1st Sunday Lent 8 MAR 2014
There is a story that many of you may have heard, but it is a story that I think might reach to the heart of the purpose of this beautiful season of Lent.
A couple had been in relationship with one another for several years. Every holiday they would buy a ham for their family holiday dinner. Every year one of them had the task of unwrapping the ham, they would take out a knife and cut off a rather large portion of the end of the ham and proceed to put it in the pan and prepare it. One year, one partner said to the other….please tell me, why do every year we buy this beautiful ham, and then proceed to cut off the end? The other partner said….I don’t know that is what my Mom always did so that is what I do. So they called Mom…she said, I don’t know, it is what my Mom always did so that is what I have always done, and luckily Grandma was still alive, so they got ahold of her. She said, well dears, the reason I always cut off the end of the ham is because it would never fit in the only roasting pan I had and it was the only way I could fix it for our holiday dinners!
This my friends is just one example of the power of paradigms!
This season of Lent is a season that is filled, maybe even wrought with paradigms, and I am inviting us to give ourselves permission to explore the paradigms and maybe even explore some new paradigms.
Lent is not a season of shame, guilt, and generally beat ourselves upness…as may be a familiar paradigm for many of us.
I grew up literally despising this season, because I had to give something up….I had to give stuff away…usually a part of my allowance, and I had to eat those lousy canned salmon patties, and sit through the painful, boring and torturous Stations of the Cross on Friday evenings, and to top it all off, if my parents were really creative, they would make us kneel on the hard floor around the kitchen table on Weds night and pray the rosary….
I loathed this season….it has taken years of education, countless hours of therapy and a ton of money to come to the realization that we were doing or had done those things many times like the previous story, because some other uneducated or ill informed Priest had decided that those practices of piety were the way it was to be done….
and if you come from that tradition, you know full well, just like Grandma in the earlier story…you don’t ask why! You just do it!
One of the beauties of the tradition of the Old Catholic Church, is the principle of inquiry and curiosity.
Ask, seek, explore, question, search for purpose and meaning and most of all understanding!
Here is the crux of this season….
it is a 40 day, intentional time, to deepen our relationship with our God….
it doesn’t let us off the preverbal hook…to just say…oh we used to do that and we don’t have to anymore….
it is an intentional time to examine the potential of a paradigm shift….
a new way to explore our disciplines and align them with our purpose.
If giving Alms….makes us think more about the call to justice in our lives…then give alms…….
If fasting….if not eating meat on Friday reminds us that God and our relationship with prayer ought to be first and foremost in our lives then don’t eat meat…but if it costs your family more or is such a struggle that it hampers our relationship then the paradigm is not helping us to reach the goal.
If ritual prayers like the rosary, the stations of the cross or some daily reflection or daily prayer practice enhances and deepens the awareness of the holiness planted deep in our hearts….then do it….but if such practices simply cause us to loathe the season…then stop cutting off the end of the ham….your pan is probably big enough!
So here is the bottom line….
I want to invite us all into the next 40 plus days, to intentionally try out some new or familiar paradigms in the hope that when we reach the great celebration of Easter, we will be able to say in our hearts….this has been a great retreat!
Now on to the Gospel itself….it only makes sense in context…
This story follows Jesus own 40 day intentional reflection time….
You see in Matthews Gospel….Jesus has just had a moment of profound transformation….
Jesus had just had a “Metanoia” experience….
he was baptized by John….
as he came up out of the water,
the Holy Spirit had engulfed him….and in that embrace of the Divine there was a voice that defined his entire life and ministry…..
You are my beloved and with you I am well pleased!
That reality was so fundamentally profound for Jesus…
it was one of his defining moments!
He went into the desert….to contemplate….to explore….to ponder those words…
You are my beloved and with you I am well pleased!
Satan sees the great chance….if doubt can be cast on that belief…Satan can stop the wildfire that is about to erupt on the world….
At a moment of profound struggle….a moment of profound wrestling with God and with understanding in Jesus’ life…
as he wants to understand what it means to be loved beyond any limit by God…
Satan tries to cast just a seed of doubt, a seed of fear, a seed of destruction….
If you are God’s beloved…turn these stones to bread….you are hungry and you are God’s beloved…if that’s true then just eat….
And we know the rest of those temptations…
As I look at our community…..
as I look at what we have done, how we continue to grow,
as I compare it to the Word of God I see, the naked are being clothed, the hungry are being fed, the systems of injustice are being challenged, faith, hope and love are winning over doubt, fear and hopelessness.
We, just like Jesus are really trying to understand what it means to be beloved children of God with whom God is well pleased.
In that we have taken 6 years to live into the Divine indwelling of holiness,
and we can and do proclaim that we are a community of
Radical Hospitality, Provocative Nurturing, and Courageous Compassionate Leaders….
Here lies what I see as our greatest challenge….
Satan would love nothing more than to stop the wildfire of that message….
because I believe it is the message of Christ that can and will transform the lives of many.
The seeds of fear, of doubt, of disbelief
they have the potential to destroy the message of God’s Good News,
and I would like to invite us all to gently, but intentionally pick up those seeds, put them back in a little bag and throw them away.
For the next three weeks, on the back table there will be a one page reflection for your consideration if you so choose to use them in this season.
Each one of those reflections will focus on the three pillars of this wonderful community. I would like to extend to each and every one of us an invitation….
to take one home, put it on the frig or table and use these 40 days to explore the profundity of their meaning for our life as a community.
I close today with just one line from this weeks reflection on Hospitality….”Hospitality is not a method of making our God and our way into the criteria of happiness, but it is rather the creation of an opportunity, a free, unencumbered space, for others to find their God and their way.”
As our season begins, let us Be and Become who we are….
God’s beloved children, with whom God is well pleased!
My friends, I invite us all to shift the paradigm….don’t just cut the end of the ham.