Lenten Reflection–Crying Out Loud

photo by Josh Scholten

So much conspires to keep us silent~
faith as unfashionable,
a crutch for the weak,
outmoded, obsolete,
outrageous belief.

Far easier to worship the earth
or each other
or nothing at all
rather than exalt the
Living God Everlasting.

His name no longer spoken
at school or work,
mentioned one hour a week
by some,
forgotten by most.

Sing of His glory
out of joy and from deep gratitude.
Sincerely imperfect,
we must not be silenced
while we have tongues.

If we do not shout out loud,
nor spread branches at His feet,
if we worry what others might think,
the stones will cry out
and not stop,  as they know

He weeps at our silence.

photo by Josh Scholten

Lenten Reflection–The Cost of Humanity

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Man was added to Him, God not lost to Him; He emptied Himself not by losing what He was, but by taking to Him what He was not.
Augustine

Look upon the baby Jesus. Divinity may terrify us. Inexpressible majesty will crush us. That is why Christ took on our humanity…that he should not terrify us but rather that with love and favor he should console and confirm.” Martin Luther

He was pushed out in those first moments on earth, birth-bloodied, then cradled and held in human arms. Three decades later, He was pulled down following  His last breath, death-bloodied, then cradled and held in human arms. The symmetry of His birth and death mirrors the symmetry of our lives, a consolation about how He belongs to us as much as we belong to Him.

The blood shed at birth is the mother’s alone. The blood lost at death is God’s alone, pumping through human heart and arteries, soaking the wretched ground below.

He empties completely because He is fully human; He returns risen and complete because He is fully God.

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Lenten Reflection–Mute Eloquence

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He was created of a mother whom He created. He was carried by hands that He formed. He cried in the manger in wordless infancy, He the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute.
Augustine

It turns the mind inside out–created within His creation, hugged within an earthly embrace, by way of heaven, fed from human breast while becoming food for the heart, bathed while cleansing the bather.

In the beginning the Word breathed and articulated life, knowing its utterance would someday come from lips and tongue and throat, whether as an infant’s cry, a toddler’s chuckle, a child’s secret or an adult’s stricken sorrow. 

We are speechless, listening.

Straws as Sharp as Thorns

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“The whole of Christ’s life was a continual passion; others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr. He found a Golgotha, where he was crucified, even in Bethlehem, where he was born; for to his tenderness then the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after, and the manger as uneasy at first as the cross at last. His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas Day and his Good Friday are but the evening and the morning of one and the same day. From the creche to the cross is an inseparable line. Christmas only points forward to Good Friday and Easter. It can have no meaning apart from that, where the Son of God displayed his glory by his death.”
opening words by John Donne in his sermon on Christmas Day 1626

Lenten Reflection–How It Works

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The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That’s the deal.
C.S. Lewis

We are staying with our friends Brian and Bette at their cabin on a bluff just above the beach at Sendai, Japan, just a few dozen feet above the devastation that wiped out an entire fishing village below during the 3/11/11 earthquake and tsunami. We walked that stretch today, learning of the stories of the people who had lived there, some of whom did not survive the waves that swept their houses and cars away before they could escape. We walked past the footprints of foundations of hundreds of demolished homes, humbled by the rubble mountains yet to be hauled away to be burned or buried and scanned acres of wrecked vehicles now piled one on another, waiting to become scrap metal. It is visual evidence of life suddenly and dramatically disrupted.

This was a place of recreation and respite for some who visited regularly, commerce and livelihood for others who stayed year round and now, in ongoing recovery efforts, is struggling to be restored to something familiar. Yet it looks like foreign ghostly landscape. Even many trees perished, lost, broken off, fish nets still stuck high on their scarred trunks. There are small memorials to lost family members within some home foundations, with stuffed animals and flowers wilting from the recent anniversary observance.

It is a powerful place of memories for those who live here and know what it once was, how it once looked and felt, and painfully, what it became in a matter of minutes on 3/11. The waves swept in inexplicable suffering, then carried their former lives away. Happiness gave ground to such terrible pain that could never have hurt as much without the joy that preceded it.

We want to ask God why He doesn’t do something about the suffering that happened here or anywhere a disaster occurs –but if we do, He will ask us the same question right back. We need to be ready with our answer and our action. He knows suffering. Far more than we do. He took it all on Himself, feeling His pain amplified, as it was borne out of His love and joy in His creation.

This beautiful place, and its dedicated survivors are slowly recovering, but the inner and outer landscape is forever altered. What remains the same is the tempo of the waves, the tides, and the rhythm of the light and the night, happening just as originally created.

In that realization, pain gives way. It cannot stand up to His love, His joy, and our response.
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Lenten Reflection–Sacred Somethings

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Something of God flows into us from the blue of the sky, the taste of honey, the delicious embrace of water whether cold or hot, and even from sleep itself.
C.S. Lewis

Six days so far in Japan: the sky bright blue, the cherry blossoms bursting, the smooth snowy cone of Fuji visible at sunrise, the stars sparkling in the night sky above Nikko, the bounty of the sea and fields displayed in the markets of Tokyo, the warm hug of the hot springs, the sea of humanity streaming into subways.

Something of God is flowing here in this beautiful place, though not yet recognized by all. He is sacred, tangible and intangible, internal and loving.

May we be filled. Even as we sleep.

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Lenten Reflection–He is Here

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And He departed from our sight that we might return to our heart, and there find Him. For He departed, and behold, He is here.
Augustine

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:30-32

I think often of the disciples walking to Emmaus on the evening of Resurrection Sunday, trying to make sense of all the events of the day. When another traveller joined them, they shared everything they knew, expressing their wonder and amazement. They spoke from the heart, and as He, in turn, shared insights from the gospel, He set their “hearts burning within” them as they listened to His words.

Then He revealed Himself during the meal as He spoke words of gratitude and broke the bread. In this simple every day action, they recognize Him, and so feel Him in their hearts. As He departs from their sight, they know where they may always look to find Him.

He is here. Deep in our beating hearts that He shared with us, deep in our every day activities of making and eating meals together, walking, sleeping, caring for one another, teaching, cleaning up, telling stories and simply saying thanks. He is here, so close, so accessible, so much part of our humanity, yet transcending His flesh and blood by giving it up for us. To find Him,we need provide no sacrifice, need make no pilgrimage, worship at no special shrine, pay no indulgences. As we eat, as we drink, as we express gratitude, we feel His Spirit, recognizing He offered Himself as the sacrifice made on our behalf.

No other God would. No other God has. No other God is here, dwelling within us.