Tag Archives: journey

Lent 2019 – Day 13 – Jeremiah 3:6-10

The Lord said to me in the days of King Josiah: Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and played the whore there? And I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to me’; but she did not return, and her false sister Judah saw it. She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce; yet her false sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. Because she took her whoredom so lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree. Yet for all this her false sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but only in pretence, says the Lord.
–Jeremiah 3:6-10 (NRSV)

Lent is a time of year when the church and the lectionary tend to challenge us. On Ash Wednesday, we are invited to observe a holy Lent, by fasting and self denial, immersing ourselves in Scripture and prayer. It’s a time of the year when we challenge ourselves and perhaps deny ourselves a few things we might not otherwise deny, as we walk toward the cross and Calvary.

The Daily Office Lectionary in the Book of Common Prayer tends to include readings that some might consider a bit more challenging. I know I find the Old Testament reading for today from Jeremiah to be quite challenging.

This excerpt from Jeremiah exemplifies one of many areas in the Bible where women are likened to the status of property, of a pawn used in determining political deals and familial arrangements. And blaming the misjudgements or immoral behavior of the woman for potential undesirable outcomes of political or military ventures. This is obviously not something modern, enlightened people believe. But why did our ancestors?

Too often, modern people will “throw the baby out with the bathwater” to use a tired but easily understood expression. That is, many modern people will turn their back on God and on the church because of how many difficult things are in the Bible…misogyny being just one of many.

However, reading these difficult stories, and learning from them, and perhaps asking why things were once that way, and what came of such perceptions, and how can we be better…these are all valid questions to ask. There is so much beauty and positive energy throughout the Bible; but also so much hate and violence and destruction.

And yet, we read these stories. We read them again and again. We struggle with them, we question them, we get angry at them. And yet we are inspired by them, enlightened by them, and revived by them.

Thankfully, we have come a long way in how women are treated in society. Though we still have such a long way to go. Perhaps reading stories like this remind us of how offensive and disgusting such language and ideas are. Does any good ever come out of treating an entire group of people with such contempt?

I don’t have answers, but I bet that I am not the only one struggling with this. Reading these stories and struggling with them together are one of the many things that I find rewarding about being a Christian. So, let’s struggle together as we walk toward the cross this Lent, and watch and pray with Jesus as he walks with us.

O God, you so loved the world that you gave your only- begotten Son to reconcile earth with heaven: Grant that we, loving you above all things, may love our friends in you, and our enemies for your sake; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The Summons

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?
      Will you let my love be shown,
      will you let my name be known,
Will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
      Will you risk the hostile stare
      should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
      Will you kiss the leper clean
      and do such as this unseen,
And admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

Will you love the “you” you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
      Will you use the faith you’ve found
      to reshape the world around
Through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

Lord, your summons echoes true when I but call your name!
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
      In your company I’ll go
      where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow in you and you in me.

–Words & Music: John L. Bell (b. 1949) of the Iona Community

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Church Reflections

I am a new resident of the Seattle, and I am on a search to find a new church home. I plan to record reflections on my visits to the various churches I visit, mainly for myself, but I figure others might also enjoy reading a bit about my visits. My hope is to focus on those things that appealed to me about the churches…I think being positive is a good thing! But, there are certain things that might stand out that aren’t so positive. My intention is not to be negative or criticize, rather to document and be factual in certain things…

And now, a prayer for guidance on my journey to find a new church home:

Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with your most gracious
favor, and further us with your continual help; that in all our
works begun, continued, and ended in you, we may glorify
your holy Name, and finally, by your mercy, obtain everlasting
life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Note: I am Episcopalian and these will only involve Episcopal churches!

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O Jesus, I have promised

O Jesus, I have promised
to serve thee to the end:
be thou for ever near me,
my Master and my friend;
I shall not fear the battle
if thou art by my side,
nor wander from the pathway
if thou wilt be my guide.

O let me hear thee speaking
in accents clear and still,
above the storms of passion,
the murmurs of self-will;
O speak to reassure me,
to hasten or control;
O speak, and make me listen,
thou guardian of my soul.

O Jesus, thou hast promised
to all who follow thee,
that where thou art in glory
there shall thy servant be;
and, Jesus I have promised
to serve thee to the end;
O give me grace to follow,
my Master and my friend.

Words: John Ernest Bode, 1868
Sung to the tune Nyland, Finnish folk melody

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Walking the Labyrinth

The spiritual exercise of walking a labyrinth is something I have heard about for years, but never decided to try until today. I’ve visited many, many churches and other spiritual places that have labyrinths, and have stared at them thinking “someday”, but today I actually decided to try it. I am amazed at how focusing it was to my prayer and my spirit.

The labyrinth that I decided to walk was in Jackson, Wyoming at St. John’s Episcopal Church. I’m here on vacation for a few days, and had passed this labyrinth (just off the main street of the town) several times over the last few days. This afternoon, after spending some time with a good book and a cup of cold brew coffee, I decided to divert some time to prayer and to walking the labyrinth.

Before I began my walk, I sat down at a bench on its perimeter. I thought to myself “Hmmm, there are lots of people on the street walking by that might look at me and think I’m nuts.” And I thought, “How long will this take?” The more I sat there and wondered if I should or shouldn’t, the more I thought to myself “Just do it.” I tend to overanalyze everything, and after realizing that, just got up and started.

As I stood at the entrance to the labyrinth, I began with my favorite prayer by Thomas Merton, which begins “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going…” And I decided to use one of my favorite Bible verses as a mantra during my walk…I chose Micah 6:8b (What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?). As I began, I quickly noticed how what I expected to be the path (a very straightforward, predictable path) actually wasn’t at all what I was expecting. I continued saying my mantra. A toddler who had been playing in the grass nearby wandered into the labyrinth. I continued saying my mantra. A few passersby approached the labyrinth and looked at me. I continued saying my mantra. A man came into the labyrinth circle and sat down and watched me. I continued saying my mantra. When I reached the center, I paused, stood still, and thanked God for the moment. I turned around and walked the same path back out while simply focusing on my breathing.

The practice was surprisingly calming. As I encountered the slight distractions along my way, I couldn’t help but think of the symbolism in my everyday life. Every day, distractions can pop up, but I can’t let those distractions get to me or hold me down or suppress my spirit. I must continue to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. It is only with God’s help that I can achieve anything in this world. And it is only with God’s mercy that I can love and be loved in this world. As I continue in my life, my prayer continues to be that God lead me by the right path, and for me to acknowledge that God does not let me face my perils alone.

It’s a beautiful thing, what I feel after having walked the labyrinth. I’m not sure why I ever waited so long to give it a try. It was remarkably centering to my spirit. I look forward to my next labyrinth walk!

The labyrinth at St. John's Episcopal Church in Jackson, Wyoming.

The labyrinth at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Jackson, Wyoming.

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Lenten Reflection – Day 24

I recently read an article on NPR news about the death of astronaut William R. Pogue, who was the first astronaut to do something unthought of: he went on strike while in space. In his obituary from the New York Times, it states that while orbiting the earth, Pogue went on strike “to demand more time for contemplating the universe.” When I read that, my jaw dropped. Knowing all of the things that astronauts have to go through to qualify for space missions, and the trust that they are given, and their rigid expectations…and yet, Pogue did something he felt was right: demand for a bit of private time to be able to think about where he is.

What a beautiful gesture. And I think it’s one we can all learn from. I cannot count the days when, after a long, tiresome day, I get home and realize how the day had whizzed by and how I spent little to no time focusing on my mere existence and appreciating the little things. I work with people who routinely work 10 and 12 hour days without taking breaks, taking conference calls and meetings and monitoring email and making phone calls…and not a second thought about quiet or stillness. I think each of us can learn a lesson from this genuinely brave man. Be attentive to your surroundings. Take some time each day to “go on strike” and appreciate where you are, what you have, and the beauty that surrounds you.

May you rest in eternal peace, and rise to eternal glory, Mr. Pogue.

William R. Pogue
January 23, 1930 – March 3, 2014

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Lenten Reflection – Day 20

We are at the midway point of Lent. Today, I find myself wondering how Jesus did it. How did he live the life that he did, being a perfect example for us. He lived his life in perfect humility and love, making the ultimate sacrifice for the world.

It’s amazing and terrifying to think of. Living your life in constant humility and love. The older I get, the more emotionally trying life becomes. Friends are made, friends move away. Family are born, family die. Significant others come into your life, and leave just as fast sometimes. Life is an incredibly difficult journey. In fact, it is too much for some people to bear. Suicide and depression and addictions are rampant in our modern society.

I have found that the only stable thing in my life is my faith. If it weren’t for God’s strength in me through Jesus Christ, my life would look terrifyingly different. I am truly thankful for God’s gifts of compassion and love that constantly weigh on my heart. Anytime I perceive heartache in my life, I turn to God for strength. It is not an easy thing to do….it is the only thing to do.

Merciful and loving God, may your love in me pour out into the world like a spring that burst forth in the desert. May your love quench the dry hearts of those who seek you, and may your glorious life be a beacon to all whose lives are parched from depression and despair. Amen.

Jesus the Good Shepherd

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Lenten Reflection – Ash Wednesday

Lent is one of those church seasons that people either love, or they hate. They either ignore it, or they embrace it. It’s a seriously misunderstood season. Some people think that they “have to give up something for Lent.” Others ignore that practice and perhaps “take on something new.” Regardless of whether you do or don’t observe the season of Lent, it is undeniable that the season is meant to bring us closer in our faith in Jesus Christ as we mark his 40 days of fasting in the desert. That is the whole point of Lent…a commemoration of Christ’s 40-day journey in the desert where he fasted and prayed, and where he was tempted by the devil. In our observance of Lent (in whatever way you choose to do it), I hope that you are brought closer in your journey with Christ as you pray and reflect on the unbelievable love God has for us in Jesus Christ. A love so powerful that it survived crucifixion.

Throughout this forty-day Lenten season, think about a way you might focus your soul in quietness or simplicity, in service or in solitude, in loving acts or in silent prayer. May you have a blessed Lent!

Ash Wednesday

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As with gladness men of old

As with gladness men of old
did the guiding star behold;
as with joy they hailed its light,
leading onward, beaming bright;
so, most gracious Lord, may we
evermore be led to thee.

As with joyful steps they sped
to that lowly manger-bed;
there to bend the knee before
him whom heaven and earth adore;
so may we with willing feet
ever seek the mercy seat.

As they offered gifts most rare
at that manger rude and bare;
so may we with holy joy,
pure and free from sin’s alloy,
all our costliest treasures bring,
Christ! to thee, our heavenly King.

Holy Jesus! every day
keep us in the narrow way;
and, when earthly things are past,
bring our ransomed souls at last
where they need no star to guide,
where no clouds thy glory hide.

In the heavenly country bright,
need they no created light;
thou its light, its joy, its crown,
thou its sun which goes not down;
there for ever may we sing
alleluias to our King.

Words: William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898), 1860
Tune: Dix (Conrad Kocher, 1786-1872, arranged William Henry Monk, 1823-1889)

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The Journey of the Magi

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kiking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

–By T.S. Eliot

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