Friday, March 07, 2014
Seasons come and go, and this one can’t leave too soon. We are winter weary. But we also know spring will come.
Green shoots will appear. Crocus and tulips will push through the cold soil. Trees will bud with life that was always there, waiting … until conditions were right for life to burst forth from winter’s prison.
I always loved spring in Nebraska. Farmers planted wheat in the fall. It would sprout several inches tall. Then it went dormant and lost its color as and the days grew short, cold and dark. It slept through the bitter winds of winter.
But there always came a day in early spring when I would be driving along a country road. The sun was regaining its power, and the glint of its rays would catch the broad expanse of surrounding fields just so, and I would see it—the greening of life, a shade translucent and electric like almost nothing else in nature, wheat coming to life to feed the world.
The seeds of life were there all along ready to break loose even though the incessant prairie wind that cut to the bone and made us doubt spring could ever come.
This is the way it is with us, too, with the seed of Christ in our lives.
The Christ seed of God’s gracious life is always there, present and full of promise--in us--waiting to break out and blossom when conditions are right.
Do not think of this is narrow religious terms. The Christ seed is the seed of grace and beauty, of justice and compassion. When it sprouts and grows it stirs the desire to a more whole beautiful person. It stirs action that creates a better world, a more just nation and the hunger for God’s will to be done on earth.
The seed grows not just in religious or spiritual people, nor only in Christians but in Muslims, Jews Sikhs and agnostics and atheists.
And we see its growth. We see it in a million places far outside the stain-glass windows of our sanctuaries.
It grows in the medical staff and researchers who seek cures for life threatening conditions, in teachers who nurture students into the fullness of what they can become, in the business owner who carefully serves and protects her clients, in the scout leader who nurtures young lives toward honor and respect, in volunteers of all stripes who help pick up the pieces and put lives back together in troubled places.
And we most certainly see and feel it in friends who help and pray and lift us when we fall behind.
We see the Christ seed growing in all who seek the common good, who resist the powers of death and hatred that destroy the goodness and beauty on this earth.
And what is this to us, who follow Christ, in this season of Lent?
We must learn to look tenderly at our lives--and take seriously presence of the Christ seed planted in us.
The central purpose of our lives is to nurture the growth of this seed so the wonder of Christ’s life in us may grow into that great tree in Jesus parable, a tree that gives home and shade to others.
We work the leaven of his life into us so that our lives become bread that feeds those whose lives we touch in one way or another.
We all know people who, by their simple presence, make us more alive, more joyful and stronger because of the life-giving energy that flows from them.
Each of these souls is a testament to the seed of Christ’ gracious life and power in human beings. Somehow, the Christ seed in them grew, and they became a source of life and beauty for us and others.
They are like the Nebraska wheat in springtime, translucent and green, brimming with life and promise, freshening the earth and our souls with hope and joy.
This is what the Holy One seeks to do in you and in all creation.
The Christ seed is always there, always the same, present and powerful, full of promise amid the changes and challenges of every season of our lives.
And this is we pray and sing. It is why we light our candles and listen to our souls in this season. It is the reason we do acts of love and look beyond our needs to those of the homeless and the starving next door or on the other aide of the world.
These things nurture the seed. They work the leaven of Christ deeper into our lives and into the life of the world, freshening our souls that we, too, may be the breath of God’s eternal springtime in the coldness of our world.
Monday, March 03, 2014
Once, I thought it was a terrible to mark someone’s forehead with ashes and remind them of what we all want to forget: “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
But on Ash Wednesday this is what we do.
We mark our heads and hear again that we are made from the same elements that make up the rest of universe, elements to which we will return when we are done here.
“Remember you are dust.”
It sounds awful. But now in the seventh decade of my life I hear those words as invitation and grace.
They are an invitation to come home, to be real, honest and human again, to quit trying to be something more than a common flesh and blood human being somehow above others. Quit trying to be something I am not and was never intended to be.
The words tell me that I am dust, but that’s not what I hear.
I hear, “Welcome home, David. It’s okay.”
Welcome home. There is no need to be anything other than what you are, a human soul, sometimes frail and weak, other times stronger than you ever thought you could be, sometimes selfish and careless, sometimes competent or even wise, others times inept--and never as together as I appear to be on good days.
The words invite me to embrace my neediness. For I am terribly needy, needing forgiveness, needing encouragement, needing warmth, needing companionship, needing fullness when I feel empty.
And this makes me more or less like you.
And to this, God shrugs and says, “I know. I’ve always known this about you, and it doesn’t matter because I am life and I am love in infinite supply.
“I am warmth when you are cold. I am the fullness for which you ache when your heart is empty. I am your constant companion when the sojourn of life is hard and lonely. I am the arms that catch you when you fall or fall behind.
“But you will never know me. You will never know the warmth I am, the fullness of your heart in mine, the silent company of my presence in your depths. Never.
“Not until you give up trying to be more than a human being, not until you give up denying that you are one bit less needy than you are, not until you mark your head with the ashes and say again, “I need you. I need you like I need my next breath. I need your warmth and joy, your forgiveness and blessing.
And this is what the ashes say, “I need you, Lord.”
And to this, the Holy One says what we most need to hear, “Welcome home.”
Pr. David L. Miller