and fully placed our trust in the divine.

And that’s the triumph of Easter – we’re not the ones responsible for this passage. We cast our hopes and fears and sins upon Jesus Christ and he carries us through to the other side. Barriers are broken, obstacles are breached, and we open ourselves to transformation through relationship with our Lord. Jesus is the vehicle by which we pass over to the bright light of divine mercy and truth, allowing us to bask in the warm glow of resurrection glory.

Amen. Alleluia. Come Holy Spirit.

-Tim Schenck

Respond
Reflect upon the past 50 days. How have you grown spiritually? What truths have emerged about your life? About your relationship with Jesus?  About your interactions with those in your midst? How will you carry these truths into the next 50 days and the rest of your life?