Lent day two and I am reflecting on the service last night and how meaningful it was for so many. I addressed something that has troubled me for years which is how they Church has used gimmicks in attempt to appear relevant. The idea of "Ashes to Go" at face value sounds like an interesting premise and a way to reach out to people. But for those of us who take this aspect of our faith seriously I find it offensive.
Now we have "Glitter Ash" which is another way the Church has found to use a sacred moment in a cheap way. Now please understand I have nothing against the LGBTQ community. I believe we are all loved by God. As I asked last night why do we keep having to segment ourselves into groups? Don't we all want to be one and seen as equals? Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes of "cheap grace" in "The Cost of Discipleship" which is grace offered freely without any thought given to true repentance. When we mix the sacred with the secular we are cheapening those things we profess to be important to us in order to appear "with it." It is little wonder the Church appears to be anything but relevant and looks in my mind to be a rather foolish.
Let's get back to doing the real work of Jesus which is loving neighbor and serving the poor, not being mesmerized by every shiny thing that comes our way-including glitter.
It has been far too long!
I have been chastising myself for not writing and posting on our website. It has been a rough couple of months-Type A flu! Now that I am beginning to feel somewhat like myself-heaven help us all-I promise myself to write and post more.
We are quickly approaching the season of Lent and I often am asked, "What are you giving up for Lent?" My response varies from year to year. I do not as a rule give up anything because I can't quite equate Jesus in the wilderness for forty days with not eating chocolate. It jars my sensibilities and for me makes light of a serious season. What I try to do, and some years I am more successful than others, is to add something to my daily routine of spiritual substance. I have not quite decided yet what that will be; but I will post it Ash Wednesday and write about it everyday.
In the meantime, I invite you to think about what it is you want for your Lenten discipline. Send me a comment. I am interested in knowing more.
The Word Draws Near
Tonight millions of people will gather in churches and cathedrals the world over to once again celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Some will come because they want to; others will come because of tradition; and still others because it is expected by family. The church will have been decorated by the Flower Guild and the choir will have rehearsed the anthems and special music for the service. Clergy feel the pressure to deliver a message which offers hope in darkness and speaks to all.
As the rector of my beloved church what I want for everyone who enters the doors of St. Thomas tonight is to remember one thing: God loves you. God loves you enough to send his son to be one of you. God loves you enough to want to understand what it means to be human with all of your wonder and yes your imperfections. In fact, he loves because of those imperfections. This is the God I have come to know over the course of my adult life.
I read quite a bit about how some feel the Church is judging them or making them feel less than. I beg to differ because this is not the Church I know and love. The Church I know says to everyone, "Enter in and rest awhile. Draw near to us." The Christmas story is not just about a birth, it is about the birth of God to people of no account. People who really were the nothings of the ancient world: no power, no wealth, no education. Roughed up by Rome and look down on by the authorities. Who hasn't felt like that at some point in his or her life. I know I have. What I take great comfort in is that God cares enough about us to want to become us.
In the Old Testament he is the God of smoke and fire. I would have to imagine that kind of God is kind of fun-for awhile. But then God realized it was no good to be feared. It is better to come alongside someone and to care about them. To be an on the ground witness to the messy humanity he himself created. What I believe God really wanted was to understand us and what better way than to become us.
My favorite Christmas carol is "O little town of Bethlehem" and each year a different verse becomes important for me. This year it is, "the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight." It is quite a bit of pressure to put on a baby, but this baby will grow up to be the savior and redeemer of the world. I am thankful to have him in my life and as a light to the world.
Wherever you are in your faith's journey, I pray you go to church tonight and allow "God to impart on your human heart, the blessings of His Heav'n."(italics mine)