Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Wait. Lent.

On the church calendar, it is Lent, a time of waiting.

But our worlds leave no time for waiting.  We have that big meeting on Tuesday with a client, that business trip to plan, the schlepping of the kids to school each day, that needy relative or friend who demands our time.  And the shopping, when will we find time for that?  We don’t have time to wait; we are too darned busy for that.
But wait.  What is the ending of the season of Lent?  A lowly, mysterious, confusing Jewish man betrayed.  Confused followers, some denying they even knew him.  A brutal death, and after moments of silent pause, an empty grave/cave - the single point in history in which the cosmos were cleaved in two.  Easter Sunday. 
This was a moment and a day that changed history.  Forever.  This odd man, this Jesus, commanded us to love our enemies, be ridiculously generous with our money and possessions, live lives of deep integrity, and plead for us to seek justice for all. He called his ragtag little bunch of followers to go to the cold places, the broken places, the dark corners of the world, the ragged edges; not just to proclaim good news — but to be, to live out into history, the good news of God’s love.
Recently, the LA Times published an article about the completely uncommon desert bloom of flowers, brought on by the record rains of this year.  I recently traveled through the Mojave as well, and was struck by a color I have never seen before.  Green! It's literally everywhere  in the desert. 
And yet, as we all know, this green is temporary, it will not last.  It is ephemerel - “of, for, or during the day, living or lasting but for a day, short-lived, temporary”.  

Summer will come, the green will fade, the flowers will wither.  We hear much of this language in the Scriptures as well.
Wait.  We who have chosen to follow this Jesus, we are not ephemeral people.  We are part of something ancient and timeless, that leads slowly to eternity.  And there are big peices to this deep tradition to which we all belong….
We Strive to live with Fearless compassion
In the third century, plagues ravaged the Roman Empire. Imagine the panic as a killer disease — probably smallpox — raged from person to person. While others banished the sick in fear for their own lives, Christians distinguished themselves in ways people had never seen before, described by Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria: “Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ … drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains.”
This impulse to put other people’s need ahead of our own, to sacrifice greatly for others, is the mark of a believer who embraces the words of John 15:12: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”  This is earthchanging.  
Wait.  We are part of a movement of timeless, fearless compassion.
We long to Love without labels
Imagine living in an era when people were rigidly ranked by race, gender, economic status, and even slave or free. This was the world Jesus entered — and shattered. He and His followers offered equality for all people created in God’s image. The early Christians preached that through the saving grace of Jesus, everyone is loved and forgiven, regardless of status. Galatians 3:26-28 expressed their new identity: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Amazing news for those on the bottom of society’s totem pole!
Today, our culture persists in affixing labels to people, dehumanizing entire groups and making them less worthy of our mercy and compassion. Some of those groups might be illegal immigrants, refugees, or Muslims, or even teenagers.  As Christ followers, we must learn to reject labels and look at people as God does, as valued and beloved beyond comprehension.
Friends, wait.  We are part of a clan of believers descending through history.  Hand to shoulder, this strange clan trys to extend deep friendship and real, tangible support to those who suffer under negative stereotypes.
These things, this Fearless Compassion, this Loving without Labels, these are what we try to do....
Our worlds leave little time for waiting.

Wait.  It’s Lent, friends.

We are not ephemeral people.  We are the people of God, we are part of something ancient, and timeless, and beautiful.  

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