Sunday, March 11, 2018

a new way of living into the lenten wilderness...

Today is the Fourth Sunday in Advent. The gospel lesson is one used to proclaim the sermon on the day of my ordination almost 40 years ago. It is taken from John 3: 14-21:

Jesus said to Nicodemus: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

Last night, when I realized I could not remember what Sunday in Lent it was, I downloaded a lectionary site from Vanderbilt University where I came upon this stunning prayer:  

Artist of souls,
you sculpted a people for yourself
out of the rocks of wilderness and fasting.
Help us as we take up your invitation to prayer and simplicity,
that the discipline of these forty days
may sharpen our hunger for the feast of your holy friendship,
and whet our thirst for the living water you offer
through Jesus Christ. Amen.

My journey this Lent has been uneven: there have been highs of deep reverence and connection; and, times when I don't even recall that I am in the wilderness. At the same time, I feel closer to Jesus than I have in years. Part of that is my on-going reading of Nouwen's journal, The Road to Daybreak, and the weekly Lenten questions formed by the Nouwen Society. I have come to realize that I truly miss making this journey in community. I don't miss my leadership role. But I do miss being with others who seek to grow closer to the Lord in thought, word and deed. If I hadn't been ill on Saturday, I would have joined my friend in South County who serves as the spiritual leader of a progressive, creative Jewish community. As Jean Vanier notes with stunning clarity: we all have a yearning to belong.

Maybe that's why I spent over five hours in music rehearsal this afternoon: I could have gone for another three without blinking it was so satisfying. I love my band mates - and the careful crafting of songs of compassion and hope in these times has become a sacred calling. So has staying in communion with L'Arche Ottawa. I will join them for part of Holy Week - foot washing on Thursday and Stations of the Cross on Friday morning - before heading to Brooklyn for Easter. I hope to spend another three hours practicing later this week as we prepare to take these songs out to see if anyone wants to listen. In this, there is a connection with the Lord's wilderness wandering and the whole Lenten groove. I can't remember a Lent quite like this. I just know it rings true and that I am ready to go deeper in the short time that remains. I resonate with this prayer for today in ways that cut deeper than reason:

God of wilderness and water,
your Son was baptized and tempted as we are.
Guide us through this season,
that we may not avoid struggle,
but open ourselves to blessing,
through the cleansing depths of repentance
and the heaven-rending words of the Spirit. Amen.

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