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 

Lenten letters

To my fellow pilgrims in this season of Lent

In the midst of the troubling news of the tragedy in Christchurch last week and heavy conversations with members of a farming community who are fast running out of water and feed as they wait and hope and pray for rain, it was particularly meaningful to celebrate the act of baptism and hear the familiar words: 

… for you Jesus Christ has come, has lived, has suffered;
for you, he has endured the agony of Gethsemane and the darkness of Calvary;
for you, he has uttered the cry, ‘It is accomplished!’
For you, he has triumphed over death;
for you, he prays at God’s right hand.
All for you, even before you were born.

Uniting in Worship

For me, Christ’s journey to the cross – much like God’s choice to come into our midst in the form of a tiny, vulnerable baby – is a poignant reminder that God shares in our daily life, our suffering, and our death, and that, one day, we will share in the power of Christ’s resurrection.

In Luke’s Gospel this journey (beginning shortly after his transfiguration) takes ten chapters to tell as Jesus follows the pilgrim’s route through Samaria; stops over with Mary, Martha and Lazarus in Bethany; and even eats in the home of a tax collector in Jericho. Though Jerusalem is his destination, he does not rush or brush people off or dismiss the daily needs of fellow pilgrims on the way as petty in the grand scheme of what he will soon accomplish.

He heals. He teaches. He encourages. He comforts. He visits.

He takes his time because the salvation of the world is not only about an eternal end goal but about us knowing the blessing of God being close to us in each and every day of life’s journey.

In Luke 13:1-9, as he tells a tale about a fruitless fig tree to those who are wondering about whether God is with them in light of the terrible time that they have had of late, I identify with the owner of the vineyard who just wants to cut it down and clear the space for something better. I recognise that I am hasty and full of judgement. I confess that I get frustrated with things that eat up my time or energy without actually accomplishing anything. I acknowledge that my sense of time always seems more urgent than the gardener who not only asks that the poor fig tree be given another year, but promises to nurture and feed it that it may bear fruit.   

The invitation of this week in Lent is threefold:

  • to slow down! Take some time out to walk, to wander, to visit with a friend, to be still, to be open to signs of God’s love with and within you.
  • to confess – our frustration, our impatience, our careless haste. 
  • to pray – for rain, for grace for the sinner and healing for the hurting, for the salvation of the world and for the part that God would have us play in it.

For us, Christ has endured much, accomplished much, and continues to pray much. May we, in turn, bear much fruit as we live in and with and through his great love for us.

Yours, in Christ,
Yvonne