82 posts categorized "Lent Series"
By Barbara Anderson
I have never had to worry about having enough food—or enough of anything, for that matter. I have been very blessed. However, sometimes God gives you the opportunity to look through a different lens and your perspective changes. Sixteen years ago, my husband Phil and I were in the process of adopting a baby girl from China. The period of time when we were waiting to be notified that a child had been selected for us was difficult. It was a hard time for me because I had no control over the situation. I had to place my baby girl in God’s hands.
While waiting, I would pray for the birth mother carrying my daughter, pray that she had access to good food and was healthy. I prayed for my daughter’s birth, that it would go smoothly and things would be OK. I prayed that my baby girl would have milk and food until we arrived in China to bring her home. I prayed for her health, that someone was watching over her. I prayed she was growing at a healthy rate and was not hungry when she went to bed at night.
Finally, the day came when we arrived in China to bring our precious miracle home. When she was placed in my arms and I could hold her and see her, I knew that God had heard and answered my prayers. Our daughter, Carrie, had beautiful chubby cheeks and was happy and healthy.
Upon arriving home we visited our pediatrician, who confirmed that Carrie was one of the healthiest babies she had seen coming from an orphanage oversees. For many babies around the world, this is not the case. They do not have access to good food and nutrition. Their birth mothers did not have access to good medical care, vitamins, or nutritious food.
According to Bread for the World, “Globally, more than one-third of child deaths are attributable to undernutrition.” In a world of technology and plenty, why can’t we put an end to world hunger? We need to work together, through the Bread for the World and the 1,000 Days Movement, to improve maternal and child nutrition so that precious lives can be saved.
During this time of Lenten reflection, ask God what he is calling you to do so that all women and children have access to education, medical care, good nutrition, and a chance at a happy and healthy future, just like my daughter Carrie and your loved ones.
Barbara Anderson is executive director of All Hands In, an Arlington, Mass., ministry working on issues of human trafficking. She is also a past president of the American Baptist Women’s Ministries.
Lectionary Passages:Ecclesiastes 4: 4-16
Mark 8: 11-26
Hebrews 10: 19-25
By Bruce Whitener
In researching background material on Ecclesiastes, I was surprised to find that despite the statement by the author introducing himself as "son of David, king in Jerusalem," an obvious reference to King Solomon, many biblical scholars dispute that Solomon is the author. They cite, among other things, the fact that the source material for the book of Ecclesiastes dates much later than Solomon’s realm. I thought to myself, what difference does it make who authored it? The book is Solomon-like in its wisdom and has good advice for modern-day Christians about how to live a full and rewarding life. The material is short and is well worth reading. American novelist Thomas Wolfe was so impressed with these writings he had this to say:
"Of all I have ever seen or learned, that book seems to me the noblest, the wisest, and the most powerful expression of man’s life upon this earth.” Most Christians are probably familiar with the story of Jesus feeding the multitude by the Sea of Galilee. The second lectionary, Mark 8: 11-26, contains several accounts that may be less familiar. The first involves the Pharisees who followed Jesus around, hoping to catch him in some shortcoming or infraction of the complex Jewish religious laws. They ask him for a sign from heaven, hopefully something that would illustrate that Jesus was really endowed with a heavenly connection, such as the burning bush that was not consumed.
Throughout the Holy Land, there were many magicians and sorcerers that could perform tricks that would impress a crowd; these tricks would lead to a call for donations or an offer to sell trinkets. Jesus refused to show a sign as it would put him in the same class as the itinerant carnival acts. He said: “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” He and the disciples got back in the boat and went to the other side of the water where the Pharisees could not easily follow. When they got there, they discovered that once again, they had not brought any food. Fearing perhaps that the disciples would try to buy food from the locals, Jesus warns them: “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” Possibly Jesus was simply trying to ensure that they would not be adversely influenced by the Pharisees and Herod’s minions. Seeing that the disciples had no inkling as to how to get food, Jesus chides them that they do not recall how he had fed the other crowds. Citing their lack of faith, Jesus launches a full scale criticism of their value as his followers. The second lectionary passage concludes with the story of Jesus restoring the sight of a blind man.
The third and final lectionary passage is a letter, The Epistle to the Hebrews, one of the books in the New Testament. Its author is not known, although Christian tradition holds it to be the Apostle Paul or perhaps one of his assistants.
The primary purpose of the letter is to exhort Christians to persevere in the face of persecution. The central thought of the entire Epistle is the doctrine of the Person of Christ and his role as mediator between God and humanity. The most compelling directive in the letter is that believers are to consider how they can be of service to each other, especially stirring up each other to the more vigorous and abundant exercise of love, and the practice of good works. As the young church was entering a time of persecution, more and more Christians were reportedly “shrinking away” from collective worship. The letter specifically urges Christians to band together in communal worship, supporting each other in Christian love.
Prayer: Abide with me; fast falls the eventide; the darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me. Amen.
Inez Torres Davis (l) with a Bread for the World delegation to Africa. (Bread for the World)
Tuesday, March 12
By Inez Torres Davis
Come with me to a poor, urban neighborhood in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It's 2011, and I'm with a delegation from Bread for the World. We are headed up a sharp stairway that stops and starts in unexpected places. We carry food along this uneven, broken way, this Via Dolorosa.
Soon, I surrender my bag of powdered milk because the stair heights range from three to 18 inches. This is our second-to-last day in Africa and after all of the walking of the past 10 days, my troubled foot requires the cane I brought with me, just in case. Still, the help of my fellow pilgrims is what is getting me up these stairs, this way of grief, in stifling heat.
We are taking this food to two families. The food is for their graciousness in allowing a bunch of well-meaning U.S. Christians to learn from them the way of the cross. We are only visiting one family because the other family has had a death. A four year old under-nourished little boy died last night in Dar es Salaam. He died because his little, weak body could not endure chicken pox. Chicken pox is a deadly disease along this way.
This house where death has visited is on our way to the second. As we reach this house a woman’s sharp and painful wailing dissects us and great grief wraps itself around our legs, our minds, and our hearts. We stop outside her door in an African heat that seems to increase exponentially with her suffering. We suffer with her. We pray. We furtively look into one another’s eyes as we leave the food that we brought for this family on this way of sorrow.
By the time we get to the second house we realize our catalog of questions for them has shattered. We have inhaled enough of the poverty to make our chests hurt. We have ingested enough of the sorrow and we have grown heavy with knowing. We have already learned enough. We are more than a little numb.
But I want to describe this space to you; at least, I will try. I am standing at one entrance of what is perhaps an 18x18 foot cement building. I stand at one end of a very narrow hall that opens on both sides, dividing the space further. Wide halls are not needed—there are no fat people living here, and those who can't walk don’t use wheelchairs. Multiple households live here. Sixteen people call this space, divided into five or six quarters, home.
There is a communal cooking ring in the narrow hall. Blankets hang across six doors. As we hand the food—which now looks, to us, like not nearly enough to address such a great need—to the mother of the second household, she thanks us profusely.
I need you to see this woman. I need you to see her children. We must all do more! Please, carry this story beyond the borders of this page! Please know that we must make sure that funding for USAID, Feed the Future, and the 1,000 Days Movement continues. But we must also be bold enough, and inspired enough, to see the gospel as it is preached along this way of suffering. For the hope of the resurrection, we must ask!
Inez Torres Davis is director for justice at Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Saturday, March 9Ecclesiastes 2:16-26
By Meg Hanna HouseWashing your hands seems like a pretty good practice—I’ve read we don’t do nearly enough of it. So when the Pharisees criticize Jesus’ disciples for skipping this very basic hygiene rule, I can sympathize. While it’s unlikely I would point it out to the disciples, or to Jesus, I might judge them, the way that I judge a driver who cuts in front of me. I might shake my head (or my fist). Don’t these people know the right thing to do?
But that is exactly the point of today’s scriptures: We don’t know the right thing to do. We work awfully hard at figuring it out, and we’re very good at telling others how to live as well. It’s not that the rules we come up with are bad, it’s that we cling to them. As Mark’s Jesus says, “You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” We rely on the rules as if they are what’s important, the answer to life’s questions. If we can only follow the rules, do the right thing, and work hard, then we, and everyone we love, will be OK.
But it’s not like that, according to Ecclesiastes. That’s not how life works. It doesn’t matter how hard we work, or how successful we are, he says, “there is no enduring remembrance of the wise or of fools.” Anything we build can be inherited by “fools,” and we will have no control. Ecclesiastes hits right at our fears of mortality. His constant mantra “all is vanity” is depressing. And scary.
I do (more than?) my share of worrying and looking for guidelines and rules that will answer my questions. What should I do? Will I make the right decision? What will happen? And as the questions swirl, my shoulders tense and my fists clench in the search for the right answer, a “wash-your-hands,” right-thing-to-do answer.
And if there isn’t one right answer? If it’s all vanity? I’m realizing that this can be freeing. My shoulders relax and my focus softens. I’m no longer looking to worship the idol of the right answer. Instead, I notice the people around me with more compassion, and I’m once again open to God. “You have stripped off the old self with its practices,” writes Paul in Colossians. “And have clothed yourselves with a new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its creator.”
Paul has his own set of rules for this new self: no anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language. But he wraps the rules in a bigger picture, with a focus on Christ and not on the latest diet or exercise plan. “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth,” he writes. And even Ecclesiastes finds a silver lining in this world of vanity:
“There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil.
This … also is from the hand of God.”
Prayer: Dear God, help me see when I have made my rules and my search for answers into idols, and help me to let them go, so that I can focus on you and the gifts you have given. Amen.
Friday, March 8, 2013
Lectionary readings:Ecclesiastes 2:1-16
By Spencer Gibbins
The readings for today left me with a sense of bewilderment, but with the assurance that I was joining with others in the centuries-old Christian community in pondering these mysteries. It brought back two familiar adages to mind: that the more I learn, the less I know; and, as Lucy in Peanuts told Charlie Brown, “Stand up for your right to be wishy washy!” (in what I think I know).
It begins with the Book of Ecclesiastes, attributed to King Solomon, but more likely written long after Solomon’s time by a “teacher” to focus on the limits and contradictions of life in order to teach wisdom. The author describes the life of a “king” who masters everything in his environment, only to conclude that “all is vanity”. Ecclesiastes 16: "For there is no enduring remembrance of the wise or of fools, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How can the wise die just like fools?"
Even in Mark and the relatively familiar story of Jesus walking on the storm-tossed water to join the disciples in a boat, I found new puzzles. As Jesus walked out on the sea, he saw the disciples and "He intended to pass them by" (Mark 6:48). He joined them only after seeing how terrified they were of him (a ghost?) and the storm. My commentary suggests this may allude to God’s veiled self-disclosure to Moses: "[A]nd you shall see my back but my face shall not be seen" (Exodus 33:23).
The story continues to say that the disciples were "astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves ...but their hearts were hardened" (Mark 6:52). The disciples themselves were confused, not knowing what to believe, though Mark goes on to describe the local inhabitants of the region, then rushing about to bring all the sick to Jesus to be healed by touching Jesus’ garment. For them, there seemed to be no confusion.
In the final reading for today, the entire book of Colossians, which purports to be a letter from Paul to a gentile congregation in Colossae in present day Turkey, turns out to be probably written by someone else. Biblical scholars doubt that Paul wrote it, based both upon some of its theological content (contrary to much of what Paul wrote in more authenticated letters) and its literary style. The author of this letter seems to be making a case that what had been accomplished in Christ gave believers access to God and wisdom. Others felt that access to God was gained only through visions and special relationships with angels. He also describes Christ thusly: "He is the image of the invisible God" (v.15). Think about it, the image of the invisible. Is that not a conundrum?
All of these scriptures leave me feeling a bit befuddled and confused. I join with the Old Testament “king” and with the disciples in pondering the conundrum which is everyday life. When you think of it, the very basis of our New Testament belief system is full of such seeming contradictions. You must lose your life in order to save it. The last shall be first. Perhaps Lent is a good time to sit still and just “be” with these seeming contradictions in our experiences in life and in our beliefs. We are, after all, preparing for the greatest event and conundrum of all, the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
Prayer: Almighty God, hear us in our confusion as we live in our daily contradictions. Guide us, calm us and help us find the faith of those who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. Amen
By Jayce Hafner
I watched the toddlers shyly advance into the room, peeking out from behind their mothers' winter coats, their faces changing when they saw the stack of books and educational toys laid out on the floor. The children released their parents' hands and rushed toward the play area, quickly sorting through the book pile or trying out the various toys strategically positioned to catch their attention. These children were now officially engaged in Reading, Rhyming and Readiness, a Literacy Volunteers of America program where I volunteered throughout high school.
I loved playing with the toddlers because of their creative spontaneity and their desire to learn. They sat rapt throughout our story hours, constructed new works of art during our craft periods, and conjured up all manner of magical and inventive characters in our free play sessions. Each component of the program nurtured a different aspect of the children’s minds, and all the activities stimulated their desire to learn.
Still, perhaps the most significant activity of Reading, Rhyming and Readiness was snack time, when children received a balanced meal to help nurture their bodies and minds. The program leader realized the important role of nutrition in sustaining the toddlers’ energy for work and play, and empowering these children in their physical and mental development. Eating a healthy meal may be a small act, but it is one that has an enormous impact on the rest of a child’s day, and, over time, a child’s life.
Unfortunately, many families cannot provide regular, balanced meals for their children. The toddlers who attended my program often came from low-income families, with a single mother or both parents constantly working just to make ends meet. Other children were newly arrived immigrants, having recently completed a long and arduous journey from their homeland. Although parents want to provide nutritious meals for their children, life circumstances sometimes thwart the noblest efforts. Reading, Rhyming, and Readiness grants these children one balanced meal per week, and while this gesture is helpful, it is not nearly sufficient for the toddlers.
The Declaration of Independence upholds the “right to life,” and people of faith have a calling to help safeguard society’s access to basic amenities, like clean water, education, and nutritious food. We have both a patriotic and a faithful duty to ensure that our nation’s children are not inhibited in their development, or lacking in the basic building blocks for a successful life. The gift of nutritious food not only satisfies a child’s immediate hunger, but also prepares that child to fulfill his or her own calling in the world. Lent is a time of preparation and meditation, and it seems appropriate that we use this season to reflect on ways in which we can best prepare the children of our nation, and the world, to grow to their full potential.
Jayce Hafner is the office manager for the Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations.
Photo: Children in a Head Start class in Tuscon, Ariz., eat a nutritious lunch. (Jeffrey Austin)
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
2 Timothy 2:8-17By Mark A. Zaineddin
In many parts of the Middle East and Central Asia, the New Year has historically commenced on March 21, the first day of Spring. I have often found something comforting and logical about this. For this is a time when the daffodils, crocuses, and, in Washington, D.C., cherry blossoms begin to bloom, when baby lambs frolic in idyllic pastures and robins chirp in the warmth of the day, and when the snow of a long and often bleak winter melts off the hillsides of mountains and the lawns of towns. Spring is a time of rebirth, a time of renewal, a time when the old has passed and everything has become new once again. Indeed, in Persian, the name for New Year’s is Nowruz, or literally "new day."
And yet, to get to this day, we must often experience darkness and despair, death and dreariness. We must go through the season of winter where when growing up, at least in my hometown in upstate New York, gray appeared to be the color of prominence. It was seemingly the rule rather than the exception—skies of dark gray, roads frequently lined with battleship gray ash, and long-standing snow often the color of gray soot. It is no coincidence that seasonal affective disorder is so common in the depths of a long drawn-out winter.
Perhaps it is also no coincidence that the season of Lent, the season that ultimately takes us to Easter resurrection, comes at this time of year. For it is during Lent that we take the time to deeply examine our relationship to God. Individually, we may ask ourselves, “Am I moving toward or away from God? Have I let my pride get the better of me? Have I denied my true and authentic self due to fear or the need for power or as a result of hubris or the temptation for extreme material or economic success?”
It is not easy going through the season of Lent, and its introspective reflection and self-awareness. Yet, we need not do this alone. We can walk with Jesus, knowing that he will be tempted, that he will be denied and betrayed, and that he will be heinously crucified but ultimately resurrected. We can walk with Jesus knowing that the deaths of winter will bring the life of sprin—and that the long Lenten journey will lead to the new Easter creation.
The reading in Ecclesiastes today may seem quite disturbing. To many, it reads like life is meaningless and that in the scheme of things, we really do not matter. But perhaps it is a cautious reminder that the seasons will continue and the generations will come and go long after we have passed from this earth. Perhaps it is a reminder for us to humble ourselves, especially in a world that too often seems to favor strong egos and rampant individualistic tendencies. How often have we tried to be the center of attention, to act as if the world centered solely around us?
And then in Mark, we find King Herod beheading John the Baptist out of a sense of honor and pride. Herod knows that he has betrayed his true self. He grieves because he could not resist his daughter’s wish to see John’s head on a banquet platter. How often have we led masked lives because of how we felt we “ought” to be seen or did things out of vanity or fear?
And yet in Second Timothy, we are reminded that when we die with Christ, we live with Christ. When we die with Christ, we rid ourselves of that falseness and this leads us to truly be the children of God that we are. And when we live with Christ, we endure and we help bring in that new dawn, that new creation here and today.
Prayer: Loving God, let us during this season of Lent take the time to truly examine who we are and who we have become. May we be comforted by you as we trudge through the depths of winter to realize the heights of spring, through the dark days of Lent to the shining dawn of Easter. May our false inauthentic selves vanish so that our true authentic selves may live. Amen.
By Arlene Pimentel
While driving to an appointment on a crisp, sunny morning, a man was thinking of his family's financial needs and tight budget. As his car came to a stop from traffic ahead, he noticed a woman on the side of the road with her car hood open and an infant in her arms.
He drove past the car, but felt in his heart that he needed to help the woman, so he turned around, even though it would make him late for his appointment. He noticed a man was already providing mechanical assistance.
He addressed the lady and she explained that she was on her way to a job interview at the local florist shop when her car broke. He then noticed an empty baby bottle and asked when the baby was last fed. The woman responded that the baby was fed three hours ago and that she was out of baby formula. His heart immediately sank because he had a two-month-old child of his own.
The woman began to get tearful when she realized how late she was for the interview. He offered her and her child a ride to the job interview and she gladly accepted. While she was at the interview he ran to the closest pharmacy to by a container of formula and a bottle. At the register, he began to feel the Spirit speaking to his heart to bring the woman $20.00 in cash. He silently said to God, "But God, my budget is tight." The Lord spoke again to his heart saying, “I am your provider, you provide to her."
After the interview, he drove her back to pick up the car, which the man working on it had repaired. She expressed her gratitude with a big smile. A few weeks later he was informed that the woman got the job and was an great asset to her employer.
This story echoes Jesus' miraculous feeding of the five thousand (feed a multitude) only because a boy shared his lunch with Jesus. This boy did not have much to eat and was asked to give up what he had. By giving Jesus his fish and bread, this boy and the multitude were given more than enough to eat. (John 6: 1-15)
Giving out of generosity operates miracles in the life of the receiver and the giver. Not only did the woman receive a blessing with her new job, but the man also received the satisfaction of using his time and resources to serve a family in need. As we go about our busy days, we all need to stop and listen to the voice of the Spirit as he guides us in spreading God's love and blessings with others.
"The greatest satisfaction is to use your time, talents and resources to serve others."
Arlene Pimentel is Quadrennial Assembly 2014 coordinator for the Disciples Women of the Christian Church.
A Liberian girl sits on her mother's lap during church. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
By Deborah J. McCreary
“Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” —Isaiah 55:1
What an invitation from our gracious God! He invites all to come! To come and receive the abundant blessings that are his gift of grace to us; to buy without money all things necessary to the spiritual life; to buy with no money what he has already paid for by the death, resurrection, and ascension of his son, Jesus Christ.
We gather, we come and worship and give thanks for the gift that money can’t buy. We worship and give thanks because there is nothing that we can do to make us worthy of receiving him, yet he invites us to come and receive his gift of grace— salvation.
We gather, we come and worship him our King of kings, our Lord of lords, the eternal word, and the bread of life. We come to worship him who offers us these blessings of grace—Word and Sacrament, the spiritual sustenance of our lives.
We thirst. We come to the waters. We come to receive the law and wisdom that we need for our very subsistence. We buy wine and milk without money, we receive the blessings of the gospel which are suited to fortify the soul, as well as to make it glad and cheerful. God gives us his Word and through the proclamation of the Word his judgments and promises actually come into our midst. His Word changes situations, changes attitudes, changes lives. The proclaimed Word is an act of God, a work of the Spirit, a gift of grace.
We are told to come, for all things are now ready (Mt. 22:4). What things? The breaking of bread, the sharing of a community meal, finding strength and hope because our Lord and Savior has said that he will come in and eat with us (Rev. 3:20). Yes, come—enter into the covenant between God and man. Join the Royal Banquet; receive the broken bread and the cup of blessing which nurtures our soul. Worship, give thanks, confess that the Lord is our King and God.
God has given us a spiritual banquet in the Lord’s Supper by which we are able to be sustained by Christ. We are filled anew with his Spirit that we might actually be more like Christ. We who have been fed spiritually are sent out to offer nourishment and hope to the women and children of our communities in need. We are sent out into the world to proclaim Christ’s message to them: “Come, eat and drink. Have food, clean water and milk, vitamins, and health care for you and your child. Come buy without money and receive without price. Hunger and thirst no more, all that we have is God’s gift to be shared with you.”
Deborah J. McCreary, a Reformed Church of America seminarian, is a senior at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Mich.
Saturday, March 2, 2013
Judges 17: 1-3
1 Peter 2:1-10
Mark 5: 1-20
By Karen Mills
Jesus completed teaching people gathered on one shore of the Sea of Galilee from aboard a boat, then crossed to the other side, where he called unclean spirits out of a terribly tortured man who lived in the region of the Gerasenes (or Gadarenes or Girgasenes). Gerasa and Gadara were two in a group of ten cities--the Decapolis--southeast of the Sea of Galilee (now modern Jordan). These cities were deeply Greek-influenced, in contrast to the Jewish areas on the other side of the Sea. After Jesus called the demons out of the man, he asked his name. "My name is Legion, for we are many," he answered. Jesus called all the unclean spirits out of him. After that, Legion begged Jesus not to send him away from Him. But Jesus told him to go home to his friends and tell them how the Lord had compassion for him and had done great things for him, and they marveled.
Collectively or individually, sometimes we may be on the shore among the faithful, bathed in the sunshine and the word of the Lord, listening with rapt attention to the Lord's teaching. At other times, we may be holed up in caves, on the margins of things, tortured by demons, and far away from God. Even there, God comes to us, calls us by name, and offers compassion, cleansing, a fresh start, and new direction. What good news! Much as we may rejoice in that and want to simply bask in the safety and comfort that God provides, God calls and empowers us to go forth and share the good news with others, that they too, might know God.
We Presbyterians don't talk much about demons generally, or our own demons. Gerald May, M.D., served on the The Shalem Institute's staff for many years as Senior Fellow for Contemplative Theology and Psychology. In his book Care of Mind/Care of Spirit, May wrote that evil takes many forms.
"It can occur as the theological demonic, in which something other than God becomes our ultimate concern. And, especially in the course of intentional spiritual searching, evil can surface in the form of real spiritual forces (spirits) that seek to divert and sabotage our journey towards deeper realization of God's truth and will.... Whatever its specific manifestations may be, it seems to me that evil always functions to subvert one's surrender to God, seeking to turn it into a capitulation to darkness and willfulness. Theologically, one might see that evil forces are ultimately of or at least permitted by God, but from the standpoint of human experience they clearly work to turn one's attention and intention away from God." "[D]iscernment involves distinguishing among inclinations that may be of God, of the evil spirit, or of oneself." "In the natural course of spiritual growth, one goes through many ups and downs." "One may proceed a way along the spiritual path, experiencing a variety of more superficial ups and downs without being fully aware of the inner changes taking place.... At some point an awareness of this underlying process begins to take place without understanding and without bearings. ...One may feel quite literally at sea, and utterly dependent upon and abandoned to the unknown and unknowable essence of God at the helm.... It is only through grace, I feel, that we are blessed with our blindness to the totality of this process and our ignorance as to its ultimate implications. Were it otherwise, I suspect none of us would have the courage to embark upon the journey in the first place."
As I write this meditation, our church embarks upon a reading with Emory United Methodist and Mt. Lebanon Baptist churches of James Cone's painful book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree. In it, Cone calls the Christian gospel "God's message of liberation in an unredeemed and tortured world." "[H]umanity's salvation is available only through our solidarity with the crucified people in our midst." "[T]he church's most vexing problem today is how to define itself by the gospel of Jesus' cross. Where is the gospel of Jesus revealed today? … One can lynch a person without a rope or a tree." Where, indeed….
God, help us to acknowledge and identify the demons that torture us, especially those of our own making, and bring them to you. Even when we do not seek you, find us in the painful places, and draw us close to you—the only place where we may find liberation, relief, and redirection. By your grace, may we escape the bondage of our demons, and live as your redeemed people and a light to all people and nations. Amen.