Reflection for March 22, 2020

Grace & Peace

While we are not worshiping in person you are loved and cared for.  Enjoy the manuscript for the

4th  Sunday in Lent.

 

Please reach out and let us know if you need anything.

We have a wonderful group of volunteers who are ready and willing to help out.

 

Please call/text Pastor Lisa at 310-940-6608

John Stephenson 562-537-9600

Reflections for the 4th Sunday in Lent, March 22, 2020

Hello Church, grace and peace to you. As we lean into and learn how to do life a bit differently I hope this finds your hands a bit chapped from washing them so often, and that you now have a gage for what 6 feet feels like.  As I said last week, this is not the Lenten journey I had planned.  Yet, here we are.  As Christians we are called to be flexible and that is exactly what we are doing.  Richard Rohr from the Center for Action and Contemplation in his daily e-mail devotion said on Friday, “As we grow in the spiritual life, our life will become increasingly centered.  Only a few things will really matter.  He goes onto to say, I see a lot of people right now thinking this way. There’s a sense that we’re all in this together – every continent, country, class, religion, race, age or gender.  We’re all subject to this crisis.  Suffering has an ability to pull you into oneness.”[i]

Let us pray – Good and Gracious God through this suffering we ask that you lead us all into oneness.  May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing unto you O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.

Growing up in the high desert, Palmdale was the place where I spent most of my elementary years.  We lived behind the church that was located on 10th street.  My memory is that the campus was huge.  In reality it wasn’t really that big.  But what it did have was lots of wide open sidewalks.  This was back in the day when roller skates had four wheels and not just a single line of roller blades like they have today.  It was a care free time as I laced up my skates and explored the world.  It is such a great memory of freedom.

The great thing about memories is no matter what happens…some memories just can’t be replaced.  But what do we do with the memories we would like to replace?  Well, that topic is for another day.  Today we are going to focus on fond memories.

One other memory from Palmdale that I would like to share with you has to do with the 23rd Psalm.  I was in Junior High when my dad organized a confirmation class.  I don’t really remember much about the class except I wasn’t happy about having to go, especially because my dad was the pastor.  But a strange thing happened during the class – I found myself being very proud of my dad and was glad I was there.  It is funny how things work out.  That year we had to memorize and recite the 23rd Psalm, of course it was the King James Version.

Psalm 23 King James Version (KJV)

 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.[ii]

The funny thing about Psalm 23 especially the King James Version is that it puts me right back to my dad’s office sitting in a circle with other youth.  For me, the King James Version is the “right way” to recite the Psalm 23.  I often say when we recite this Psalm at a memorial service, this is not just a scripture about comforting those who have lost a loved one but rather this Psalm is a road map for how we can live our daily lives as we prepare to die.

During the AIDS crisis, Mother Teresa, established an AIDS hospice in New York City and an AIDS home in San Francisco once said, “God is speaking to us through this disease.”

What might God be saying?

As the church we have always called on its members to “love one another,” to love “because God first loved us.” In fact the ancient world marveled and said, “Look how these Christians love one another.”

In the article “Wounded Love” it says, ‘there is a kind of wounding power of love that has always been a part of the church’s memory.  And today’s church stumbles on a new crisis which joins love and suffering together.  So the job of the global church in my opinion is to work on how we bring love and suffering together so we might experience oneness.[iii]

 

In this time of Lent we experience the Son of God who came down to earth, became human, loved and cared for us, tended to us like the “good shepherd,” Jesus “caught death” from us, suffered and died because he risked the vulnerability of love.

What might God be saying?

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (let’s get real – how much toilet paper do we really need?  This has become a huge joke, and it is important to laugh, but the reality is we need to go back to the Psalm to get a reality check and to find a little comfort.  With the Lord as my shepherd – I don’t have to hoard toilet paper. To put it another way, we do not lack things we lack an intimacy with God.)

 

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (we talk a lot about our Lenten journey being a time of reflection and renewal.  These two verses give us permission to lie down in the grass, run our feet through the sand, and perhaps listen to the ocean or even listen to each other, but ultimately this is a time to get intimate with God.  Our televisions and computers are an important source of information and for some during this time a very good and necessary friend, but remember what we see and hear has a way of penetrating into our heart and soul.  The Psalmist has given us permission to not have all the answers today.)

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (A group of amazing clergy women recently gave me a book called “Psalms for the Struggle, the words of her mouth.” Martha Spong wrote this reflection about the above verse: Your rod and your staff – they comfort me.

Maybe you are my mother,

Working at your sewing machine to clothe me,

Picking me up at school when I have a fever,

Cautioning me when I don’t want you to

(but usually later appreciate it).

 

You pick up when I call;

You know before I tell you,

Because you know me better than I know myself,

Know when it’s time for a change of venue,

or compassions,

reinvention, revision, or re-creation.

 

You are mercy and loving kindness,

From everlasting to everlasting.

 

In your presence, I feel at home,

And I trust I am yours forever.[iv]

 

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. (the table is already prepared all we need to do is pull up a chair, take our seat and accept it.)

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lordforever. (As we walk nearer to the cross through the valley of the shadow of death during this surreal Lent, we prepare ourselves – we are living in the unknown and with unknown we experience fear.  Yet, we have been taught that through this journey we must keep our hearts and minds’ moving forward, this is where we will find comfort and strength as we allow ourselves to stay focused on the cross. Surely we will experience some goodness and mercy along the way and even more on the other side.)

Through this suffering let us pull ourselves together in “oneness.” I am holding each of you in prayer.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

[i] Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation, March 20, 2020 daily e-mail meditation.

[ii] Bible, King James Version

[iii] Homiletics On-line, “Wounded Love”, May 10, 1992

[iv] Psalms for the struggle, the words of her mouth” Edited by Martha Spong, The Pilgrims Press