Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Meditation for Tuesday in Holy Week

The lessons for today’s service point the way to the cross.  Now we come toward the end of our Lenten journey and prepare our hearts for the remembrance of the last days that lead up to the crucifixion.  It is sometimes difficult this time of year to slow down and tend to this task.  It is difficult to practice introspection and solemnity during Lent because of the temptations of Spring all around us.  It is difficult to look at the cruelty of the cross at any time, especially in the middle of the Cherry Blossom Festival for goodness’ sakes!
But here we are and if we are here it is because we do care about these things.  We care about taking this journey to the cross with Christ, we care about our annual re-examination of ourselves and we care about our call to follow the One who died for us.
In today’s reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthian’s we are asked to focus on the cross, on this spectacle of vulnerability, shame and weakness.  It is hard to remember our Lord in this place of seemingly forsaken ridicule and pain.  Yet this is the place where God chose to be revealed to us.  Not through strength and victory but through the epitome of pain and loss.  If we want proof of divinity, we normally expect some show of force – thunder, lightning, waters dividing, heavens opening.  The last thing we expect is for God to be manifested in a moment of sheer helplessness and abandon.  And yet God has chosen to be revealed in this riddle we call the cross.
When I think of Lent I often think of hibernation.  It is a long time of rest and renewal that anticipates the warmth of springtime.  Yet much like the human world, animals seem to increasingly have difficulty keeping the tradition – perhaps because of the warming climates.  If you noticed the joke in the news and on social media last week, some of the folks up north who are dealing with all this late snow put out a warrant for the capture of the famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil who has been indicted for falsifying the prediction of an early Spring!  “So the heat is on against Phil, and the furry rodent has been charged with misrepresentation of spring, a felony against the peace and dignity of the state of Ohio."  I suppose it is sometimes risky to come out of hibernation.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/22/punxsutawney-phil-2013-prediction-forecast_n_2932895.html?utm_hp_ref=green
A couple of years ago my family visited Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina where they have a small zoo of indigenous animals, cougars, otters, eagles and bears.  It was an unusually warm day, right in the middle of winter and we were a bit amazed that we only needed light jackets on that high elevation.  We were told the bears would probably not be visible because it was during their natural time of hibernation, but there were a couple of bears out because of the unusual warmth that day.  One bear came out of his man made cave and drank some water just ten feet from where we were watching and while the children were thrilled to see a bear in his somewhat natural habitat so up-close, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was something terribly wrong going on.  Lately, it seems the world has gone crazy, perhaps all for lack of taking the time to rest, renew and ponder the deeper aspects of our lives and our faith.  There are many ways to do this from daily Yoga to weekly Sabbath to the particular way we are talking about today that we practice in the Episcopal Church of observing a Holy Lent.
In the Gospel lesson from St. John today, Jesus uses a phrase about grain to form a parable of what happens when seeds fall to the earth.  It is a metaphor for death, that we must die to live more fully.  He is speaking of his own death and resurrection but he is inviting us to die with him, both figuratively and literally.  And so while we wait for our own deaths to answer all our questions about living more fully in the next reality of heaven, each year we come to Holy Week with the opportunity to practice dying to sin, dying to ourselves by turning our lives over to the One who died for us.  We take just a peak out of our hibernation into the great beyond and on Easter morning we will see just a glimpse of the glory of eternity.
But today our task is to recognize that part of ourselves that is asleep, that is hibernating, waiting and longing.  For if we can name that in us which sleeps, perhaps we can wake it and perhaps we can participate more fully in the living of the lives God calls us to live while we wait for the bigger picture to unfold.
Here's a curious bit of information that's quite striking. Recently, archeological excavations unearthed wheat seeds in pyramids dating back to 2500 B.C. That makes these ancient seeds somewhere around 4500 years old, give or take a century. In order to determine the types of grains used in the ancient world, archeologists planted them to see what would happen. They grew! Somehow, the spark of life hung in there for four and a half millennia. What should have been long dead was very much alive. What should have been snuffed out was not. What should have been entirely hopeless wasn't. Think about it.
As we prepare our hearts for this final phase of the journey of Lent and begin these last steps of following Jesus all the way to Jerusalem, all the way to the cross, all the way to die with him, to cry with Mary, to deny with Peter, to wait in the garden, to follow Him all the way to the joyful morning on Sunday when we are reminded once again of the glorification of our faith (as St. John put it), as we prepare today, I urge you to consider that which is hibernating in you.  I hope you will see that it is never too late for the seeds of love to grow and become fruitful, in the larger story and in your life.  And while the remembering of parts of the story this week require remembering the painful stuff, be prepared to be surprised, to be awakened to the promise of new life, both all around us and from the very depths of our souls.

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