Lenten Reflection for April 2

Today’s Readings
Psalm 31:9–16
1 Samuel 16:11–13
Philippians 1:1–11

Patrick’s Reflection: An Undesired Vulnerability

I found out about myself this morning while reading Richard Rohr’s daily meditation. Speaking of our current worldwide situation, he observes:

For many of us, this may be the first time in our lives that we have felt so little control over our own destiny and the destiny of those we love. This lack of control initially feels like a loss, a humiliation, a stepping backward, an undesired vulnerability. However, recognizing our lack of control is a universal starting point for a serious spiritual walk towards wisdom and truth.

This describes the condition I find myself in, and what I’ve heard is so hard about these days for many of you. It’s not complicated. We are simply used to being in control of our destiny and our schedule. While normal life brings moments of unexpected changes, we are still usually equipped to deal with them and those moments pass. This feels different.

The reality is, as hard as it is for me to admit, that feeling of being in control of my own destiny was an illusion to begin with. Whatever control I had was largely due to the way society meters out privilege and power to certain groups over others. It’s not from a place of God-ordained lasting truth, despite the tendency of us in power to think so. The opportunity of this season, therefore, is to tap into the eternal truth within this new reality that is in front of us every day. We were never in control. As Pastor Anne said yesterday, “I can’t carry this procession by myself, but neither can you. It turns out, we never could.”

What an opportunity this undesired vulnerability offers. As we move toward the Easter celebration, and eventually to a return of our normal lives, may we never forget this unusual Lenten season when the gift of God’s provision, and not our own power, was our only hope.

Sewing at Home: Masks and Robes for Columbia Lutheran Home

Even working from home, we have a chance to help some of our most vulnerable neighbors. Columbia Lutheran Home has shared resources to create masks, robes, and notes of encouragement. These items are in tremendous need, and will go a long way toward helping staff and residents be safe and feel cared for during this crisis. See this pdf for more information. Even if you aren’t a sewer, people of all ages and abilities can create artwork or notes of encouragement. Thanks for your help!

Instructions for Sewing Masks
Instructions for Making Isolation Robes

Lenten Reflection for April 1

Answer me quickly, O Lord;
    my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me,
    or I shall be like those who go down to the Pit.
Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning,
    for in you I put my trust.
Teach me the way I should go,
    for to you I lift up my soul.
–Psalm 143:7–8

Pastor Anne’s Reflection

In Psalm 143, we hear the prophet lamenting about how difficult things are, yet still finding hope in God’s promises. So today I’m sharing my own poem of lament and hope. I wonder where you might see yourself in the procession I refer to below. We are marching toward Holy Week, maybe as disoriented as those who did it the first time. Perhaps the gift is that we’ll be able to understand it in profound new ways.

Pandemic Procession

I’m packin’ up for Palm Sunday.
We’re heading to Jerusalem, like always.

But this year, the parade is different.
And I’ve got four kids in tow.

I see, now more than ever,
how much we need one another
in procession.

So I’m thankful for the diversity of this crowd.
For the ones who are reading,
the ones who are writing,
the ones who are building and growing and producing,
the ones making liturgy
and the ones singing and praying.
The ones who seem to have endless energy
and the ones who model Sabbath.

I’m thankful for the ones who lead us,
the ones who feed us.
The doctors and nurses
and those tending the groceries.
I see you, making art,
and toiling away.
I see the ones engineering,
and teaching,
and planning,
and fixing.
I see the ones keeping peace.

I’ll do my part. But I’ve got four kids in tow.
I guide them through the chaos,
help them survive this new procession,
and their grief
and their fear
and confusion,
without getting hurt.

I’ll do my part.
If someone falls down
while we’re walking this bumpy road,
I’ve got bandaids.
And if someone has an accident,
I’m sure there are wipes in here somewhere.
I’ve got snacks.
I’ve got fish crackers and coffee and wine to share.
If you get bored or worried,
I can lead us in a song, with hand motions.
I will pray, and comfort, and entertain, and pray again.
This backpack is heavy
but it has endless tricks and treats.

I can’t carry this procession by myself,
but neither can you.

You’ve got aging parents to watch for
and sick neighbors to check on.
You’ve got a dog to feed
and a job to keep up with.
You’ve got your own kids,
your own baggage,
your own work to do.

I’ll stop to care for those I can.
And so will you.

If you want to chat for a bit while we process,
I will, when I can,

but I’ve got four kids in tow,
and I’m doing the best I can.

I can’t carry this procession by myself,
but neither can you.
It turns out, we never could.

We walk together,
each doing our part.
It’s a big crowd, and between us
we have every gift we need.

So no need for envy.
No time for criticism.
No reason to compare.

We’ll get there, but
it will take the whole of us,
every last one,
sharing, helping,
taking turns being weak and being strong.

I’m a pastor mom
walking the pandemic procession.

I’m doing the best I can.
And so are you.

And we’re all following Jesus.

Lenten Reflection for March 31

Today’s Readings
Psalm 143
2 Kings 4:18–37
Ephesians 2:1–10

Pastor Bryon’s Reflection
Today, the church commemorates the English poet and priest John Donne (1572-1631). The lectionary readings for today are an echo of last Sunday when Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave. I found a rich intersection between today’s readings and the works of John Donne.

The prophet Elisha raises a child from death (2 Kings 4:18-37); the psalmist pleads for deliverance from death (Psalm 143); and in an obvious description of Holy Baptism, Paul points to the good news that though we were once dead through our trespasses, out of great love, God made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:1-10). 

With apology for the seventeenth century non-gender-inclusive language, note how John Donne gave voice to the witness of scripture that death will not have the final say:
Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which yet thy pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from thee much more, must low
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings and desperate men
And dost with poison, war and sickness dwell,
And poppy or harms an make us sleep as well
And better than they stroke; why swell’st thou then?
Once short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

This journey of Lent began with ashes placed on our foreheads and the sober reminder that “we are dust and to dust we shall return.” Like me, perhaps you feel the truth of the sign of ashes in our current global pandemic. The ashes call us to honestly acknowledge the truth about ourselves, but even more, call us to renounce the deathly things to seem to offer life – greed, hatred, spiritual self-righteousness. God undergirds this call with God’s promises that death does not and will not have the final say. Since Christ is risen we live with hope and trust that God is always at work summoning life from ashes.

Physical distancing and the “stay at home orders” are necessary actions in the face of a virus that eats away at life. Yet, in the midst of this necessary sequestering I find myself noticing, not just death, but the stuff of life. Maybe because I cannot be with people except through the virtual world, I have a new appreciation for persons in my life who are living reminders of God’s mercy. This gives me hope and reminds me that pandemics, and not even death itself will separate us from the love of God in and through Christ.

Death be not proud … and death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.
Thanks be to God!
Pastor Hansen

Lenten Reflection for March 30

Today’s Readings
Psalm 143
1 Kings 17:17–24
Acts 20:7–12

Nicole’s Reflection
I remember the days of old,
I think about all your deeds,
I meditate on the works of your hands.
I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.

– Psalm 143:5–6

What is that beautiful yet mysterious word right there in italics? Have you noticed it before when reading Psalms? Here’s what author, Glennon Doyle, says about it in her new book Untamed. One of my favorite words is selah. Selah is found in the Hebrew Bible seventy-four times. Scholars believe that when it appears in the text, it is a direction to the reader to stop reading and be still for a moment, because the previous idea is important enough to consider deeply. The poetry in scripture is meant to transform, and the scribes knew that change begins through reading but can be completed only in quiet contemplation. Selah appears in Hebrew music, too. It’s believed to be a signal to the music director to silence the choir for a long moment, to hold space between notes. The silence of course, is when then music sinks in. Selah is the holy silence when the recipient of transformational words, music…pauses long enough to be changed forever.

Lenten Reflection for March 29

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 37:1–14
Psalm 130
Romans 8:6–11
John 11:1–45

Jeff’s Reflection

There are few things more difficult to explain to one’s children than why there is evil, suffering, and death in the world. And few things more perilous—it’s too easy to take refuge in a tidy explanation of the inexplicable, or thrash about for some measure of acceptance of the unacceptable. But rather than seeing these things as tragic necessities that we must all somehow come to terms with, today’s gospel diverts our gaze to the undimmed light of creation and redemption. In the story of Lazarus, Jesus demonstrates that death has no place in the world as God first made it, and still less in the world which God was about to call into new being, beginning from Jesus’ own resurrection and in each moment ever since.

This little song attempts, not an answer to our perplexities, but an invitation to a place of waiting and watching and learning to hope.

Sing of the Wonder

Sing of the wonder long before we were:
In the beginning, God so loved the world;
Each little creature, woven into life
Each brother’s sister brought to be through love.

How soon we wandered, hiding from God’s face!
We took our own way, saw the vision fade.
Each now a stranger, far from them we ran,
In fear forgetting love had made us one.

Come, blessed Spirit; teach our hearts to know
The love that seeks us—in us let it grow.
Bind us together, through all time and space,
That we again may see God’s loving face.

Lenten Reflection for March 28

Today’s Readings
Psalm 130
Ezekiel 36:8–15
Luke 24:44–53

Patrick’s Reflection
What the What?

“Then [Jesus] opened their minds to understand…” –Luke 24:45
Today’s reading occurs at the very end of Luke’s gospel as Jesus floats away from his followers after one last clarifying conversation. Before Jesus recaps the meaning of his time on earth, Luke records the beautiful phrase that stuck out to me this morning: “then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.” These followers had been through a lot with Jesus, culminating in a season of extreme highs and lows. Now they are blessed with a brief moment of clarity where Jesus imparts meaning and understanding to the unusual things that have transpired.

We currently sit in a similarly unusual season with the potential for great meaning and significance, but awash with confusion and fear. What is going on? What does this mean for our future, both immediate and long term? Can we create something better out of this? Is there meaning in this at all? If you’re like me, even a small amount of clarity would feel like nourishing sustenance to sustain and bolster my mental health.

As we wait, fret, and hope for more, we can pray to a God who is the source of clarity, to Jesus who came to be with us in difficult times, and to the Holy Spirit who guides us toward all truth. We trust we will understand not because we’re smart, but because God cares for all God’s people and you are God’s person. Please, Lord, help us understand.

Lenten Reflection for March 26

Today’s Readings
Psalm 130
Ezekiel 1:1–3; 2:8—3:3
Revelation 10:1–11

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in the Lord’s word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.
–Psalm 130:5–6

Nicole’s Reflection

We are still waiting, aren’t we? We don’t like it. We really are more period type people. We think it is the end. Final. Finished. Or we just desperately want closure. When will this end!?!? But our God is a God who is constantly placing commas where we would put a period. GOD SURPRISES US resurrecting what we thought for sure was dead. God says I am not finished. I am.I should be hurriedly gathering supplies, printing plans, grocery shopping (if you can call all that junk food groceries) and packing up the PRLC bus in preparation to leave with the PRLC youth on our Spring Retreat tomorrow evening. It’s not happening, of course. Retreats are the best. I’m grieving not getting to go right along with all our young people. The theme was “comma”. Retreats are all about “pausing” right? We were going to spend the entire weekend dwelling in this psalm and exploring the Lazarus story and imagining where God might be telling us to wait and watch for the surprise ending.I guess we’re pausing in a different way then I had planned. Here’s what I shared in the email postponing the trip: I’m praying for safety and peace and that as we PAUSE in these uncertain and unexpected circumstances the SURPRISING and UNENDING love of God reveals love and light and new life in ways beyond our imaginations and understandings. How thematic! Embrace the comma.
Leaving you with a song today to listen to as you wait: “My Soul Waits” from In Time IP by Poor Clare