A Monday Morning Confession

It's the first Monday of Lent, and I'm offering this short confession. To learn "How to Lent and Why," check out my Tiny Letter. 

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"When did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?

He will answer them... what you did not do for one of the least of these you did not do for me."

~Matthew 25:31-46, Daily reading for the first Monday of Lent (February 19 2018)

 

This is my confession:

I drive smooth streets in an upper-middle class part of town. Homes around here have real wood doors, wooden shutters too, even on the second and third stories. They are situated in subdivisions named estates.

I live north of poverty, set aside not by railroad tracks but by miles of pavement and economic barriers. I attend a church a couple of miles down the road, one that attracts the literate upper-middle class and upwardly-mobile college student. We break bread in the commercial district of Fayetteville, U.S.A.

Most weeks, I work at home in a comfortable office, sitting on a Swiss Ball, pecking at my keyboard. It's individual work, sometimes isolating. I like the isolation.

I am set apart, but not in the sense of the holy writ. I'm set apart by American middle-class isolationism, by individualism, by economic choice. And in that, I can almost hear a whisper trying to wriggle out of my stranglehold.

"Lord, when did I see you..."

 

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How to Lent and Why

Every year, automatic as a clock, my grandfather would call just after sunup. “He is risen!”

We all knew the drill. If you were on the other end of the line, there was only one acceptable response.

“He is risen indeed!”

It was my family’s singular Easter tradition, unless shopping for a pastel-colored Polo shirt passes for tradition, in which case I participated in two. But aside from the pastel pageantry and the Easter-morning phone call, there were no real practices of reflection, repentance, or reflection leading up to the brightest day of the year. There was no genuine discussion of the Good Friday crucifixion or the black and liminal Saturday before the breaking dawn. Easter was another Sunday, except we hustled to church twenty minutes earlier to beat the Chreasters (Christmas-and-Easter-only attenders) to the pews.

That, and my preacher called it “Resurrection Sunday.”

That, and I ate my weight in Cadbury Creme Eggs.

 

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The Unrecorded Miracles

I read today's lenten gospel passage, John 2:1-2. The story recounts how Mary strong-armed her son into performing the first recorded miracle at the wedding feast. I considered the passage, and this is what came. Enjoy.

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The Unrecorded Miracles

These are the secret miracles:

the boy at the window greeting the sun before its eyelashes opened over the mountain;

dirt drawings of simple birds, his blowing of that dust to flight;

the neighbor widow's full flour sack, oil jar, her house rich in bread and laughter;

His tiny hands above my belly, how a word stopped the bleeding as he wept with me

for my son, his brother; his tears blotting my feet, hem drying tiny baptismal pools.

I've carried these like water in jars, waiting for the word to age memories into wine.

 

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Ash Wednesday

“How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Who’s sin is covered!” —Psalm 32:1

Today is a day of ashes, a day to remember that we were dust and to dust we shall return.  In that, we consider the ends of our nature, the temporal nature of our desires. How does sin so easily entangle? How is it wound into all of us?

In the recognition of our ashenness, we can still find joy in this: Ash Wednesday marks a season of reflection on Christ's march to the cross, his death, burial, and resurrection.  In this march, through this march, on the far side of the march, he set everything right--us, earth, heaven, the whole shebang. In this, he took the ash of everything and turned it platinum.  So as we remember our ashenness, as we recognize the lusts of the flesh and do what we can to kill them, let's not forget: salvation is coming.

Can you hear it?

“O Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with Psalms.” –Psalm 95:1-2

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There is no Easter Friday

There are some churches, I have heard, who have opted for Friday and Saturday Easter services. This, I suspect, is to make space for this weekend's capacity crowds, or to facilitate more convenient Easter brunches. I've been thinking about these services, though, and I can't shake the notion that without commemorating the climax of crucifixion, or the tension of death, the Gospel's plot is flat. Discounting death and lament neuters the resurrection. There's no such day as Easter Friday or Easter Saturday. Without the lament of death, or the stench of the grave, there can be no celebration of resurrected glory.*

*This is not to say that those who regularly meet on Fridays or Saturdays should be ashamed of celebrating the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Nor is this to say that those who celebrate a strict Holy Week should take pride in following rote tradition. Instead, the point is commemorating each facet of the Gospel story with intention.

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And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him,they divided his garments among them by casting lots. Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. And those who passed by derided him,wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Question: What do you see in the Cross of Christ?

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