Daily Lenten Reflection

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. –Psalm 139:23-24, NRSV

I offer these reflections on God’s absence that is, paradoxically, God’s presence on the threshold of Lent. These 40 days of spare simplicity in preparation for the dark suffering of Good Friday and radiant joy of Easter, always begin with a return to the gospel story of Jesus’ 40 day sojourn into the barren wilderness of Sinai’s desert.

Jesus has just been baptized, and he has heard deep in his heart God’s Voice naming him Beloved. To claim this identity, to choose it for himself, to know it as the deepest core and truest essence of his human being, Jesus departs immediately into the desert. In this barren place he sifts through all the competing voices of ego and cultural expectations about what it means to be the Messiah. Beneath the raucous clamor it is God’s “still, small voice” he hears, God’s vision he embraces, God’s call of love rather than power that he chooses to follow. –Laurie Gordon, The God of Barren Landscapes: Absence and Presence in the Desert

Reflect: 

  • When have you heard deep in your heart God’s Voice naming you Beloved?
  • What layers of competing voices and cultural expectations are you called to sift through this Lenten season to discover God’s “still, small voice” beneath?
  • Prayerfully dwell with Psalm 139. What is God’s invitation to you in this text?

 

Week 4: Trusting the Promise

By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

“For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.” Habakkuk 2:2-3, NRSV

This is the time for realizing
That this deep hope is
For something real.

Impossible
Say the voices around us
Firmly fixed in cynicism, despair.

Impossible
Says the evening news
With its montage of tragedy.

Impossible
Say the politicians
Inciting suspicion, fear.

Impossible
Says the hurting heart
Daring to dream no more.

Impossible
Says the “rational” mind
Trading wonder for logic.

Impossible
Say the statistics
And the violence
And the hatred
And planetary ruin
And hungry bodies
And broken lives…
And…

Yet…

A bright star emerges
In our longest, darkest night
And those wisest among us
Choose to chase it.

What they hear it saying
Through the shining
Is worth the vision
They journey to find.

POSSIBLE
It says of:
Equality
Justice
Kindness
Forgiveness
Redemption

POSSIBLE
It says of:
An end to poverty
A nonviolent way
Radical compassion
Peace on earth
The kingdom of God

POSSIBLE
It says of:
A table of welcome
With a feast spread wide
For all people–
Even those we fear
Even those who fear us–
To come and be nourished
And reconciled
And healed
And blessed.

POSSIBLE
It says of:
Our deepest need
The deepest dream
Of the Holy
Birthed in us
Through us
With us
For us.

This is the time for realizing
That this deep hope is
For something real.

Spiritual Practice: What possibility are you invited to follow this Advent season? What does it mean to trust the promise of the incarnation in the world today?

The Forming

By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

“… and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Romans 5:4-5, NRSV

When the memory of the moment
You said your “sacred yes”
Grows dim and distanced in your soul…

And you question how or if
The encounter that changed you
Could have happened at all…

And you wonder if what you’ve
Committed to is more
Than you are capable of…

And the anxieties of the unknown
Begin rushing through you
As a prickling, pulsing fear…

When the burden feels too heavy,
The blessing too unclear,
And the road ahead is marked endurance

B R E A T H E
Again
and
Again
and
Again.

Breathe until this crowd of questions
Narrows to the most important few.

Breathe until your hope is restored.
Breathe until your vision is clear.
Breathe until a stillness enters
And calms the storm.

Breathe until you become aware
Of the One who issued the invitation
Who remains beside you,
And works within you–
Who is doing the forming
And who is the form.

Spiritual Practice: Breathe deeply. What does it look like in your life to trust the One who is doing the forming and is also the form?