This Sunday the reading is about love, all about it. The Gospel is love, love, love. The Epistle is 1 John. There again, lots of love. I read through these and contemplate the simplicity of the message. So simple and it can be easy to forget.
Sometimes I forget. I forget to pray. I forget to give thanks or ask for help. I can get so wrapped around the axle, so stressed, so wrapped in myself that I can forget.
I can forget until I step into our sacristy at All Saints and find the little sticky note my daughter wrote with her name and two red hearts. I can forget until I stand behind the altar, lifting the bread and wine in remembrance of him. Funny that we can forget the love or can we forget the love?
The reminder comes again. We are loved. We are to love each other. We receive reminders, if we pay attention to those reminders: a smile, a hug, a note, a meal. Remember.
I put the jumpdrive in the computer. I clicked on my document. Now it won’t open. Oh no! My work! My words! Shoot.
Just shoot. I wonder how far I will have to go back. Perhaps I have to start over. All I can do is shake my head.
Start over? The idea of that sends shivers down my spine, but perhaps the story needed something fresh and new, not new wine in old wine skins. Maybe I needed a new story.
I want to drop my head on the keyboard. I guess I will be looking at a blank page with the cursor blinking at me. New words, new wine.
Over the last few months, I have been watching the #metoo phenomenon on social media. Each week there is one more powerful and influential man added to the list of those who abused their position and power. Usually an apology follows, perhaps someone is fired, and celebrities wear a flower in solidarity with something.
I am being flip about it, but watching this unfold can be so frustrating and sad that sometimes one can develop a cynical view. I am a little cynical because I wonder what will really change. We can have a short attention span when the hard work of reform begins.
The hard work of reform will not be in hashtags or public shaming on television and twitter. The hard work will be when we remember in whose image you and I are made. The hard work is recognizing that the power I may hold is a temporary privilege that also holds me accountable for any in my care.
What would real change look like? Real change in the workforce would be that each of us deeply consider what we say to each other in our work environments, remember that our bodies are our own and asking each other permission. Real change in the workforce would mean that we make it possible for us all to succeed perhaps by recognizing childcare needs of one’s workforce and try to help make that easier so we can neither infringe on each other’s personal time nor exclude someone because their commitment to their family would mean they are unavailable.
I think real change in our personal lives would be very difficult. We would need to remember that we are made in God’s image and so is everyone else. Would I say something rude to Jesus? Would I touch Jesus without asking first? Can I recognize my inherent worth and that I am dignified and worthy of dignity? Can we speak honestly with one another without fear of violence and let someone know that we do not want to be touched?
A culture of disrespect and inequality is not dismantled with a hashtag or undone overnight, but it can change. We can change, one interaction at a time. We can change economic systems and work systems. It will be uncomfortable at first, but it can happen, if we can remember that we do it, with God’s help, remembering that we are made in God’s image, with dignity.
Last year I planted a peach tree in the backyard. I dug the hole. I watered it. I offered it delicious fertilizer.
I had a stick. It was a stick standing in my backyard. Was it growing? Was it dead? Now what?
I was out-of-town last week and when I returned. I saw this:
I don’t know if I will get any peaches this year, but I think this is pretty cool. I imagine the disciples wondering just what would happen next after Jesus’ death. Was he dead? Was he gone? What next?
Taa-dah! He is coming! He is here!
On Friday I found a really cool bicycle at a pawn shop. I purchased it and took it home. I immediately pulled it from the back of my car and set out to ride. I had forgotten how enjoyable it is to ride. I pedaled through the neighborhood. A few minutes later, I huffed and puffed back. Wow! I am out of shape.
That afternoon I bought a new bike for my child, complete with sparkling tassels coming out of the handle bars. She loves it. This morning she asked if she could ride to school. I like that enthusiasm.
This whole weekend we have been practicing our riding in the parking lot next door. She is still getting used to pedaling and steering. She fell twice yesterday and I immediately told her to hop back on the bike. She did and kept pedaling. She does not like to fall. None of us do.
On a bike, you fall and you must get back on the bike and keep riding. That is the only way to learn, to keep learning, to improve. You must get on the bike and ride. I think in a few weeks she will master this skill and then the training wheels will come off.
For right now, we just need to keep pedaling and watch where we are going.
I have been preaching on a theme this Lent. I am preaching on temptation. What is it that distracts us from following Jesus? What is it that draws us from God?
An old friend used to say that “I am never tempted into washing the baseboard in my house.” I like this image because I believe it encapsulates what we mean when we say temptation. We are not tempted into our better selves. Let us not confuse temptation with inspiration.
Temptation is easy and it looks really good. Rather it seems really good, but it isn’t good. We may be tempted into safety, but it is really cowardice. We may be tempted into discretion, but it is really dishonesty and inaction. We may be tempted into reaction, but it is dangerous, thoughtless lashing out.
This is the time to reflect on what tempts us and from what temptation distracts us. What service, what joy, what time with God are we missing out on because we are tempted?
Thursday is coming. On some Thursdays I have been meeting with another pastor for coffee. These meetings have been so helpful to me.
While this individual is not in my denomination, he or she does understand and live out ministry. We are able to speak to each other about ministry ideas in our respective congregations, suggest new approaches for problems that arise, and offer support in this often lonely work.
How strange that being surrounded with wonderful folks can sometime feel lonely! I have a ministry friend and I am grateful for that person’s insight, humor and grace. One can forget that one needs those type of connections.
We can find ourselves just staring at the road in front of us and sighing. The drive will be long. We forget that having someone else there can make the journey easier, someone to talk to, and remind us about which way we should go.
I am looking forward to Thursday.