In the Wilderness

First Sunday of Lent
So many moments fold into this one. 
 
A few weeks ago, my friend Shannon Schaefer wrote a stirring post on the baptism of the Lord. This week, we return to that moment in the first Sunday of a new season: Lent. 
 
In Epiphany, the baptism is a birth narrative, as Shannon wrote: “It’s a different kind of birth narrative, wherein the people of the story—past, present, future—are the family to which Jesus is born, and the prophet John becomes an unlikely midwife, handing us the Messiah. “
 
This week, as we begin the season of Lent and set our feet on the path towards the cross, this moment becomes a promise. The text reminds us of this, pointing back to the promise God gave to Noah in Genesis, “Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
 
As Jesus rises out of the flood of the Jordan, a voice comes from heaven and declares, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you, I am well pleased.”
 
On the first Sunday after Epiphany, Shannon noted that “this is the moment of incarnation for Mark’s gospel.” This is the moment when the “Word of God is once again placed in the hands of the prophets . . . the God who entrusts self to human tellings.”
 
On the first Sunday of Lent, this moment takes on a different sheen. It is still the beginning, but now it is the beginning of our path to Easter Sunday when the Word of God will be hanged on the Tree of Life. As a Catechist, I have had the privilege of walking along this path with many people over the last several years. Typically, I come across four kinds of Lenten travelers: those who are actively deconstructing the faith of their childhood, those who are actively reconstructing a child-like faith, and those who feel lost in the despair that so often comes between deconstruction and reconstruction. The fourth type are those travelers who have walked this path before and are returning to see it with new eyes. 
 
As we enter into the wilderness with Jesus, which traveler are you this year? These aren’t one-and-done phases—most Christians I know are usually actively reconstructing, deconstructing, despairing, or seeing anew some facet of their spiritual life. Oftentimes, all four things are going on at once—but usually one will rise to the top for a season. So, how are you embarking on this Lenten journey this year? 
 
As Stephen Fowl reminded us last week, the life of faith is like “an invitation to your own funeral . . . the closer we follow [Jesus], the more we will die.” Stephen goes on to say that “this is the death that leads to true life . . . our lives cannot be one constant demolition site.”
 
So, where are you this Lent? Are you actively de-constructing something which was once the Gospel-truth? Are you caught in the despair that so often accompanies this demolition? Are you engaged in the hard work of picking up the pieces and building something new? Or have you returned from your wanderings in another place to see your faith with new eyes? 
 
However you are engaging this Lenten journey, remember you are not alone. Jesus is in the wilderness with you, and so are we. If the darkness closes in and you feel lost and bereft of all hope, I pray that God will remind you of the covenant made with Noah – that never again would total destruction be visited upon the earth. In your darkest moments when the rain is pouring down and all hope seems to have fled, I pray that you will look up and behold a rainbow. In those moments, I pray that the words of God will come back to you and you will remember that you are beloved. 
 
May the peace of Christ go with you, wherever God may send you. 
May God guide you through the wilderness, and protect you through the storm. 
May God bring you home rejoicing at all the many wonders God has shown you.
May God bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors. 
Amen. 
 
Photo Credit: Luca Galuzzi

Birthing a Revolution

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Luke 1:26-38; 46b-55

There is an image of Mother Mary, created by Ben Wildflower, depicted with her fist raised and her foot on a skull. She is crushing a dead snake under her feet, and her face is stern. Her garb is simple, and a halo of stars encircles her head. The whole image is composed of black and white.

Around this image are inscribed words from the Magnificat: Fill the hungry. Lift the lowly. Cast down the mighty. Send the rich away.

This is no Madonna and child. There is no demureness or timidity to this Mary. She is not looking up to the heavens but is clearly focusing her gaze downward onto more earthly matters. The Queen of Heaven is not happy with the state of things, and in this image, she embodies her song with a deep power and conviction. Read more

The Power of Naming

Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

Exodus 1:8-2:10

Matthew 16:13-20

I share a name with both my father and my grandfather. Due to our family circumstances, I grew up mostly away from both men, seeing them only occasionally on summer breaks or special events. Sharing their name feels like a special connection to them, and to my family. 

However, I never thought much about the origin of our name. It was my grandfather’s and my father’s name, and that seemed sufficient for me. Until recently, I didn’t think to dig any deeper.  Read more

Distance Learning

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Acts 1:6-14

1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11

I work in a school, and on March 12 we dismissed students a day early for our Spring Break because the Governor had ordered all schools to close due to COVID-19. Of course, we had no idea that school wouldn’t be back in session for the remainder of the academic year. 

Since then, like many educators, students, and supportive families across the world, we’ve attempted to cope with this new reality. From new distance learning platforms and video conferencing tools to drive-by graduation parties and online award ceremonies, we have been struggling to be human without the real presence of humanity.  Read more

The Only Time is Now

Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost
Jeremiah 1:4-10
Hebrews 12:18-29
Luke 13:10-17

The only time is now.

We often conceptualize time as linear, as if the garden of Eden stands at one end of time and the New Creation stands at the other. But the truth is that the only time is now. In the words of Doctor Who, time is more like “a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey. . . stuff.”

Right now we experience the breathtaking wonder of new creation, of new relationships, of new discoveries.

Right now we experience the heart-breaking disillusionment as the thing we once thought was perfect is in fact shown to be as ordinary and corrupt as anything else.

Right now, if we are brave, we experience the joy of relationships mended, and of creation restored. The wonder at seeing that which we were convinced was ordinary and corrupt, made divine — cracks, wounds, and all. Read more