Symbols of our Lenten Journey
Ash Wednesday – “Hungering for a fresh start”
What is the ‘emptiness’?
Why can’t you buy what you need to fill the emptiness?
Imagine a world in which there was no Bible? Imagine not having the stories of faith that have given us a glimpse of God…how God created all things….how God gave leadership to kings and prophets and little boys and disempowered women….how God laid out before us a way to live that is ethical, just and compassionate….how God gave us lessons to guide our living and inspire us with hope and dignity?
Imagine a world in which we did not share these stories nor have them imprinted on our minds and hearts. Imagine not being able to take for granted that everyone know about Jesus? Imagine a Bible that never got translated beyond Hebrew and Greek and Latin?
In his own life, Jesus showed us how valuable it is to know what is in the Bible. He reached into it to interpret tough questions. He leaned on it to gain strength in dangerous situations. He used it to clarify God’s will and the power of right and truth.
We hunger for answers to so many questions of our own. Even though our world is so different from ancient times, still the issues of our lives resonate in the verses of this complicated and comprehensive book. Every time we dig in and feast on its words we find new insight and courage to live with faith in our time and in this place.
Imagine a world in which there were no churches? Imagine how different our cities, towns and countrysides would look? Church buildings remind us of a different way—not so fast-paced and impersonal—where it is OK to stop and sit and say nothing at all. In churches we are allowed to listen, to feel and to rest. Imagine a world where you could not go into a church and be welcomed by strangers? Imagine a world without steeples and crosses and bells tolling the hours?
Imagine a world without churches when you have a wedding, birth or death in your family? Imagine a world without the refuge, the sanctuary, the safe haven that is our church? Think about the hungers of your soul that bring you here….imagine if it was gone?
Imagine a world in which people are segregated by generation? Imagine a world in which the stories of what older people have learned over the decades are not shared with children? Imagine a world in which we are destined to repeat the mistakes of our parents and grandparents?
We hunger for a place where the lines between the generations vanish….where wisdom and kindness is shared freely….where life lessons become precious treasures gifted to others so that they may enjoy a life of greater bounty and opportunity.
We hunger for a church where we all have a place….where everyone is valued….where we know our history and all participate in our vision for the future. We hunger for a church that gives us roots….where being united doesn’t mean we all have to be the same…where we can work together to have a living, transforming impact on lives, community and culture. We hunger for a church that makes room for all of us.
Lent 4 – “Hungering and thirsting for Ritual”
Imagine a world in which there were not any anchors? Imagine not having things you could count on? Imagine a world where everything is unpredictable…where nothing is familiar….where you can’t count on anything?
We hunger for the things in life that never change. We hunger to be loved unconditionally event when we are not perfect. We hunger to be forgiven and given a chance to make things right. We hunger to see and feel and taste things that remind us, body and soul, that we are loved, understood and always received with open arms.
We hunger for the symbols that represent the great truths and beliefs of our faith in Jesus. The bread and the cup have been consistent in all of Christian history around the world. We can count on them to trigger the trust that God’s love has no limits. God never makes us wallow in our mistakes. We hunger for a world where all the messages tell us that we can be better….we will be better….we will always have another chance.
Lent 5 – “Hungering and Thirsting for Community”
Imagine a world in which people really matter….where being connected to people….where being valued….where belonging is the first priority? Imagine a world where you are known by name, where your foibles and idiosyncrasies are public knowledge but you still have a place?
Imagine being part of a community that has deep roots and long tradition but always has room for more? Imagine a place where to can go to escape the things that frighten you…that confuse you…that nudge you with uncertainty? What would it feel like to satisfy your deep hunger to belong….to be accepted…..to be fed with friendship? What would it be like to sit at a table with others and be truly refreshed?
Imagine a world in which there is no fellowship….no church family….no community of believers? Where would you go when your heart aches?….when your soul pines….when your mind throbs?
Think about the family that gathers. The food and the conversation. The love and friendship. The antedote to loneliness and isolation.
Imagine a world in which there was no baptism? Imagine never hearing that you are loved and chosen by God? Imagine a world in which there would be no opportunity to choose God? What would it be like to figure out our place in the world without a connection to God….in which there would be no ‘right thing’ to do upon the birth of a child?
On this Palm Sunday we try to imagine how we would understand the nature of our souls, what it means to be known by someone far greater and more magnificent than a mere human….how all this would be possible without the font…the bowl…the pitcher…and water?
One of the most important rituals Jesus gave us was baptism. Every time we celebrate this ancient ritual we are reminded that God’s love for us never quits…that God’s blessing of us and all creation cannot be silenced…that nothing we do can separate us from the one who chooses us, calls us by name, forgives us and trusts us to be worthy disciples in the work of Christ in this place.
In an anonymous world of PIN numbers and finger print scanners, we are God’s. When we hunger to know who we are….God gives us the answer we yearn to hear: “We belong to the family of faith. We matter.” Imagine if this wasn’t true.
Good Friday – “Hungering and Thirsting for Salvation”
Imagine a world in which there is no grace….no forgiveness…no chance to make things right? Imagine a world in which what is here, before us, of our own making….is all there is? Imagine a world in which we are alone, in pain, imperfect, poor, abused, oppressed, helpless….left entirely to our own devices? It would be a dark and scary world.
If we could make a list to change the course of history, what would we wish for? Surely we’d want healing…..we’d want to know the love of family, friends and community….we’d want stability and grounding in our lives…we’d want to feel protected from the dangers both physical and emotional that prey on us…..we’d want a shred of dignity…that our life has meaning…that we are worth rescuing.
We hunger for answers to the biggest questions of life. We are looking for knots in the ropes we cling to so that we can escape the abyss of the very things we fear the most. We want the promise of an alternative to going it alone. We can’t do this alone. We need to be saved from ourselves. We are desperate to begin afresh with a clean slate.
The cross is symbol of violence and liberation. It represents the worst and the best….despair and hope….sin and grace. On our best days when we feel powerful, successful and full of energy….on our worst days our throats are bone dry with thirst…our bodies waste away…our souls whither to a void.
In a world without Jesus…in a world without the cross….when we’re at the end of our rope….who would tie the knot…..what would we have to hold on to….how would we discover hope?
Easter Sunday – Hungering and Thirsting for Good News
Imagine if this is the only world we know….dark….hopeless…..without communities where we fit in….without baptism where we’re told God chooses us exactly as we are to love forever….without buildings where we can gather to worship and seek a safe haven from all the stresses of life….without communion which reminds us every time we eat bread or drink from a cup that we can count on God to be sure and true and to ground our lives…. Imagine a world where we could never fit in; we might be too young or too old, too tall or too short…too something that excludes us….. Imagine a world without the story of Jesus….without the miracles, the parables….without tales of arks and whales and slingshots… Imagine a world in which you never hear that you are loved, chosen, and saved…..
But….guess what?….we don’t have to imagine this. We have the story…and it ends in resurrection light and joy. It’s time to sing our hearts out! Jesus rose from the dead! Shout! Jump! Clap your hands! Crash the cymbals! Play the trumpets! SING! SING! SING!