Lenten letters

To my fellow pilgrims in this season of Lent

I love this time of year!
Palms. Passion. Pentecost.
The autumning of the earth as the temperature cools. 
Leaves donning their gold and orange colours.
Kevin baking his famous chocolate pudding for dessert.
Darkness deepening, lengthening,
inviting us to slow down and rest. 

It is, for many, a time of anticipation – an all-around-us reminder of the turning and re-turning rhythms written into our world by our Creator. Tess Ward, in her prayer book The Celtic Wheel of the Year, offers this profound praise to be offered on rising and resting in these autumn days:

Blessed be you Balance-Holder,
unafraid of the dark from which all newness must begin,
giver of light that draws us on and out into fullness.

(On rising)Help me to balance my need for outgoing
and restoring this day.

(Before resting)With thankfulness for my going out,
restore to me my rest this night.

The story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32) is the focus of our worship in this fourth week of Lent. It is a story of turning and re-turning; of a young man cutting ties with his family to seek adventure and pleasure and independence but finding himself full of loneliness and longing for that same family when times are hard and work is undignified and unrewarding and friends are fickle. Finally, when he is able to overcome his pride, his feet follow his heart which has turned towards the warm memories of home. He returns to his father’s embrace – and his older brother’s angry face. 

“It’s not fair!” is the anguished cry of the good and faithful son who had stayed behind to work the land with his father and restore their fortunes for little recognition or reward. And there he stands – outside his home, arms crossed in wounded indignation, denying himself the opportunity to share in the joyous feasting that is taking place just a few feet away. The son who had gone out is now restored. But what about the son who had stayed? 

Palms. Passion. Pentecost. Autumn. Turning and re-turning. Dark and Light. Going out and restoring. These are the rhythms written into our world, our life, our church by our Creator, or – as Tess Ward names God in her prayer, Balance-Holder.

I wonder how often we miss out on real joy
~ because we refuse to move and sway to these divine rhythms,
~ because going out seems risky and uncomfortable,
~ because we’re fiercely protecting what is ours,
~ because we want things to stay exactly the same.

May this week bring you opportunities to perceive God in motion and the courage to come to life in big and small ways as the Balance-Holder draws us on and out into the fullness of life together. 

Yours, in Christ,
Yvonne 

Into the deep

Peter’s story – Luke 5:1-11

They say that the definition of insanity is doing exactly the same thing in the same way and expecting a different result. But what was I to do? When the stranger stepped into my boat and demanded that I push off from the shore I thought that at least I could make a little coin after a long night of catching nothing.

You see I’m a fisherman by trade. As is my father. As was his father before him. I come from a long line of fishermen who have lived by the tides and, sometimes, died through the fickleness of the sky and stormy sea. 

Over the years our business has grown. Each night, my brother Andrew and I take out our boat with some hired men to fish for tilapia and carp and sardines which we dry for sale or export as fish sauce through the Mediterranean. The Romans just can’t get enough of it! Which is about the only upside to their occupation of this holy land, I think. 

Often, the sons of Zebedee – James and John – accompany us. We like to think there’s safety in numbers but out on the sea when a squall suddenly blows in, no one is safe really. That’s why, each evening, before we head out some of the help cooks a light supper over a fire on the shore while we carefully check; first, the nets so that nothing will escape them through some small hole; then the boats so that no lives will be lost through some small carelessness. 

We take our time. The boats are 8 metres long and 2.5 metres wide and we run our hands over every inch of oak and cedar that stands between us and the deep deep sea.

This night was no different. We chatted as we worked getting hundreds of feet of netting stowed away tightly, wondering how much we would catch, wagering which boat would net the biggest haul, bickering cheerfully over which direction to head out in as the sun began to set.

But the laughter faltered as the hours passed and, time and time again, we muscled the long nets into and out of the water. Time and time again, we pulled them in empty, rowed a way aways, and tried again. 

The silence deepened with the darkness until I wondered how long a night could last. How many times could I move and sweat and hope and guess in the vast emptiness? 

The sun’s first light was not a blessing but signalled, at least, an end. Yet the faces around me were grim with the knowledge that there was nothing to take back home for breakfast, not this day – and maybe not tomorrow nor the day after that. Because business can’t be good when you have nothing to offer.

James and John reached home first. They were already rinsing their nets when we pulled up beside them. I thought to myself, “They look so worn out; so weary.” 

That’s when I noticed them – a large crowd, loud and lively. Their energy and joy rubbed salt into the wound of our emptiness and despair. And that’s when the stranger stepped in. Uninvited. “Someone famous?” I wondered, as he spoke to me about using my boat for a bit to teach from.

As he spoke to my friends and neighbours – for I knew many of the faces transfixed by his words – I felt some of my tiredness ease, some of my anxiety settle. He spoke of a kingdom not like any kingdom I had ever heard of, or dreamed of, where sorrow and suffering was replaced by God’s shalom shining upon everyone. 

And I started to think “It’s really quite nice being out here with him – on the water under open sky and the warmth of the sun for a change, instead of in the dark working and waiting and hoping and praying for a good catch and a safe return and a fair price at the market.”

But just as I start getting comfortable, he turns to me and orders “Launch out into the deep.”

The men grumble. They remember that they’re tired. They just want to go home and get some sleep. So do I, really, but he promises a great catch and I want to see if he’s for real. So I agree. 

We row, we cast, we pull. But the nets don’t move. Backs strain; a few curses fly. I wonder if they’ve gotten caught on something – here in the deep and unfamiliar waters to which he guided us.

And then, a gleam of silver; no! a silver stream – never-ending – shining in the sunlight. We pull and we pull but the nets are so heavy we can’t get them in ourselves.

“John!” I shout. “Over here James!” Andrew exclaims – and our partners rush to join us. Soon our boat is full of fish. And so is theirs! There’s no room to work, to sit, to put the nets without us sinking. 

That’s two tonnes of fish! A month’s wage!! Never had we caught so much … never all at once. It’s impossible. A miracle. A promise fulfilled just as this man Jesus had said. 

I can’t help it. I fall to my knees with astonishment. Who is he that speaks with such authority of what will be? And why would he choose to get into my boat, into my life; to lead me into the deep, to this place of unimaginable blessing? I am full of wonder and shame and the awkward realisation that I am just a sinner unworthy to enter his kingdom, a fisherman unfit to be in the presence of such greatness.

Yet that is all he asks me to be: a fisher of men. 

“Come follow me,” he invites us. “Just as you are. And I will make you into so much more than you have imagined. If you have courage to launch out into the deep, to leave behind you the ordinary and the everyday of what you have known, to do the same thing in a different way, you will find a purpose and a power to your life that you thought impossible.”

And so Jesus comes into our lives today.

While we are doing the routine work of cooking or cleaning or tidying up, he comes.
While we’re earning our living, he comes.
While the very life we seek is slipping through our fingers, he comes.
When we’ve tried our best and have nothing to show for it, he comes.
When we’re tired and frustrated and ready to give up, he comes.
When the night seems long and the day doesn’t bring relief, he comes.

And every time, he comes, he calls with the invitation:
“Thrust out into the deep.”

Sometimes, we resent him for it feels less like a request, and more like an order. Sometimes, we’re slow to respond because we just want to rest for a while. Sometimes, we doubt that he has the power to keep his promises. Sometimes, we don’t even hear him because we’re too caught up in the push and the press and the noise of the crowd. Sometimes, we’re afraid to leave behind what we know, what we’ve accomplished, what we’re comfortable with. Sometimes, we stubbornly demanded that we be blessed before we bless another.

But each day, light dawns. 
And Christ shows up on the shore.
And he knows where we’ve come from 
and he meets us where we’re at
and he climbs into the midst of our circumstances
and he points to the deep unknown
where the miracle waits
and the growth
and the promise
and the glorious liberty that awaits each child of God 

who chooses not to be
desk bound,
root bound,
earth bound,
bound by sin,
bound by shame,
bound by fear.

Into the deep …
a deeper awareness of the world,
of our neighbour,
of the stranger struggling through life’s storm …
of who God is – to us, to them – 
of who and where and how God calls us to be …

Into the deep …a deeper experience of God’s kingdom coming closer,
of mystery and possibility,
of freedom and grace, 
of the transformation that takes place – not through planning or dreaming or willpower – but through the Spirit of God with and within us.  

Into the deep …
will you follow?

Between water and fire

I have shared before how, at the age of 14, a word of prophecy was spoken over my life which left me a little skeptical, and a lot afraid:

But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel:

‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Isaiah 43:1-2 (NIV)

Today, as I was reflecting on the foundation of my faith story as part of a six-week in-life retreat, I had an epiphany: that it has often been in the most difficult moments of my journey (the desolation) that I have grown the most in faith and humility and obedience.

The image above came into my mind of how God has held me through it all; for there have been fires and floods aplenty.

So … for those who – like the Wise Men that we remember today – are setting out on an adventure, answering God’s call, or just taking life’s journey step by small step with little or no certainty of how they are going to get through today, let alone tomorrow, a promise and a prayer:

God of Israel, God of Jacob,
God who creates, who names,
who forms, and transforms,
let me live this day in the space between
the blazing fire of Pentecost
and the cool waters of baptism.

When life’s flames threaten to burn,
and the floods to sweep me way,
keep me from fear –
for I live here:
safe in your hand.

Hold me in this place –
despite the discomfort:
here where the fire tests and purifies and refines me
but can do no harm;
here where the waters wash me clean and smooth out my rough edges
so that I rise reborn but never undone.

And may I live through all –
the light and the dark,
the joy and the sorrow,
the searching and the knowing,
the wrestling and the growing –
to proclaim Your faithfulness
to all generations,
Great God who never lets me go.

Day Thirty Five: Enter The Mystery

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Isaiah 60:1-6
Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew 2:1-12

Embodied God,
on the ladder between the home of heaven and earth’s dwelling place,
the crack between the worlds,
a baby journeyed, belonging to both.
Tess Ward

Epiphany is the story of the Wise Men – philosophers, astrologers, or mystics – who travelled across countries from the East in response to the sudden appearance, the showing forth of a star, the sign of long-awaited King; bearing with them all the way precious gifts fit for the One whom they sought:
~ gold, symbolising his wealth and, some scholars speculate, financing the holy family’s exile into Egypt before the Massacre of the Innocents;
~ frankincense, representing his holiness;
~ and myrrh, foreshadowing his early death.

Occurring on the Eastern date of Christmas, January 6, it celebrates the gift of God to all people and reminds us, particularly while the year is fresh and new, of our own journeys:
what has brought us to this particular place
and point in time,
and what unchartered territory we might well venture into if we truly long for and look for the signs of God’s guiding presence in our lives.

Having been given a glimpse over this season into the enigma of a God too big to know or truly comprehend who becomes small enough to hold in human arms,
we are invited to enter fully into the unfolding mystery of God’s love for us,
and for the whole world;
and to walk boldly, decisively, faithfully
in the light of God’s glory –
long after the tree has been taken down
and the ornaments packed away
and the final guest has gone
and the merriment has passed ….

“Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.”
Isaiah 60:1

This day, and every day,
the star(s), reminds us to step out of the ordinary confines of human existence into the extraordinary adventure of a life filled with the power and creativity and movement of God’s presence;
to move beyond the boundaries of the seen and known, of reason, of geography, of budgets, of daily routine into the realm of hope and possibility;
to examine whether we living our best possible life:

… a life lived with a deep awareness of our connection to God, to one another, to the world around us, to enemy and to stranger …
… an open-eyed life in which we look constantly for evidence of God with us, in the familiar and in the unexpected …
… a life in which we are not bound by rules and routines so much as liberated by Love, to love – in simple acts of kindness as well as extravagant, outrageous, generous gestures …
… a life in which work is a joy and a reward, and rest is protected and savoured …
… a life in which our immediate answer is not “No” when we are confronted by the uncomfortable, the unknown, the unplanned for; nor “Yes” to everything that is simply expected from us …
… a life of seeking and searching, sitting with questions, sharing stories, seeing new perspectives, standing steady on what we know to be true: “See! I am with you! I am here in your midst!”

Light of the World,
Sun which does not go down,
Bright Mystery,
give us each day a glimpse of Your glory;
an epiphany of where we fit
into Your heart and Your plan.
Amen. 

Day Thirty Four: Subversive

Psalm 110
Proverbs 22:1-9
Luke 6:27-31

Most of us have, at some time in our lives, heard – sometimes incessantly – the phrase: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

It’s the golden rule of human interaction; and a definite go-to phrase in most mothers’ “raising children the right way” manual.

So while it was unacceptable for my brother to hit me with his cricket bat, it was really unacceptable for me to respond by hiding it on top of the roof for
it set a bad example,
it reduced me to his level,
and it precluded any potential for change – setting into motion a vicious and escalating cycle of retaliation instead of demonstrating an alternative way of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Yet, if you are anything like me, such reasoning seems tremendously unfair and naive.

By young adulthood, we should know enough of human nature to understand that instead of being lauded as “the bigger person,” the do-unto-others-as-you-would- have-them-do-unto-you attitude (as we understand it) often earns us the label of “spineless doormat.”

Yet, if we look more closely at the ideas expressed in both Proverbs and Luke today, we may gain a deeper understanding of our subversive power and purpose in the world: to undermine the kingdom of self and establish the kingdom of God …

… as Christ did.

From the opening line of this portion of his sermon (Luke 6:27-28), Jesus is being subversive. Among most circles, hatred of one’s enemies was regarded as acceptable as long as you did no harm to them. But Jesus commands an unexpected action instead of the socially acceptable inaction:

“Love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
pray for those who abuse you.”

Instead of limiting harm, Jesus actively promotes goodness and generosity,
service and love for the payoff for such things are “plenty and honour and a satisfying life” (Proverbs 22:4b).

Echoing the sentiment of Proverbs 22:2
“The rich and the poor shake hands as equals — God made them both!”
in each of the culturally-bound examples that Jesus goes on to give, we see too how our reactions to an enemy, a bully, or a tyrant can turn the tables of power: in Roman times offering the other cheek to be slapped would, in fact, force the “perpetrator” to acknowledge you as an equal, rather than a powerless victim; and giving up your tunic to the one who had already taken your coat would render you naked and unprotected from the elements, thus exposing the perpetrator to social censure and legal prosecution.

Within this subversive context, the notion of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you is not an expression of a meek (or weak) submissiveness to the actions of others or a commitment to being the bigger person in hope of some future heavenly reward,
but a searching for and sharing of shalom;
a re-orientation of power;
an acknowledgement of the inherent dignity and worth of every human being
and of our own right and desire to be treated as equals – regardless of our race, religion, gender or socioeconomic class etc.

Such work begins not with those that we already see as our equals or our friends, but in those relationships where inequality, conflict and resentment are rife.

Today, be subversive. Do good for someone who hates you (or who you hate). Bless someone who has cursed you. Pray for someone who has used or abused you.

 

Day Thirty Three: In Spite Of

Psalm 110
Proverbs 3:1-12
James 4:11-17

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about how often
God’s power,
God’s presence,
God’s purpose,
is made manifest in spite of,
rather than because of,
me ….

I know, as Christians, we are called to be light to the world
as we walk in and with and through the Light of Life;
I know, as God called me into ordained ministry,
it was with the command to watch my life and doctrine closely that those who listened might be saved;
but I also know that countless people have experienced the church as a hurtful and unwelcome place,
and that, many times, my own service has been offered from a space of brokenness, exhaustion, distraction, and/or poverty.

The grace of today’s Scriptures
is that God continues to be God
in spite of …

… external circumstances that threaten to overwhelm
or destroy us:

“You were forged a strong scepter by God of Zion; now rule,
though surrounded by enemies!
(Psalm 110:2) …

… our fickleness and forgetfulness:

But don’t, dear friend, resent God’s discipline; don’t sulk under his loving correction.”
(Proverbs 3:11) …

… our preoccupation with our own life plans and the accumulation of power and possessions:
“yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”
(James 4:14) …

… our words – so concerned with pride and judgement rather than peace and affirmation:
But who are you to judge your neighbour?
(James 4:12b).

Time and time and time again,
we get it wrong; we let what is happening around us detract from or destroy what is happening within us; we fail to live up to the purposes for which we were forged; we commit, as James points out in verse 17, the sin of knowing what is right but neglecting to do it.

But being good – and, in turn, good ambassadors of the Gospel – does not begin with the best of intentions or a to-do list of right behaviours.

It starts with and is sustained by an intimate friendship with God
(see Proverbs 3:5-6)
who will make straight our paths,
and speak through our poverty,
and transform our tiredness,
and use our brokenness,
and receive our “sorrys,”
and cover our inadequacies and excuses,
and correct us when we head off
in the wrong direction …

… and the very evidence of God’s power, presence and purpose at work in spite of all of this is precisely the light
– the lifeline –
that others need in the midst of their own struggles.

Trust God today
with where you feel weak,
or broken,
or tired,
or inadequate,
or distracted.

Feel His/Her favour resting upon you in spite of everything else that is happening in and around you.

Receive the gift of healing, of nourishment, of peace. 

Day Thirty Two: Within-Without

Psalm 110
Proverbs 1:20-33
James 4:1-10

Over countless meals with family, friends and/or acquaintances, talk turns – every time – to the terrible state that the world is in …

… the dishonesty, bigotry, and greed of many of her leaders; and the corruptive power of power …

… the economic reasons behind wars and “peace-keeping” efforts in resource-rich countries while, in other parts of the world, entire tribes and cultures are able to wipe each other out without intervention…

… those truly awkward conversations that begin with “I’m not a racist but …” or “I have nothing against gay people but …” and end with the uneasy truce “let’s just agree to disagree” or the less-easy sound of someone walking away in disgust and frustration…

… the latest horrifying terrorist attack, freeway pile-up, farm murder etc. and the inevitable laying of blame at some group that we are obviously not part of ….

The underlying message:
the world is in a terrible state
but
we are not to blame;
in fact, we are far better people than most!

In James’ letter to Jewish Christians living in an angry society divided by greed and jealousy, James asks a pertinent, piercing question which is very much relevant to the terrible state of the world today:

“What causes quarrels
and what causes fights among you?”
(James 4:1). 

Take a moment to answer James’ question in terms of:
1. fights and quarrels within the world,
2. fights and quarrels that have occurred specifically within your life and relationships.

 One of the more irritating habits that my boys picked up during their preschool years was chanting in response to anyone who pointed at them:
“For every finger you point at me, there are three pointing right back at you.”

But this is precisely James’ point: for all that we try to distance ourselves from blame or responsibility for the state of the world around us, what happens without is really a mirror of what is happening within our own hearts and minds.

We go after what we desire despite the cost or consequences to others; maybe drawing a line at actually committing a murder, but often killing a person’s trust or reputation or marriage without remorse.

And the things we covet that we are unable to get our hands on become the source of sour relationships, the reason why our words are full of anger and frustration and criticism and bile.

We would rather go without something than humble ourselves and ask for it, openly, honestly, vulnerably.

And when we do manage to swallow our pride and ask but don’t receive, we are outraged – even though what we were asking for was selfish or wrong or impossible for the other person to give in the first place (James 4:2-3).

Then, as with those who scoffed at Wisdom’s call, who turned from her life-giving ways,
terror strikes,
calamity comes like a whirlwind,
distress and anguish fill our days;

we have our fill of our own devices,
then choke on the fruit of our desires
(Proverbs 1:26-27,31).

The world without is a reflection of the world within – a compounded, magnified version of our own sin.
But, through the grace of God, the inner (and then) the outer can change.

Prayerfully reflect on James 4:6-10 as you seek change within – and without.

 

Day Thirty One: Other-Wise

Psalm 148
Proverbs 1:1-7
James 3:13-18

The book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings which distil God’s truth for good living. Short, insightful, and often humorous, they cover every aspect of human experience – from marriage and parenting to government and economics to lifestyle and habits – presenting the choice that is ever before us:

to act (and react) wisely, OR foolishly.

These sayings (attributed often to Solomon, the wisest of Israel’s kings),
were written down
so that we know how to live right and well;
so that we can get a firm handle on what is right
and just and fair;
so that we (and our young people) can get a grasp on reality;
and those already well-schooled in the ways of the world can find that they have yet something valuable to learn
(Proverbs 1:1-6).

Yet they are not the only proverbs on offer. The English language is strewn with wise-sounding sayings like:
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
“Fortune favours the bold.”
“God helps those who help themselves”
(which many people mistakenly believe is in the Bible).

Self-help books, empowerment seminars, business gurus, and marketing moguls have added to these an assortment of slogans, catch phrases and positive affirmations that influence – sometimes consciously and sometimes subconsciously – our values, perceptions and responses:

“Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
“I embrace my power.”
“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

“Start small – finish big.”

List any proverbs, quotes, affirmations and/or sayings that you catch yourself saying or that you think may have an influence on how you think, speak, act, spend, live. 

With so many powerful, positive, wise-sounding “proverbs” shaping our subconscious mind, it can sometimes prove difficult to discern which words to pay attention to and which to discard.

The mark of true wisdom that keeps us on track for right living, however, is that it gives life – not only to us, but to others! – for it springs from the mind and the will of the living God:

“Start with God—the first step in learning is bowing down to God;
only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning.” 

(Proverbs 1:7, The Message).

In our reading from James 3, we find four marks of a wisdom that begins in and blossoms through God:

1. Godly wisdom is meek and humble: it does not lead to boasting or bitter jealously or selfish ambition ….

2. Godly wisdom is authentic: no cunning, no conniving, no twisting the truth, no two-faced friendships – what is said matches perfectly with what is done ….

3. Godly wisdom is open and conciliatory: impartial and sincere, it helps to build a healthy and robust community and encourages us to do the hard work of getting along, of treating each with dignity and honour.

4. Godly wisdom is pure and peaceable, seeking good – for me, for my family, for my neighbour, for my community, for my colleagues, for my friends, for the stranger on my street, for my so-called enemy, for my country, for my continent, for my planet ….

Look back over your list.
Which of the words or phrases are of a worldly wisdom?
Which reflect the wisdom of God?    

Pray for the wisdom – not only to live well, but in your right living to be a life-giver to those searching for wisdom and their way in the world.

Day Thirty: Mindful

Psalm 8
Ecclesiastes 3:1-13
Revelation 21:1-6a
Matthew 25:31-46

I write this for these words are trustworthy and true:
God makes all things new! (Revelation 21:5)

A new day,
a new year;
handcrafted by He-who-makes-all-things-beautiful
in itself
and in its time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

A new heaven,
a new earth;
tears gone,
crying gone,
pain gone,
death gone,
as God makes God’s dwelling among us.
(Revelation 21:1-4)

Imagine for a moment the Sovereign Lord who placed each star in its shining setting hands-on in your life, making all things new for you.

Sit for a while with the Psalmist’s question (Psalm 8:4), “what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” 

The sense of past and future
is God’s gracious gift to us:
a profound glimpse into the infinite mystery of the Alpha and Omega,
the Beginning and the End,
the-One-who-holds-it-all-together.

And, as each new season unfolds
and finds its place within the context of the first things passing away
for the long-awaited,
the new-created;
we discover not only how mindful God is of each one of our life circumstances,
but also how heedful,
how aware of,
how alive to
God’s presence and power we must be
that this new time
may, indeed, be the right time –

be it for birth, or death;
holding on, or letting go;
killing, or healing;
shutting up, or speaking out;
crying, or laughing ….

Read again the passage from Ecclesiastes, focusing on the different seasons of life.

What season(s) are you longing for in this new year?
Which make you anxious or fearful?  

 Mindfulness –
the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something

… of God handcrafting the heavens,
and hands-on in our lives …

… of God in the seasons we long for,
and those we long to avoid …

… of God in the hungry,
the thirsty,
the homeless,
the naked,
the prisoner,
the sick …

… of God needing a meal,
a bed,
a visit,
a drink …

… of God in the old
and in the new,
in things long passed away
and those unfolding too ….

On this new day
in this new year,
may we be mindful
of what God is making
and fearlessly seek out
the people and places
where new things are happening.

Day Twenty Nine: Liminal Living

Psalm 148

Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Luke 2:22-40

Galatians 4:4-7

“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning 
but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instil in us.”

Hal Borland

What beautiful, and pertinent, Scriptures, for this liminal time: the old year making way minute by minute for the new …

… like Mary emerging from the period of ritual separation or purification following her son’s birth to present Jesus at the temple and offer her sacrifice of doves (Luke 2:22) …

… or Simeon, who had been waiting his whole life for the coming of the consolation of Israel, declaring that he was ready to be released in peace now that the Light was out in the open for everyone to see (Luke 2:29-30) …

… or faithful Anna, an elderly prophetess who spent all her time at the temple, fasting and praying, now breaking into an anthem of praise and thanksgiving to God at their Redemption come into the world (Luke 2:37-38) ….

Zion’s righteousness
blazing down like the sun at dawn;
Jerusalem’s salvation
flaming up like a torch in the darkness
(Isaiah 62:1)

– that now
when the fullness of time had come,
we might receive the Spirit of adoption
in our hearts
through that self-same child
and cry,
“Abba,

Father!

Daddy!!”

(Galatians 4:4-6)

not because of anything that we have 
attempted,
resolved,
done,
or not done,

but because God has clothed us
with the garment of salvation
and covered us
with the robe of righteousness
(Isaiah 61:10).

In this liminal space, we have the opportunity to experience neither a beginning nor an end, but an ongoing growth and transition
from slave to child,
from child to heir,
with God
and in God
and through God (Galatians 4:7).

Our experience of 
the earth bringing up its shoots 
in each shifting season
or of a garden causing that which is sown in it to spring up long after we have forgotten what we had even planted in a particular patch 
is a powerful testimony to the faithfulness and the capacity of God 
to bring righteousness and praise to full bloom within our lives in the coming year.

Rather than resolving,
planning,
striving,
failing,
(or even succeeding),
perhaps the invitation of this new year
is to rest,
to trust,
to receive 
what God would give God’s children.

May the Turner of our Nights and Days
give us hope in each beginning,
thankfulness in each ending,
and the peace of his presence
for each moment in between.