Monday, February 11, 2008

That There Should Be No Divisions

Part of the epistle reading for today from the Daily Office:
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you should be in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose.
(I Corinthians 1:4-10)
Paul was writing about factions in the church at Corinth, but he could just as easily been writing about himself, or about me, for that matter.

Paul knew what it was like to be enriched by God - blessed with spiritual gifts. Only a man of faithful righteousness, blessed with gifts of leadership and administration would have been entrusted with the mission that sent Paul to Damascus. When Jesus confronted him on the road, Paul must have felt like he had been split in two. His encounter with the risen Christ challenged everything he believed to be true about God. It took years for him to restore the unity of his own spiritual mind and purpose.

Paul's experience is not unlike my own. I often find myself divided - of two minds. On the one hand / on the other hand. It is important to consider carefully, I believe that is the reason God gives us choices and the free intellect and will to make them. And having considered, it is also important to choose. God does not desire that we should live life divided, but rather that we seek unity within ourselves, among our neighbors, and with our Creator.

Paul's preamble to the great letter to the Church at Corinth has at last brought me to the focus of my Lenten devotion: Stewardship.

I have been blessed with many gifts from God. I have a mind. I have a home. I have a body, a family, clothes to wear, animals to care for. My employer has entrusted me with responsibilities that affect many of the people with whom I work. I have a community and relationships that offer me opportunities to grow and to love.

I am a steward of all of these things, and I confess that my stewardship has been lacking. I have chosen to neglect those things of which I ought to be mindful. I have been faithful to my favorite television programs, and left the the gifts God has given me uncared for.

My Lenten discipline will be to seek out and nourish the gifts I have been entrusted with. I will continue the work of restoring my body. I will reach out to the people I love whose lives I have ignored. I will restore order to my property and my house to make them a testimony to my gratitude and a sanctuary of peace for the people God sends to visit here.

And I will seek guidance and insight as I pursue this discipline in the Holy Scriptures, the word of God.

I'm not sure if that constitutes giving anything up for Lent. Maybe I'm s giving up my unconsidered life. My lent will be a time of stewardship - of caring for and intentionally restoring unity.

Here on Pennsyltuckian I will hold myself accountable to you and to God. And we will walk the road toward Easter together.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A Holy Lent

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.
(Book of Common Prayer, Liturgy for Ash Wednesday)

My dear friend Deb, who is a Jew once observed, "I never know what to say to someone on Ash Wednesday. 'Happy Lent' just seems wrong." Many Christians find the season just as baffling.

The forty day fast first appears very early in the Biblical narrative, in the story of Noah.
Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.
(Genesis 7:4)
Moses was on Sinai for forty days. Goliath's torment of Israel. Goliath tormented Israel forty days. Elijah's journey to Horeb, and Jonah's prophecy to Nineveh both took forty days. So Jesus had plenty of precedent when he went into the wilderness to do battle with the devil.

Our Lenten journey commemorates Jesus time in the wilderness, but liturgically, it also calls us to remember the long road to Jerusalem, Golgatha, and the empty tomb of Easter morning. The Lenten prayer commands us to turn our hearts toward three things, Repentance, Fasting, and God's holy word.

To repent means to change direction. We confess that the direction we are headed is not where we want to go, and we turn and to walk another way.

To fast is to say "no" to our own desires - to deny ourselves that which stands between us and God.

To read and meditate on God's holy word is a double discipline. First we take the time to open the Bible and stick our noses inside. Then we take the time to digest the words God gives us.

So giving up beer and chocolate for a few weeks really doesn't cut it.

A friend of mine has pointed out that the Lenten discipline is nothing more than the rule of life for a Christian. Ideally, we would spend every day of our lives in repentance, self-denial, and meditation of the word, but there are no ideal Christians. So we have this special season designed to remind us who we ought to be and how we ought to live. Each of us is on the road to Calvary and the empty tomb. In making a Holy Lent, we remember that every step of the journey is important. We are not only walking toward celophane grass and colored eggs - we are walking beside Jesus who choses to accompany us on our trip from life to death and resurrection.

Pennsy therefore invites you, beloved reader, to a Holy Lent. May you consider your life's direction, turn from the false idol of self-gratification, and seek your God and yourself in the Holy scriptures.

Don't be afraid. We will walk the road together.

And Jesus will walk with us both.