What are you doing (or not) for Lent? – #2

Yesterday I started our thinking about Lenten practices with some links to a “40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer” and today I want to offer another suggestion.

But first, a word of caution. Please, please, don’t think I am suggesting you take on two, three, five, seven or more Lenten practices. You can buy into too many activities and can’t pay the price in time, or focus for any one of them. I know this from personal experience. Be cautious. Over the next few days I will offer several suggestions and hope you find one that draws you and you give it a try.

So for #2 I want to point you to an online discussion I read about recently.

Englewood Review of Books will be hosting a Lenten Book Conversation on Abraham Joshua Heschel’s book The Sabbath. While I have not yet read this volume of Heschel’s, all I have read of his in the past has been not only well written but profitable.

When I first read of this online discussion a digital copy of the ebook was $1.99, unfortunately the price is now $9.94. While I still recommend the book and discussion, I also recommend waiting to see if the price goes down again. If I see that it goes down, I will post an update.

Before we close today, a few words from Heschel,

Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else. Six days a week we seek to dominate the world, on the seventh day we try to dominate the self.

Maybe Lent could be, in part, a time for withdrawal from the daily routines to a place of Sabbath rest and … you tell me – what does your soul need?

What are you doing (or not) for Lent? – #1

You may be like me and come from a tradition in which Lent was unnoticed but also like me maybe you heard folks speak of “giving up” something for Lent.  Folks still practice various types of Lenten fasts but I hear more and more folks speak of adding something, a practice, for Lent.

Since we are a week away from the start of Lent (Wednesday, March 6, Ash Wednesday), I thought I would post a few thoughts about taking up a Lenten practice.

The first idea I want to share is why not add a reading from Dietrich Bonhoeffer for the 40 days of Lent.  (If you are not familiar with Bonhoeffer take a moment to do a quick internet search for this modern day saint who was martyred, hanged in a German prison, at the close of World War II.)

At

https://www.biblegateway.com/landing/bonhoeffer/?utm_source=bg&utm_medium=alert&utm_campaign=bonhoeffer0211

you will find a link to subscribe to 40 days of short readings delivered to your email. 

And at

https://www.biblegateway.com/devotionals/40-day-journey-dietrich-bonhoeffer/2019/02/27

you will find day 1 of the readings so you can see what you think about it.

I like the pattern – a Quote from Bonhoeffer, a Scripture, some Questions to provoke your thinking/meditation, a sentence or two from a Psalm, a statement or question for your Reflection, some ideas for Intercession, and a sentence Prayer.  An altogether good pattern to try on for a few weeks.

Let me know what you think and let me know If you have any trouble with the links.

Charles

{ubi caritas et amor, deus ibi est}

243 – Easter Challenges – Intention on the Spiritual Journey

Easter Sunday has passed … but has the Easter season passed? In this season between Easter and Ascension Day and Pentecost it is a good time to think about how we can live as “Easter people.” What can we learn during this time? It was time of learning for the first disciples and can be for us also.

Let me share a brief quote I recently came across,

“We get used to ‘knowing’ in a particular way. We are uneasy with things we can’t master or that don’t match our categories. We’re always trying to fit things into time, space, matter ; even when we encounter something utterly new like ‘dark matter’ or particles that we know only by their traces, we want to fit them in to some familiar conceptual framework. But the resurrection of Christ cannot be fitted in like that. It is not something that we can master; it is only something we can receive. We can only let it transform us and our whole way of thinking and seeing and being. In a sense, we find the resurrection difficult not because we are so earth bound – the whole of creation sings it; it is because we are so self-bound, we see only the problematic absence of the empty tomb.”

from; James Harvey, http://www.thinkingfaith.org/articles/20130330_1.htm

I fear some of us may have “fit” the resurrection into categories we understand and are too comfortable with it. We are so comfortable it has become familiar, and easy to deal with.

It should never be easy to deal with. It should always challenge us to open our lives to what is beyond our reach and our understanding.

How in these days of Easter will the resurrection challenge you to see beyond into God’s vision of life?

Charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

 

242 – Holy Week – Intention on the Spiritual Journey

We have moved though Lent, past Palm Sunday and find ourselves today on Maundy Thursday. Good Friday and Easter Sunday are just around the corner.

This week I have been wondering how we communicate why we call this time “Holy Week.”

And not just how we communicate it, but how we communicate in language that is heard today.

I wish I had a fully developed answer to share with you today but I am not there.

Can I ask your help today? I think I will ask our Sunday class the same question. The following is put to us in our class study guide,

“Record in your own words what the resurrection of Jesus means to you.”

How do you respond? How do you respond “in your own words.” Many of us are comfortable using “church” words to talk of resurrection. And no doubt we may have come to regard that as “our own words.” But could you speak of resurrection in different words?

Give it a try. What words come to you that best communicates what Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter mean to you.

Charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

***

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241 – Lenten Loss – Intention on the Spiritual Journey

I couple of weeks ago I was with a congregation and we were thinking together about something Paul wrote to the folks at Philippi,

“… whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3.7-8 NRSV)

As I was contemplating his words, I could not help but connect them with this Lenten season and the article from Christianity Today I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.

Many things we “give-up” for Lent (and even practices we might add) often are on the surface of our lives. They may be small things, or actions, or attitudes, or even more important things and actions and attitudes, but still often exist on the surface of our lives and our encounters with others.

Paul went deeper than that. He went to the things that give me his identity,

“circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” (vv 5-6)

How do we go past the surface of our lives, to the deep things of our identity, our souls, if you will?

Is a Lenten practice a good place to begin? Probably so.

Are “spiritual practices” and “spiritual disciplines” helpful? Sure.

But we can let all those things stay surface activities that do not touch our souls.

Where have you been touched deeply this Lenten season? What has been brought to your awareness that needs your deep attention?

Charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

***

Please feel free to pass this along to friends.

If you do not currently receive this mailing each Wednesday and wish to do so, contact me at cbgamb@gmail.com and I will add you to the list. If you you do not wish to continue receiving this mailing, let me know and I will remove your name from the list.

240 – What we give up for Lent – Intention on the Spiritual Journey

I did not grow up in a church were we talked about Lent or giving up something for Lent.  Over the last years as I have come to some understanding of the season of Lent and of what it can mean I hear people talk not just about “giving up” but more so about adding a Lenten practice.  I had come to the opinion that was the new norm but a recent article in Christianity Today* has me thinking otherwise.

Christianity Today reports that last year nearly 20% of Americans’s observed Lent and they found 400,000 tweeting about it.  Those tweets suggested “giving up” was closely associated with Lent and they reported on the 100 most often things given up.  “The top five choices: School, chocolate, Twitter, alcohol, and social networking …”

I make no claims this list reflects how most people engage the Lenten season but it is interesting that with a few exceptions this list reflects what I heard many years ago.

Maybe a word from Bernard of Clairvaux is worth hearing when we consider a “fast” of any kind,

“If the appetite alone hath sinned, let it alone fast, and it sufficeth. But if the other members also have sinned, why should they not fast, too? … Let the eye fast from strange sights and from every wantonness, so that that which roamed in freedom in fault-doing may, abundantly humbled, be checked by penitence. Let the ear, blameably eager to listen, fast from tales and rumours, and from whatsoever is of idle import, and tendeth least to salvation. Let the tongue fast from slanders and murmurings, and from useless, vain, and scurrilous words, and sometimes also, in the seriousness of silence, even from things which may seem of essential import. Let the hand abstain from … all toils which are not imperatively necessary. But also let the soul herself abstain from all evils and from acting out her own will. For without such abstinence the other things find no favor with the Lord.”

From: Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153), Saint Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, Selections from His Letters, Meditations, Sermons, Hymns and Other Writings

It strikes me that St Bernard’s counsel is reflected in a number of ways in the list of 100 things most given up, but it also strikes me that many items in the list may not go “soul” deep as he also counsels.  But, maybe it takes time to go soul deep and discover what should be given up and what should be added.

How is Lent going with you?  Whether giving-up or adding a practice, is it touching the soul?

Charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

* http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2015/february/what-to-give-up-for-lent-twitter-reveals-top-100-ideas-2015.html

239 – Wilderness – Intention on the Spiritual Journey

This past Sunday I was with a congregation where we were reading Mark 1 and thinking about “Wilderness.” We noticed the Gospel writer reminded us that the prophets spoke about the wilderness, that John’s “pulpit” was in the wilderness, that John attracted an audience (which included Jesus) in the wilderness, and that Jesus was called/driven deeper into the wilderness.

It seems we spent a goodly amount of time in the wilderness before we heard Jesus announce, “The time has come … The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Some time along the way it occurred to me that Lent is something of an “institutionalized” wilderness for us.

Lent offers us a way to get a taste of the wilderness the prophets and John tell us about and Jesus experiences. And like Jesus we do not experience it alone. For some of our companions we have the Scripture, Jesus’s example, and the company of other Christians. We might even encounter a few “wild beasts” and “angels” in some form.

As you make your journey from Ash Wednesday to Maundy Thursday, to Good Friday and on to Easter, who will accompany you? Who (or what) will be your “angels”? How might “wild beasts” show up? How will the Kingdom come nearer and nearer?

And don’t discount the idea that you may be called/driven to be God’s angel for someone else.

Charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

238 – Fast/Feast – Intention on the Spiritual Journey

As we once again come to Ash Wednesday and Lent, I want to share again the following prayer that for me speaks to the balance this season can point us toward,

Fast from judging others;
feast on the Christ indwelling in them.

Fast from emphasis on differences;
feast on the unity of all life.

Fast from apparent darkness;
feast on the reality of light.

Fast from words that pollute;
feast on phrases that purify.

Fast from discontent;
feast on gratitude.

Fast from anger;
feast on patience.

Fast from pessimism;
feast on optimism.

Fast from worry;
feast on trust.

Fast from complaining;
feast on appreciation.

Fast from negatives;
feast on affirmatives.

Fast from unrelenting pressures;
feast on unceasing prayer.

Fast from hostility;
feast on nonviolence.

Fast from bitterness;
feast on forgiveness.

Fast from self-concern;
feast on compassion for others.

Fast from personal anxiety;
feast on eternal truth.

Fast from discouragement;
feast on hope.

Fast from facts that depress;
feast on truths that uplift.

Fast from lethargy;
feast on enthusiasm.

Fast from suspicion;
feast on truth.

Fast from thoughts that weaken;
feast on promises that inspire.

Fast from idle gossip;
feast on purposeful silence.

Gentle God,
during this season of fasting and feasting,
gift us with your presence
so we can be a gift to others in carrying out your work.

Amen.

Charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

 

237 – Simplicity – Intention on the Spiritual Journey

I suspect you are all familiar with the Serenity Prayer,

Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Right?

How does it strike you?

If I am honest with you today, I have to admit I have in the past not been impressed by it’s “character.”

A while back I heard about the book The Way of Serenity by Father Jonathan Morris in which presents what might be called a prolonged meditation on the Serenity Prayer,

These words of his caught my attention,

“When I first encountered this prayer many years ago, it caught my attention, but I didn’t give it much thought. It seemed a bit cliché, something you might see on a motivational poster with accompanying pictures of sprinters, pandas, sunsets, weightlifters, or waterfalls.” (p 2)

I have to say he well expressed some my thoughts on this prayer. But he goes on to write,

“In my pride and immaturity, I had mistaken simplicity for shallowness, and the universal for the cliché.”” …. I witnessed broken men and women pray the Serenity Prayer like I could only wish to pray it myself. .. It was prayer because it was wide open, fearless, and important dialogue with God …. It was the purest and most genuine act of self-abandonment to God’s will I had ever witnessed. Their prayer wasn’t especially pretty, or clean; it was real, and gritty. It was the opposite of religious showmanship; it was intimate, existential, and wholly indifferent to any outsider’s praise or reproach. It was prayer, plain and simple.” (p 3)

OK! some instruction for me from Father Morris!

Was it my “pride and immaturity” that I took for “maturity” in prayer that prevented me from seeing the simplicity and honesty and full depth of the Serenity Prayer?

Maybe so.

Read over his description of the prayer again, and look for what you take to be the character of “true” prayer.

When is our prayer “true” in these ways? When does it fall short?

What might the Serenity Prayer teach us today?

Charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

 

236 – Fall Back – Intention on the Spiritual Journey

A day late.  Things the past few days just did not work out for me to get up a post yesterday but here we are today and we carry on.

This did get me thinking – what is my “fall back.”

If things get out of order or out of balance or simply “just messed up,” what practice or discipline gets me back on track, or at least closer to the track.

What is it for you?

Prayer? Silence? Solitude? Physical Exercise? A Meditative Walk in the Woods or on the Beach? The Quiet, Deep Reading of Holy Scripture? Worship at Church? Music? Works of Art? The Daily Office? The Jesus Prayer? Prayer Beads? Contemplative Prayer?

I could go on, but you get the idea.  Some of the above may be helpful while others, for that moment, do nothing to help you find the center and source of life.

Take some time and think back to times when you needed to find your “go-to” practice to help you get things in order.  What was it?  Maybe one I have named, maybe several, and of course it maybe something I have forgotten to mention.

As you name that practice, give thanks to God for coming to you in that way and providing so many ways to connect with you and hold you in tight.

Charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}