Lent – Week Three

By Lynn Smith-Henry

This year during the Lenten season, I am doing something different for my Lenten Meditations – seeking the Jewish roots of our Christian faith. In this season of meditation and preparation for Holy Week, my thoughts have been consumed with Liturgy and the theology which stands behind it. Christianity is not a Western religion but an Eastern one. In seeking our Eastern Jewish roots, I have come to realize a profound truth about our Christian faith – we are not on the appointed calendar of the Bible but the adopted calendar of the Roman tradition. It occurs to me that this was a profound step away from our Jewish roots and while we have been able to function liturgically in our worship, I began to wonder if we had lost some of the underlying theology of our Jewish connections. The more I searched, the more it appeared that we have indeed lost something truly meaningful.

All meaningful liturgy has theology as its underpinning. Like Jewish liturgy, we construct our liturgy around the concept of the “feast.” The word “feast” in the Hebrew is “moed” and it actually means the appointed time for something to happen. But it also has another meaning – “dress rehearsal.” The Liturgy of both the Tabernacle and the Temple in Jerusalem were predicated on this very concept of rehearsal as demonstrated in Leviticus and other passages of Scripture. Aaron the first High Priest received very specific instructions on how to approach the most Holy Place, what vestments to wear and exactly what to do when conducting the Liturgy in the presence of God’s name. Looking at our Liturgy today, we can see the same sequence of events although represented by different elements.

As we experience Lent with anticipation of Holy Week and the gravitas of its events, we should prepare ourselves for its Liturgy in the same manner – as a “dress rehearsal” of the real event which we will share with Christ in the future to come. By doing so, we connect once again with our Jewish roots and fulfill the real purpose of the Liturgy. The Liturgy has not only the power to reconnect us to our past spiritual heritage in Abraham but also to unify us in worship, and heal the deficiencies of our human state by taking us into the presence of God – an awesome and inspiring thought as we meditate during this season of Lent on our relationship with our Lord Yeshua  Meshiach – Jesus the Christ.

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Lent – Week Two

By the Rev. Chad McCall

This Sunday will be the second Sunday of Lent.  We aren’t yet halfway through the Lenten season so it is a great time to check in and reflect on your experience so far.

How is your Lenten discipline progressing? Is it time to re-focus or re-think your preparation?

I think this Sunday’s gospel lesson provides an excellent backdrop for reflection.  The gospel reading includes John 3:16-17, perhaps some of the most well-known gospel verses—”For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

How does your own theology and relationship with God hold these concepts? Where do you fall on the spectrum of love, belief (doubt), condemnation, and salvation? I think we all have times in our lives when we feel like our belief may not be up to par, when we feel like we are under judgement, or when we feel surrounded by the negative and hurtful voices of the world. I would ask you to pay particular attention to how you talk to yourself about your Lenten discipline and about how faithful or unfaithful you feel you have been?  Are you speaking words of condemnation and judgment or words of love and acceptance when you speak to yourself?

Even as we proceed through a time of Lenten preparation, discipline, and repentance, I believe that we must also hold on to the reminder that God came out of love to give life.  We must remember that even though the world rejected Jesus, Jesus still came to save and not to condemn. Is your Lenten reflection and experience bringing you into a deeper relationship with the God who came to love and to save the world? What can you do to continue to spread the message of love, salvation, and eternal life in your own life and in the lives of others? What small steps can we take to counter the voices in the world that spread hate, fear, or indifference, and replace them with love?

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Lent – Week One

Amy Moehnke

By Amy Moehnke

Lent is the great reminder to not take ourselves too seriously.  In part this is because Ash Wednesday, the “kick off event” of Lent, centers around the simple but profound reminder that “we are dust and to dust we shall return”.  This is a simultaneously terrifying and wonderful truth that perhaps we don’t ponder enough.  I remember imposing ashes on my daughter’s little forehead when she was 4 years old.  It was the strangest thing to hear myself say to my own child, and yet there was a sense that it was the right thing to do- both to say it to her, and to hear myself say it to her. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.  She looked at me with her bright blue eyes while I touched her with that dark ash, and even though she was young, I had the intense feeling that she somehow got it, perhaps at a level that we grownups, with our knowledge, and our rationalizations, and our sheer desire to deny the inevitable truth of death just can’t (or won’t).  She accepted that what her mommy said to her in that moment was true, and she didn’t run from it.  Perhaps it was because the voice that said the words was the voice that sang her to sleep at night; perhaps it was because the hands that touched her head were the ones that wiped her tears when she was sad; perhaps it was because the ash became the very familiar cross when it reached her little face… I suspect it was a combination of those things, plus the movement of the Holy Spirit in that church, that made that moment super holy.  It was the perfect start to our Lenten journey that year. My hope for each of us this Lent is that the good news of our “dustiness” might become real in new ways as we make our way through this blessed season.  Thanks be to God.

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December 24

John 1:3-9, LightChad_McCall-3

By The Rev. Chad McCall

My son turned 11 recently, and the morning of his birthday he became somewhat obsessed with knowing the exact time he was born. He wanted to be able to mark the occasion with celebration and know the precise second that he would grow one year older.  There almost seemed to be a sense of worry that he might  “miss” the opportunity. You could tell that he had been anticipating this moment for weeks/months during the build-up to his birthday, and now that the day had arrived, he wanted to be prepared.

I think that we find so much joy in celebrating a child’s birthday because it is a chance to remind the child how much they are loved, and because it marks how the arrival of a child forever changes how we live and move through the world. The moment that a little life enters our world, we are forever changed. We assume responsibility for loving, caring for, and raising this new life, and it affects all of our relationships and how we view the world. When we celebrate a child’s birthday, we are also marking the day that our own life was changed.

During Advent, we prepare to celebrate the arrival of the light of the world, the light of all people that came to shine in the darkness. This child of light came to the world to change how we live, how we love, and how we see God and each other. The day this light arrived, our lives were forever changed.

We are God’s beloved children, and this season serves as a reminder that we are loved and celebrated; a reminder that this light lives in us and in everyone that we encounter. To be a child of the light means not only that we remember that the light lives in us, we must also be able to see the light in those around us. During Advent, we prepare to mark the moment that our lives were forever changed. We celebrate the arrival of the light of the world, the light that lives in us and that changes how we love and see the world around us. Look for and celebrate the light that surrounds you this season, prepare to celebrate the moment your life was forever changed.

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December 23

Luke 1:46b-55, Light

By Adrian Woods

When I think of the light, I often think of a time when as a child I had to go downstairs at night to turn off a light. A light I had left on. This required that I go downstairs into the darkness, down a hall to the other side of the house. Fear was creeping. I would turn off the light, heart racing, and run as fast as I could back upstairs to safety; back to the light.

We live in a world of perpetual darkness. Suffering, pain, and oppression persists in a variety of forms throughout existence. Amidst the sheer dismay at the state of our country or our world, I often find a desire, a willing, a wishing that things might be different. You might call it a hope or longing that in the end good will overcome, at last.

We can reflect upon Mary’s song with a similar hope for a better world.

52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones

    but has lifted up the humble.

53 He has filled the hungry with good things

    but has sent the rich away empty.

54 He has helped his servant Israel,

    remembering to be merciful

As we move through this advent season let us reflect on how, as Paul says, “All of creation groans in anticipation.” Like children who run to the safety of the light in a dark house, let us look for the light, the breaking in of beauty and goodness in our world. Let us seek out the light and even bring about the goodness and beauty in our world with patience, kindness, and humility. In this season of Advent, let us a sing songs of hope for a time in which we are brought safely into the light, at last.

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December 22

John 12:35-36, Lightpeter

By Peter Hahn

Recently, I attended the baptism of a friend’s child. The family was presented with a lighted candle and the words, “Receive the light of Christ.”  I wondered how many times “light” is mentioned in scriptures and halted my search at 400, still in the Hebrew Bible. Earlier in John’s Gospel, we are told, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.” (KJV) So what IS this light that is so prominent in our readings? Why, in our passage, does there seem to be a warning about timeliness?

To me, in a world full of variables, there is one absolute in Christ who is the “light” and that light is TRUTH with a capital “T.” But our truth prevails as we lead our daily lives and that truth varies from person to person.  In our “darkness” we struggle to earn a living, deal with everyday problems, and lose sight of the truth we are being offered and for many, live in a realm of despair with our shortcomings. Essentially, we are walking in the darkness and do not know where we are going.

The light of Christ is our one non-changing truth and we need only to “believe in the light,” follow that path, and believe that all else will fall in line. Jesus, as John recounts, may be telling us that that an understanding will not always be available to us. However, in Advent, it is being offered once again and we must pay attention, step out of the darkness, and prepare to welcome the newborn Christ, the eternal and only truth, the “light of the world!”

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December 21

Psalm 36: 5-9, Lightbeth-hudson

By Beth Hudson

There’s a wideness in God’s Mercy, like the wideness of the sea…

The words of this beloved hymn are an interpretation of these verses from Psalm 36 that so splendidly describe God’s love and light to be greater than all creation. From the depths of the sea to the highest clouds in the sky, more infinite than our humanity can comprehend, God’s love and faithfulness are steadfast and strong. I love the connection of a Creator’s sustaining faithfulness to the beauty and breadth of creation, as it is indeed in nature that I unfailingly feel a most tender and loving kindness from God.

We are all imperfect beings, each of us inclined to flatter ourselves and unable to recognize our own sins, just as the first verses of Psalm 36 portray us. But it is these final verses of the Psalm that bring hope and joy, the recognition that despite our faults, God’s shining light is as mighty and steadfast as the mountains.

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December 20

Isaiah 60:1-5, Light

By Jonathan Mudge

Darkness. For our ancestors the darkness of night was a treacherous time. Today many people continue to live in perilous conditions in which these concerns are ever present.  Most of us are able to escape the physical darkness of night if we so choose. However, the periods of darkness that will inevitably enter our lives can cover our souls just as when nightfall covers the earth.  This darkness is just as real and dangerous.  We long for a light to guide us.

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December 19

Psalm 139:7-12, Light

By Robin Cooper

 A Stable Lamp is Lighted, Whose Glow shall wake the Sky. Hymn 104

The imagery for us is haunting: the picture of shepherds, barn animals, common folk huddled around the light, gazing in wonder – the first human sighting of our greatest gift.

It is hard for us to think of how the world has changed in 2,000 years.  But there were no electric lights and the calendar was just a dream.  Most people were farmers who depended on the land to provide.  When cold and dark increased people were afraid and unsure of the future.

The choice of the 25th of December as the official Day of celebration was not an accident.  The light of the sun, which represented life and hope, had been decreasing for the six months and now it was making its way back.  It was a gift, a sign.

Even now as we go through these dark and sometimes gloomy days of late autumn, we can get beaten down with the craziness of the season.

Let us not miss the returning of the light, the promise of God’s Everlasting Love and Salvation.

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December 18

Genesis 1:1-9, Lightlynn_small

By Lynn Osgood

History has its cycles, and the cycle we are living through today can feel particularly rancorous.  In a nation that seems bent upon dividing itself in two, we wake every day to hear and ingest the world’s bitterness.  So in these times, there is nothing we long for with more earnestness than to find Light in our world.  We search both within and outside ourselves to find a Light that will give us solace, a Light that shows the darkness of the world to be mere shadows, a Light that renders the unfathomable into pictures of wholeness, and a Light that lets the darkness we see in ourselves (and so quickly identify in others) to dissipate in a wash of grace and empathy.

As we search our world and ourselves for these moments of grace, we yearn for the power to quite simply say, “Now let there be Light,” and invoke the grace that can soothe our souls.  It is there however that we must give pause, for I believe we must never seek the Light too quickly – to seek it before we are really ready to stand in its witness.  If we move too quickly into erasing our discomfort of the darkness, I believe we chip away at our own ability to truly know the Light in its fullness.

I was taken aback this week, while listening to the radio and hearing singer Joyce DiDonato talk about a request she put out to her community.  In this request she asked, “In the midst of chaos, tell me how you find peace.”  One of the replies that returned to her was from Joseph Wilson, a musician living in incarceration in Sing Sing prison.  In Joseph’s journey with his own brokenness he invoked that moment when God said, “Let there be Light.” He wrote, “One would then have to reason that God himself was dwelling in the darkness.”

Could our own ability to stand in the darkness, to stand in that space where we most earnestly yearn for Light, in fact be one of the deepest moments of communion we share with God?

As we move towards the season of Light let us pray: Lord, grant us the ability to stay in witness to the darkness, so that we can feel You being born. 

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