Dear Friends in church,
Almost always I am reading several books at once. Before long some of us will stay after worship to read a book together, if we wish.* But I couldn’t exactly find the book that I really wanted this year. One of our members suggested that I write it. Well, TBD.
What I want is what Kathleen Norris describes: something that nourishes us in faith, grounds us in spirit, draws us to God, and then gets us out in that “greater society.” There are books like that, and we’ve already read some of the good ones together.
Now that it is Lent, we have an invitation to some spiritual growth and time for prayer. But if Lent draws us to ask only to our own wants (to quote Norris), we’re not catching Jesus’ way. Jesus absolutely took time away for his own devotion and conversation with God. And it always drew him back to issues of hunger, health, community, and empire. He addressed family needs, financial issues (all those tax collectors!), and the politics of domination. He did this especially in the time before what became Good Friday, and in the months before he faced down Rome (which is a really nice city now, and was a very evil empire then). I want to follow Jesus’ way.
Meanwhile, if you need a good guide through Lent, try Walter Brueggemann’s A Way Other Than Their Own. If you like Kathleen Norris, try Amazing Grace. Or for year-round inspiration try Listening to your Life by Frederick Buechner. Or for what is now called Decolonized Christianity, try Holy Envy by Barbara Brown Taylor. Probably the best guide through Holy Week is Mark, chapters 11 – 16: 8 — it puts the time day-by-day, and then three hours by three hours. And anyone can read five pages.
Perhaps what I desire is to read in and about the faith, and then read the signs of the times in our world. It is one with empire, hunger, health care needs and — to the Biblical mind — financial injustice. Lent can remind us of all this, strengthen us for all this, and guide us into all this.
So in the midst of my own family changes and even challenges; in the midst of a complicated world and a church re-claiming its traditions, even while we find new ones — in the midst of all this, I am thankful that we gather to name our desires, engage our greater society, and become changed beyond imagination. Some say that change is hard. But when we study it, it is the only constant in the church and in God’s way toward the future.
See you soon,
* Starting March 12 and for three weeks we’ll discuss Wrestling With God by Ronald Rolheiser, OMI. It’s not everything we might want, but starts some great discussions, that we can only imagine…
Kindness and comfort
Just a quick pastoral note to thank all the members and friends of NHCC for your expressions and comfort following the death of my father. Cards, flowers, fruit, emails, and hugs have all been very healing, and I thank God that we all navigate this mortal, eternal, social, personal journey of faith together.