Saint Valentine’s Sunday, February 14, 2021@11:00 a.m.
[…my dear wife, my sweetie-pie, has loves me after fifty years plus…unbelievable…]
“…the deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today…”Pope Innocent III
“…above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to His beloved ones is thatof overcoming self…” Francis of Assisi
“…all who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law. Clearly no one is justified before God by keeping the law,because, ‘The righteous will live by faith’…” (Galatians 3:10,11 [Paul of Tarsus])
“…love your community by avoiding going out…what else is the pandemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw consumes life and body…” Dr. Martin Luther
Today, let’s pray the prayer of Francis of Assisi together:
“Lord, make me an instrument of your 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…and where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console…to beunderstood, 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…”
As human beings we may stop from time to time, but time itself is relentless. Most of us have spent summer, fall, and Christmas at home this past year, and now in 2021, we are at the beginning of Lent, Ash Wednesday, lending itself into Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter.
Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2021
What is this day all about? What is the Service of the Imposition of Ashes all about? We kind of get the gist of Good Friday and Easter, but what about Ash Wednesday? Well, ittakes place forty days prior to Holy Week. Now let me check that a minute. Hold on!Yes, sure enough. There are forty days from Ash Wednesday to Palm Sunday.
The designation of forty days has always provided in the Scriptures a strange extendedsense of Divine presence in our midst…we sense something more than change, it’s atransition, or a sacred journey, or Godly intervention of huge proportion. For instance…
It rained in the narrative of Noah and the Ark for forty days and forty nights. It was God’way of starting the human story over again. The Children of Israel under Moses wanderedin the wilderness for forty years before entering the Promised Land under Joshua. It was preparation for the Hebrews to live as Yahweh’s people aided by the Ten Commandments. Jesus Christ was on the Mount of Temptation for forty days and forty nights fasting. It was the beginning of His formal ministry years and victory over Satan before starting that ministry. After the Resurrection there were forty days until the Ascension, the Disciples adjusting to the ultimate message of what it means to live in Christ Resurrected.
So, too, you and I, as human beings, bound in God through Christ, touched significantly and powerfully by the Holy Spirit, need these symbolic forty days to experience that same sense of God’s intervention, holy journey and spiritual renewal. You know, I’m not so much into”spiritual renewal” as I am in Holy Spirit transformation. Spiritual renewal to me sounds muchtoo “churchy”…I need personal transformation…I need the Holy Spirit to take control of mylife. Otherwise, I’m much to inclined to do my own thing…and I know what my own thing is!Freedom to me is being “bound up” in Christ Jesus. That may sound like a contradiction interms, but really, left to my own device, I will certainly imprison myself in one way or another.
Do you know what your own thing is?
Go ahead. I won’t tell.
Some people end up wondering why Easter…that is…Resurrection Sunday…just doesn’t make it for them. Yes, they love the Holy Communion Service on Easter Sunday, butsomehow something sure is missing. Human beings like you and me need the traditional time recommended by our Forbearers to experience the transforming power of God in this season of the year. I love it when there is congruency between what is happening insideof me as the things are happening lending themselves into Spring from Winter.
It is because we need to diligently prepare for something momentous to happen in ourlives. God is not going to “zap” us without us and our human will being involved. We need to consent to “going out of our way” to receive the greatest blessing we could receive inlife. We don’t have the ability to just rise up at the last minute on Easter Sunday morning to receive the full benefit of what Resurrection Sunday is all about. We need to allow our special dish to cook and then simmer. God is a gentleman. He doesn’t force religion upon us.All true Christians are volunteers. In turn, we can do all the important things in our life as weattain to the only real “essential” thing neccary in our life. It will all fall into place once we get our priorities correct. It starts with something like this:
“…I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life Ilive in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me…”(Galatians 2:20 [Paul of Tarsus])
Saint Paul got it right. He could’ve made a name for himself apart from matters of faith,but there was something inside of him, that made him sit up and notice…that made himseek after God. He became the “young lion” of Judaism. He was smart, he was wise, for everybody’s benefit, except his own. He really made a name for himself. He got so religious, he got involved with persecuting the followers of Jesus. He got lost, at first. in religion, but then, he was saved by faith. It took an encounter with Jesus (Acts 9:1-19)… because he was so hard-headed and intelligent. Sometimes we can be so smart, we’re dumb. Please note the words of Jesus,
“…if the light within you is darkness, it is indeed a most profound darkness…”
It’s time in the Church that we accept the wisdom of the early Church Fathers and Mothersand those who followed them. That’s one good reason to start your journey to Holy Weekearly this year in the traditional way. There are Lenten guides available, but your bestbet is always the Bible…
Die to self.
We need to go ahead, as is dictated by the things we normally proceed to do in the midst of pandemic. We also need do all the important things we have to do, but in the process, observe Ash Wednesday, and the forty days of Lent. It would be excellent, I am thinking,to share it together on zoom, along with Scripture reading, personal comments, and somereally “down-home” prayer.
May you be blessed and uplifted this day. The journey begins on Wednesday!