Today is Ash Wednesday. I was crushed because things conspired against me getting to the service. I love Lent. Some people find it depressing but I see it as a time to reflect, to read something uplifting and search ourselves. It is a time to think.
Whether you choose to give up something for Lent or take something on or both Lent can bring us closer to God. Have a Holy Lent.
A prayer from the New Zealand Prayer Book of the Anglican Church. This is another of the prayers that I find so dear to my heart. The wording always makes me think in a different way. See if you like it.
Be present, Spirit of God, within us, your dwelling place and home, that this house may be one where all darkness is penetrated by your light, all troubles calmed by your peace, all evil redeemed by your love, all pain transformed in your suffering, and all dying glorified in your risen life. Amen.
Think about us being the dwelling place of God and his home. I plan to use this prayer every day.
Doubt can be a scary word. As children we are taught that some things are just true and we accept that. As we grow older we begin to realize that not everything we were taught is true. Our exposure to the world makes us begin asking questions. Some of the truths that held us up are taken away. We find ourselves in a dark place.
Many of us believe that doubt is the opposite of faith but I don’t think that. I think the opposite of faith is disbelief. Doubt is not sinful. It is a nudge to push us forward. It makes us question and by doing so…grow. It makes us search for God and look in places we have not explored.
Don’t be afraid of doubt. Embrace it and look deeper, listen more, learn and grow.
We read this psalm in church this morning and I almost don’t think it needs much discussion except to say that we are the society that has to have storage containers to store our extra “stuff.” Think about it.
The Folly of Trust in Riches
1 Hear this, all you peoples;
give ear, all inhabitants of the world, 2 both low and high, rich and poor together. 3 My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding. 4 I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will solve my riddle to the music of the harp.
5 Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of my persecutors surrounds me, 6 those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches? 7 Truly, no ransom avails for one’s life,[a] there is no price one can give to God for it. 8 For the ransom of life is costly, and can never suffice, 9 that one should live on forever and never see the grave.[b]
10 When we look at the wise, they die; fool and dolt perish together and leave their wealth to others. 11 Their graves[c] are their homes forever, their dwelling places to all generations, though they named lands their own. 12 Mortals cannot abide in their pomp; they are like the animals that perish.
13 Such is the fate of the foolhardy, the end of those[d] who are pleased with their lot.Selah 14 Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; Death shall be their shepherd; straight to the grave they descend,[e] and their form shall waste away; Sheol shall be their home.[f] 15 But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me.Selah
16 Do not be afraid when some become rich, when the wealth of their houses increases. 17 For when they die they will carry nothing away; their wealth will not go down after them. 18 Though in their lifetime they count themselves happy —for you are praised when you do well for yourself— 19 they[g] will go to the company of their ancestors, who will never again see the light. 20 Mortals cannot abide in their pomp; they are like the animals that perish.
If someone wants to learn more about God, he(Jesus) implies, it will involve more than believing someone else’s answers. It will involve thinking deeply about the questions you are asking and why. Then it will involve acting on the answers you come up with in order to discover what is true. Barbara Brown Taylor in “Holy Envy.”
We must continue to question and grow in our faith. To sit and think we have all the answers is a mistake. We never have all the answers. Only God does.
When lip service to some mysterious deity permits bestiality on Wednesday and absolution on Sunday, cash me out.Frank Sinatra
It has always puzzled me that some people think it is fine to do wrong because they can be absolved of it. This is wrong thinking. The things we confess to God and ask for forgiveness should be slip ups. Choosing to commit sinful acts because we can be forgiven is not how God expects us to behave. His forgiveness does not give us permission to choose to sin.
Prayer: God of grace, remind us we must choose the right path. We cannot choose wrong because of his forgiveness. It is a gift of grace when we stumble not a get out of jail free card. Help us to remember this. AMEN
Richard Rohr wrote in a recent post about Midrash. This is a term I have used often when there is discussion about scripture. Midrash is a Jewish term and has to do with the way they look at scripture. Rohr says: “Jesus practiced a form that the Jewish people called midrash, consistently using questions to keep spiritual meanings open, often reflecting on a text or returning people’s questions with more questions.”
The point of Midrash is to keep digging and thinking about scripture. See what meaning lies underneath the simple. Question what it means to you today and then look at it again tomorrow or much later. We are different each day and may have different ideas and see different meanings.
Don’t be afraid to discuss scripture and hear the ideas of others. There is nothing wrong with seeing another viewpoint. Scripture is not dead words on a page. It is a living, breathing thing.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
A lot of preachers use this verse before beginning a sermon. I imagine that most of the time they have a plan about what they will say. That is not always true of the rest of us. Too often we don’t think about what we are saying. The words just rush out and we often wish we could take them back. Our hasty words can injure others. My father used to say “put your brain in gear before you put your mouth in motion.” Wise words indeed.
Patient God, help us to think before speaking so that our words can be acceptable in your sight. AMEN