Monday, February 19, 2018

Through Stained Glass: A Mid-Week Reflection-Lent in the Library

Grace and peace, friends. This post is full of all sorts of fun information. Imagine it like a spilled bag of Skittles--a little bit of everything! 

First, an invitation:

Next, a practice:
Lent in the Library

We are asking for your help.  As we enter into the season of Lent, we are looking for creative ways to name God’s presence.  During Worship, all of our senses are engaged.  One suggestion is to invite you to write a haiku about the Sunday Scripture readings and sermons.   

What is a haiku?
"Haiku" is a traditional form of Japanese poetry. Haiku poems consist of 3 lines. The first and last lines of a Haiku have 5 syllables, and the middle line has 7 syllables. The lines rarely rhyme.

Where to write a haiku?
This is the fun part. We encourage you to write about God’s presence wherever and on whatever you want. If you see God’s presence at a coffee shop, write a haiku on the back of a napkin or a receipt and bring it to the church library. Or, write it on a piece of paper, your journal, or anywhere else, take a picture, send it to Adam, and we will display them in the library. The opportunities and ideas are endless.

When can you write a haiku?

Anywhere. Anytime. Lent is forty days long, after all! 

Here is an example, or two:

Here is an example from Sunday's worship service written by a parisjioner:
"Beloved spoken. What we hear, sometimes other. Woo us, belonging."
And another example from Transfiguration of Christ Sunday:
"Both sides of mountains
alive with transformation
sparks from the top fly"

Finally, a 'meditation':
Long John Silver
The White Witch
The Joker
Captain Hook
Cruella de Vil

What do all these names have in common? They are all considered to be the adversary in their respected story.

Of course, what is the definition of an adversary? Some define it as one's opponent in a contest, conflict, or dispute.

Synonyms: opponent, rivalry, enemy.

This past Sunday, like every first Sunday of Lent, we enter the wilderness with Jesus. It is in this desolate place where we encounter ‘Satan,’ or ‘the adversary.’ But that’s not the only character who greeted us in the wilderness. Take a look at Mark 1.13:
“He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts, and the angels waited on him.”

What you’ll notice if you placed Matthew, Mark, and Luke side by side by side, you’d see only Mark adds the ‘wild beast’ detail. And for centuries theologians and other church-y people have debated what these wild beasts were and whose side they were on.

I want to add my two cents. First, to the ancients, the wilderness was merely the headquarters of all things dangerous and evil. These wild beasts, they argue, are not on the side of the angels. They are the opposite of the angels, symbolic minions of evil, representatives of the Adversary, children of the Tempter whom Jesus is facing in the wilderness. They were, some suggest, jackals and hyenas in every sense.

Time and again in life, you and I meet our own wild beasts. Not jackals and hyenas, instead our wild brutes have names like “depression” or “breast cancer.” They are fearsome creatures like “widowhood” or “loneliness,” jackals with names like “shingles,” “alcoholism,” “drug addiction,” hyenas named “unemployment,” “self-doubt,” “divorce.” Every life has its wild beasts, every last one.

There are many theories out there about these beasts and the purpose of evil. The truth is, there are too many pains far too sharp to be justified by what they might teach us. The beasts are wild beasts after all. You know the names of your own. Some of us have faced them together. I cannot look you in the eye and tell you to “look on the bright side” or that the beasts are for your own good.

What I can tell you though is this…

No matter how wild the wilderness may be, and how vicious the beast is, you aren’t alone in whatever you face. God, as S/He was with Christ in the wilderness, will be with you in yours.

Also, chances are, after your wrestling match with the beast, you will walk away, even if it is like Jacob at the Jabbok, changed. I like what once pastor said about this when he said, “No choice about that. Some people grow embittered, jaded and broken, but others grow the other direction, deeper, better rooted in compassion, more firmly grounded in love. You have no choice about whether you face the beast, but you do have some choice as to how the beast changes you.”

If there is anything we can find comfort in from the first Sunday of Lent, it is that God has made a promise to be with us. Did you notice that? God doesn’t say there won’t be any hardships, wilderness places, or beasts. But God makes a covenant to be faithful through it all. Our God is one who knows our pains and sufferings.

And with God’s help, not only will we be able to endure and out last our adversaries, but we might also be able to make sense of it all once we are on the other side.

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