Lenten Meditations: Good Friday

Good Friday

God is on Our Side

“Between the sufferer and the one who causes the suffering, between the victim and the executioner, God, whatever people make of this word, is on the side of the sufferer. God is on the side of the victim . . .” —Dorothee Soelle

Reflection

Pain, loss, and death are fundamental realities of the human condition. Live long enough, and we will know the experience of being both victims and perpetrators of human suffering. Even Jesus, the Anointed One of God, would not escape sorrow and the “weariness of the long dying.” At our lowest, we may wonder with Jesus in the depths of despair and defeat on the cross whether God has forsaken us. Unlike the gospel truth of the resurrection that gives us hope in despair, there is no guarantee that we will survive deep struggle or overcome our deepest pain. What is it that keeps us going when the way forward is unknown? Perhaps God is nearer to us in those moments than we dare imagine. Our spiritual forebears testify to God’s fidelity, solidarity, and mutuality with God’s good creation. It is comforting to consider that perhaps God is right there with us, suffering and crying out in pain, experiencing the depths of the worst of the human condition, and hoping that the cup of suffering will soon pass. Whatever pain, suffering, and heartache we endure, God has not abandoned us and always remains on our side.

Prayer

When I am poured out like water and suffering encircles me, Great Presence, do not be far away and come quickly to my aid.
Amen.

Lenten Meditations: April 14

“I ask you sir, to have patience with all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like closed rooms, like the books written in a foreign language. Don’t try to find the answers now. They cannot be given away, because you would not be able to live them. For everything is to be lived. Live the questions now. Perhaps you then may gradually, without noticing, one day in the future, live into the answers.”

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke (translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy) 

 

Reflection

I found this passage many years ago before I read the book. The passage meant a lot to me because  I had unresolved questions about what I was feeling in my heart. The passage gave me comfort knowing that someday, with the passage of time, the answers might reveal themselves.

Prayer

May those unanswered questions flow like waves of water over rocks and pebbles, letting ourselves flow with the current that will reveal itself as we flow into the peace that passes all understanding.

Amen.

Lenten Meditations: April 12

“We have all of us been told that grace is to be found in the universe. But in our human foolishness and shortsightedness we imagine divine grace to be finite. For this reason we tremble…before making our choice in life, and after having made it again tremble in fear of having chosen wrong. But the moment comes when our eyes are opened, and we see and realize that grace is infinite. Grace, my friends, demands nothing from us but that we shall await it with confidence and acknowledge it in gratitude…grace takes us all to its bosom and proclaims general amnesty. See! That which we have chosen is given us, and that which we have refused is, also and at the same time, granted us…for mercy and truth have met together and righteousness and bliss have kissed one another.”

– General Loewenheim’s toast in Babette’s Feast by Isak Dinesen

Reflection

There’s nothing like a Covid pandemic to twist one’s heart and mind with “What if?” What if my family or I get sick? What if the avocado supply runs out? I can spin in circles trying to decide what to do and how to feel.

Worry happens. Breath quickens.

Then I read again this bit from “Babette’s Feast” and I can feel my soul quietly melting away the ice of worry. My heart lifts in joy.

Prayer

Blessed one, keep my heart and mind melted and open to mercy and grace. And thanks. Amen.

Lenten Meditations: April 11

“The best arguments in the world won’t change a person’s mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story.”

 – from The Overstory by Richard Powers

Reflection

Humans are rationalizing creatures; we can often explain our actions and reactions through an internal series of justifications. This also means that we are not always rational or logical. We can easily twist and bend in the face of arguments to suit our own desires.

But we cannot escape stories. We are story-telling and story-receiving beings that explain our own pasts and futures through stories. The way we live our lives and interact with ourselves and communities tells everyone around us a story. We are living, breathing, embodied stories.

What story are you telling?

In this season of reflection and healing, how can we each individually and together pay attention to the stories we are living? How can we live stories of love, forgiveness, compassion, and joy?

Prayer

God of many names and voices, rescue us from our arguments and dwell lovingly in our stories. Amen.

Lenten Meditations: April 9

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”Galatians 6: 9-10

 

Reflection

How do we not grow weary in doing what is right? How do we not give up so that we will reap at harvest time? Are we able to recognize our moments of opportunity to let us work for the good of all? For there is ALWAYS an opportunity!

Prayer

Patient God, help us to increase our stamina for good work and widen our scope of those in our care.

Amen

 

 

Lenten Meditations: April 8

“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.” – Excerpt from Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

 

Reflection

It took a few years before all enslaved people in the US became legally free. People in Texas didn’t hear the news until June 19, 1865 when General Gordon, of the arriving Union Army announced the fact. Enslaved people in Union states became officially free with the adoption of the 13th Constitutional Amendment on Dec. 6, 1865. Members of the Chocktaw indigenous nation enslaved in the “Indian Territories” were freed in 1866.

Juneteenth, also known as Jubilee Day or Emancipation Day, is the longest running African-American celebration of emancipation. Freedmen in Galveston, Texas created the first organized celebration on June 19, 1866. Juneteenth was recognized as a US federal public holiday this last June 17th, by the 117th Congress (2021-22). African-Americans have been celebrating their freedom from slavery ever since they became aware of the President’s Proclamation. It took the US Government 158 years to acknowledge that releasing people from slavery is something to be

celebrated, or at the least, that a significant sector of the American population celebrates it.

I’m realizing that Juneteenth is important to me, too. If President Lincoln had not freed slaves in the Confederate states, I might still be living in a society that condones enslavement of humans. I and my family might still be enslaving people, as we did in the late 1630s.

 

Prayer

God of freedom, it’s time we stop segregating holidays by race. I’m starting to plan my Juneteenth party for next year! Amen.

Lenten Meditations: April 7

Excerpt from the Prayer of Saint Francis (authorship unknown)

Lord make me an instrument of Thy peace;

where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness joy.

Reflection

I’ve had a framed calligraphy of this St Francis of Assisi prayer on the wall of my office and home for over 25 years.  It resonated with me as a philosophy of life, as my primary guiding principles. It is direct, clear, and more relevant today more than ever for me and hopefully for you, our beloved Plymouth community.

Prayer (2nd half of the Prayer of Saint Francis):

O Divine Master,

grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

to be understood, as to understand;

to be loved, as to love;

for it is in giving that we receive,

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Lenten Meditations: April 6

“I believe that people will not merely endure: they will prevail. They are immortal, not because they alone among creatures have an inexhaustible voice, but because they have a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is their privilege to help people endure by lifting their hearts, by reminding them of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of their past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of humanity, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help people endure and prevail.”

 – William Faulkner, Nobel Prize acceptance speech (gender-neutralized)

Reflection

This helps me understand the Bible. It is a collection of hopes and fears, tragedies and triumphs, collected to help people endure and prevail, and it has succeeded remarkably in doing so. The authors and assemblers of the Bible weren’t looking for historical accuracy, they were looking for truths that would strengthen people, that would give us the courage to persevere.

Prayer

God, give me more courage to love my neighbor, to see all people as my neighbor, to suffer their indignities and delight in their joys, to share their losses, to desire their health, to help them find good food and housing and learning, to open more doors for them and close more jails.

Amen.

Lenten Meditations: April 5

And what did you do on earth?

I descended daily into the hush…if only for a moment, but sometimes for blessed hours at a time.

  • From “Remember” by Christine Valters Paintner

 

Reflection

What do you observe when you descend into the hush, the silence, the holy? It can be a mere moment when you are in awe at the taste of a strawberry, the feel of water as you wash a dish, the sound of spring rain, the warmth of sun on your face. Or it can be a place of cultivating the breath, sitting in silence. There’s not just one way to experience the hush. Not just one way to pay attention. And then… begin again.

 

Prayer

Source of all, awaken my experience of holy in all that comes to me.

Amen.