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Posts Tagged ‘Lent’

The Weakness of Love

March 20, 2009 4 comments

There are times when the symbols, the dreams, the vision of our world comes crashing down. We look for God.

But He is silent.

Throughout much of the Bible He is silent. We can remember when He spoke the Word of Life that woke our heart to love. This Word came as a fresh spring, as pure joy, as heaven’s bounty. But then in the dire anguish of suffering: silence. Nothing. Where did He go?

We grope. We ache. We wonder. We grieve. We grow weary. We may even curse and shake our fist at the heavens. Or in the blinding grip of life’s struggles, we may simply turn away and look for lesser gods. The gods of technology. The gods of sexuality. The gods of spirituality and religion. We turn to gods of our own making for comfort and satisfaction.

Strangely, these self-made gods have real power. But the power is not freeing. It does not lead us to deeper and truer love. It stirs in us lust for power. Power to control. Power to protect.

I will never hurt again if I can control this situation, this person, the job, this group, this family, this church. We seek refuge in the slavery of other gods, other pharaohs.

Sadly, the gods of our making really do enslave us. Really do cut us off from the freedom of love. Enslaved by the passions, we can no longer love or be loved. We simply lust to consume, and so we are consumed. The gods of our making not only enslave, they eventually kill us. Our families may die. Our friendships may die. Our churches may die.

Everything we once held dear may be sacrificed to the idols of our making. Our beautiful homes are filled with beautiful furniture and broken people. Families, marriages, children that have been offered to the gods of our consumption, to the ravages of passion, to the coldness of convenience.

In the pain of great loss, we may brood and rage and then repeat our deadly rituals to new gods of death and indifference.

Into the darkness of our self made tombs, the shuddering silence pierces us. The Lord extends an invitation of freedom. He speaks to the entombed heart, “Come forth!” He does not invite us to a life void of suffering. We awake to a world where hurts still hurt and pain is still very real. And His Silence is still Present.

But instead of control. Instead of a method or a god to control the pain, we are asked to simply trust. Let go of control. Let go of trying to live pain free and sorrow free. Let go into the promise of God’s faithful love.

This complete love is revealed Word-made-Flesh. Jesus the God and King who embraces our suffering, who bears our sorrows, drinks full the cup of pain and suffering that floods our world. And yet, He continues to love. Hanging from the cross of shame, He looks upon those who are taking His life and cries out, “Father forgive them.”

Some suggest this was weakness. And that our God is weak and frail and the Creator of weaklings. They are right. It is weak but not powerless. There is power in brute force and power in absolute weakness.

Brute force requires someone else to sacrifice for my satisfaction. Brute force will master and control for a short season. But it is no match for the power of absolute weakness.

Jesus reveals the absolute weakness of love.

Love completely trusts the Lover and in so doing becomes all power and all glory and all wisdom and all strength both now and forevermore.

Following the call of Jesus, does not mean learning how to control this world and avoid all pain. It means trusting in the love of the Father. The unfailing love. In this mystery of trust, we might, by His great and wondrous grace, learn to love. We might become the true and complete images of God that have moved beyond the childlike power of creating and controlling to the uncontainable power of loving relentlessly.

Then the call of God and the cry of our soul become one: “Let me love God with all that I am and love other people with all that I am.” May love prevail in thought, words, deeds.

Have mercy Lord. We are weak. Make us weaker still.

As I wrote this meditation, I was think about a quote from a book I read several years ago called, The Heart of the World by Hans Urs Von Balthasar. I think this quote is worth reading and rereading as we traverse along the Lenten byways.

And now God’s Word saw that his descent could entail nothing but his own death and ruination—that his light must sink down into the gloom—he accepted the battle and the declaration of war. And he devised the unfathomable ruse: he would plunge, like Jonas into the monster’s belly and thus penetrate death’s innermost lair; he would experience the farthest dungeon of sin’s mania and drink the cup down to the dregs; he would offer his brow to man’s incalculable craze for power and violence; in his own futile mission, he would demonstrate the futility of the wolrd; in his impotent obedience to the Father, he would visibly show the impotence of revolt; through his own weakness unto death he would bring to light the deathly weakness of such a despairing resistance to God; he would let the world do its will and thereby accomplish the will of the Father; he would grant the world its will, thereby breaking the world’s will; he would allow his own vessel to be shattered, thereby pouring himself out; by pouring out one single drop of the divine Heart’s blood he would sweeten the immense and bitter ocean. This was intended to be the most incomprehensible of exchanges: from the most extreme opposition would come the highest union, and the might of his supreme victory was to prove itself in his utter disgrace and defeat. For his weakness would already be the victory of his love for the Father, and as a deed of his supreme strength, this weakness would far surpass and sustain in itself the world’s pitiful feebleness. He alone would henceforth be the measure and thus also the meaning of all impotence. He wanted to sink to low that in the future all falling would be a falling into him, and every streamlet of bitterness and despair would henceforth run down into his lowermost abyss.
No fighter is more divine than the one who can achieve victory through defeat. In the instant when he receives the deadly wound, his opponent falls to the ground, himself struck a final blow. For he strikes love and is thus himself struck by love. And by letting itself be struck, love proves what had to be proven: that it is indeed love. Once struck, the hate-filled opponent recognizes his boundaries and understands: behave as he pleases, nevertheless he is bounded on every side by a love that is great than he. Everything he may fling at love—insults, indifference, contempt, scornful derision, murderous silence, demonic slander—all of it can ever but prove love’s superiority; and the black the night, the more radiant does love shine.
Hans Urs Von Balthasar from “The Heart of the World”

Dusty Saints

February 22, 2008 Leave a comment

The psalmist cries out to the Lord,

“My soul clings to the dust; Revive me according to Your word.”

During Lent, the cry of the psalmist becomes the cry of God’s people. Like Adam we hear the resounding Word of God announcing, “For you are dust and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19).

Unlike the birds, we have flown beyond the horizon to the moon, and we may even fly to Mars. Unlike the fish we have learned how to live under the sea and upon the land. Unlike the ants, we’ve built buildings that stand and stand and stand and continue to stand. Unlike the apes, we’ve formed clans and towns and cites and nations.

While inspired by the world around us, humans continually discover new ways to rise above the natural order. Like gods, we create, we rule, we master, we thrive. In rain and drought, we survive. We work in darkness and light. When new obstacles cross our path, we learn ways to surmount the obstacles and even use the energy from our struggle to grow even stronger.

Diseases may threaten us but eventually, we find ways to overcome. Even while facing the dreaded cancer, diabetes, heart disease and AIDs, we don’t give up. In fact, we are discovering more and more solutions to fight and win the battle against these threats.

The accomplishments of humanity boggle the mind. We live in a time of such exploding innovation that no one can even keep up with all the new discoveries that surface day after day after day.

We are lords of creation, and yet, we are still nothing more than dust. In spite of our power, our creations, our glory, we are fading. Soon we will die. And soon we will be forgotten. Like the grass, we wither and fall and fade.

We are but dust and to dust we will return.

When God decided to image Himself, He created a world. From this world, He took the dust and breathed upon it, and “man became a living being.” In spite of our accomplishments, we have no life outside of the breath that sustains us each moment.

Take that breath away, and we falter and fade. Thus the psalmist prays, “My soul clings to dust.” And yet, even as he acknowledges his dustiness, he calls upon the Word of God to revive him. The psalmist knows that the Word of God breathes life into his dust, for the Word is forever settled in heaven (Psalm 119:89).

While we rejoice and celebrate the wonder of human accomplishments, let us not be intimidated by the appearance of human mastery. We are not of the universe after all. Our kingdoms fall. Our innovations fail. Our power fades. We are but dust.

As we journey through the Lenten wilderness, let us cling to the Word of the Lord. His breath sustains, his Word creates and re-creates us. And by His grace alone, we can feed upon the Word that will stand forever.

Lent – The Call

February 14, 2008 1 comment

When I first heard it, I turned to see who was addressing me, but all eyes were on the singer at the front. The voice seemed too articulate to be a thought passing though my mind. And the words…the words seemed so mundane. God’s call to me didn’t come with trumpets and prophecies of glory and fire. But rather, I heard a still small voice say, “The time is not yet.”

For the past year, I had been considering exchanging my dreams of filmmaking for a life of ministry. Leading a drama team and speaking at various local churches stirred a vision in me to cry out and call a slumbering church to renewal. Our pastor consulted me on seminary plans where I could pursue a life in ministry.

Now those plans began to fade as an understated voice let me know that “the time is not yet.” Somehow I realized that this was a call of renunciation. I was being called to let go of my ideas of ministry, to let go of my passion to a build God’s kingdom, to let go of my plan for the days ahead. The voice was calling me to pilgrimage.

The psalmist writes, “Blessed is the man whose heart is set on pilgrimage” (Psalm 84). As we begin the 40 days of lent, we remember this call to pilgrimage. A pilgrimage is different than an adventure. J.R.R. Tolkien distinguished an adventure from a journey as a “there and back again tale.” We head out on an adventure, we have an exciting time and we might even risk our lives, but at the end of the adventure we return home. But leaving on a journey means never coming home.

While a pilgrimage may seem like a “here and back again tale,” it is really a journey of renunciation with no hope of looking back. Jesus invited his disciples to pilgrimage and suggested “looking back” was not a luxury afforded to disciples.

During lent, we are reminded that the call of faith is a call of renunciation. In one sense, all of us really are “poor wayfaring pilgrims.” The Lord of glory calls us from the future, inviting us to let go and keep letting go and keep letting go. Abraham was called forth to leave behind the world he knew.

The ancient Celts set forth on pilgrimage as peregrini, searching for their “place of resurrection.” The peregrini were not driven by “wanderlust” but rather of sense of obedience. Leaving the homes they loved, they traveled across the British Isles and the European continent, setting up little communities of faith along the way.

In some sense, we still hear that same call of renunciation. We are called to search for our place of resurrection and establish communities of faith as we go. 22 years ago, I heard a quiet, non-dramatic call, “the time is not yet,” and today I still feel the echoes of that call shaking my body and mind.

As we growing older, the act of renunciation often becomes more difficult. We grow comfortable accumulating stuff. From books and clothes and trinkets to ideas and habits and attitudes. Every so often, the voice comes booming forth, “the time is not yet.”

It’s not time to settle yet. It’s not time to sleep yet. It’s not time to die yet. I wrote that last line because at the end of my kidney illness, I assumed the journey was closing and soon I would leave. But the Father gently said, “the time is not yet.”

Our little Spring of Light community started lent with this reminder. The fire in our beloved “Living Room” gave us the opportunity to step forth as pilgrims once again. We won’t return to that building but will step forward into the next world our Father is preparing.

Whether you observe lent or not, I encourage you to listen and follow the gentle prodding of our Father. No matter how young or old, He continues to gently call us forward into the fullness of His kingdom. As we stop to look at all we’ve accomplished or accumulated, he reminds us, “the time is not yet.”

The Call of Lent

February 25, 2007 Leave a comment

During Lent, I’ll post a series of reflections over at Floydville. Here’s the first:

Something, someone is stirring. A voice is calling. In the deep of the night, we awake, feeling the voice inside of us. Gently, yet incessantly pressing, provoking, speaking. “Come away with me.” In the fullness of time, the Spirit calls and we can only follow.

We call this time “Lent.” By naming a time, we give it shape, we give it focus, we create space. As Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy suggests, “Time creates space.” We name our moments. The moments of my current waking hours, I call “today.” I awake today and join my voice with the voices of millions of Christians who have lived before me. We call this day, “Lent.”

Lent is a time for remembering.  continue reading at Floydville

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