Dust To Dust
this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God Philippians 3:12-21 In between the dust life happens. Leave the past where it belongs – in the past. You can’t change it. Let God’s wisdom of today keep your heart on the one true goal.
Dust To Dust
By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Genesis 3:19 This is part of God’s discourse to Adam and Eve after they had eaten from the tree in the middle of the garden. Like the child who avoids the stern look from a parent, the fact that they were hiding from God (as if they could) is evidence that they knew what they had done was wrong. It left them feeling some kind of way and when God calls them out – it wasn’t good. God’s openness and transparency with them and us is not just about obedience, but also about eliminating all possibilities that cause us to want to hide ourselves before him. By their actions, no longer were Adam and Eve naked before God as God was with them. No longer are they unashamed “to be” as they were. No longer are they able to walk freely and with boldness before their Creator. To this very day it takes a lifetime of experiences to walk with that kind of naked boldness before God.
The ever increasing knowledge in this world today is more than any one person could possibly handle. There are those who claim to know a little about a lot of things. Yet, why expose ourselves to one who knows a little about a lot and hide our selves from God? From dust to dust our journey is to work towards the willingness to expose ourselves before God. For their disobedience Adam and Eve gained wisdom. With wisdom (knowledge) comes great responsibility, and a sense of power and authority over one’s life. Yet when we fail we question God’s presence. In reality, like Adam and Eve, it’s our presence before God that is lacking. The season of Lent calls us out – invites us to relinquish the serpents of doubt and despair which causes us to hide our selves from God. It gives us the opportunity to confess and expose ourselves once again and stand naked before our Creator. Wisdom (difference between right and wrong) requires that we take responsibility. Trusting in God’s forgiveness and faithfulness, we remember to give all things including our selves, power and authority back over to God. Openly, let the journey continue.
Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, a time of penitence, reflection and preparation. I like to think of it as our own personal journey towards Jerusalem in which we face the wilderness of our own lives. It is the opportunity to fast the world in order that we might draw ever closer in our relationship with God. The ashes we receive is our witness and testimony before the world that we are on this journey. I offer this prayer to those receiving ashes today.
Almighty and merciful God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent; create in us new and contrite hearts, so that when we turn to you and confess our sins and acknowledge our need we may receive your full and perfect forgiveness. AMEN
Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Gen. 3:19
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Lenten Series: Finding Faith in God’s Forgiveness
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Better is a little with the fear of the Lord – than great treasure and trouble with it. Better is a dinner of vegetables where love is – than a fatted ox and hatred with it. Proverbs 15:16-33 Once a year my mother served us pancakes for dinner. Growing up I never knew why. I never questioned the menu. As a child it was a welcome meal – no sacrifice here! We were Baptist and no aspects of the season of Lent was ever discussed. As a social worker my mother encountered many traditions and cultures. No doubt, serving pancakes on this particular day was something she borrowed. As I grew, thanks to my own friendships I came to associate our pancake supper with Shrove Tuesday and the season of Lent, albeit without significant meaning. Symbolically, serving pancakes was a way of using up the rich foods like eggs, milk and sugar in preparation for the 40 day “fasting” and sacrifice during the season of Lent. Fasting and sacrificing was to help one get back to true satiety in the Word of God. In some traditions Shrove Tuesday invites celebrations with indulgence. In others it’s the beginning process of self-examination as to what things hinder our relationship with God. For some I dare say that food is the least of our problems. However, it’s a beginning, and God is simply waiting for us to shrive ourselves (confess) of whatever is necessary that we might begin a journey which leads closer to him. With reconciliation as the goal we soon learn that Shrove Tuesday and the subsequent 40 days is really the beginning again – of an ongoing process. Every day given is an opportunity to “eat pancakes”. Every day in some way is a “season” in Lent
“…teacher let me see again.” Mark 10:46-52 The Rev. Al Sharpton speaks of a time when he and two others were sentenced to 40 – 90 days in jail while protesting in Puerto Rico. Although his fellow protestors served the shorter time, he alone was held for the full 90 days. Alone with his thoughts he was forced to deal with himself. It was the beginning of a changed Al Sharpton in how he approached the causes, which for him – was out of his passion for justice. He began to understand that perhaps while his methods may have gotten attention he didn’t always get his desired result. He admits to a growth and maturity partly out of that experience which led him to change his attitude as a public figure. Sometimes we must have “sight” taken away from us before we can fully understand what it means to “see.” Now that we have gotten through Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and a few other national holidays, no doubt we all could use sometime away from the busyness of our lives. As we approach the season of Lent, perhaps we too can begin to ask ourselves if our approach to our way of “seeing” is giving us our desired result in life. The season gives us 40 days but in reality, the growth and maturity of the formation of our souls is a lifelong exercise. Does what we “see” today, keep us from seeing God who sees what we can not see? Going forward, are we ready to sacrifice our own vision in order that we may be reconciled to God’s vision for our lives?
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Saturday’s Meditation: Last Sunday after Epiphany
‘And now, my children, listen to me:
happy are those who keep my ways.
Hear instruction and be wise,
and do not neglect it.
Happy is the one who listens to me,
watching daily at my gates,
waiting beside my doors.
For whoever finds me finds life
and obtains favour from the Lord…
So, if you consider me as your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. Philemon 1-25 Paul referring to himself as a prisoner of Christ, out of love, appeals to Philemon upon the return of Onesimus, a slave who has run away. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just run away from the things which enslave us? Inevitably we find that running away only prolongs the healing. It would also be nice if every time we all had a “Paul” to appeal on our behalf, that we might turn and face the “pain of any issue” and be received in love. We don’t always get that physical support when we feel we need it the most. Although Paul was not able to go back with Onesimus, he reminds Philemon that what he is asking of him is in the Spirit of Christ. We are all imprisoned by something. From food to relationships we are captured by our own desires, needs and wants in life. It’s not all bad! However, the question we must continually ask our selves concerns the driving force of our actions as we live to achieve our goals. For Paul, it was his passion for the Gospel. From this one letter we don’t know the outcome of this relationship between Philemon and Onesimus. Yet from both sides, Paul’s challenge to Philemon and Onesimus remains our challenge. In what ways will we be a prisoner of Christ today?
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My child, keep my words…write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 7:1-27 I own an iPad. Admittedly, I take it almost everywhere I go. It is of great use to me particularly when I am bored (like riding in a car). There are other times when it has kept me out of “trouble” enabling me to ignore the little things in life that frustrate me. Sometimes it is just to hard to pray when you are frustrated, and your head is filled with things you know you shouldn’t do or say because your heart won’t let you. For me it is the classic conflict that is helped by a couple games of solitaire, just long enough to allow the frustration to subside and let the Word of God that is written on the tablet of my heart, help me to continue to be the person to which God has called me.
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…everyone who loves the parent loves the child. 1 John 5:1-12 I remember the time I felt courageous enough to share with my mother how I felt as I was growing up and her part in making me feel the way I did. I had recently graduated from college and working at my father’s business. I’m not exactly sure why it seemed the right time but I just needed her to know. It wasn’t pretty. She was gracious enough to listen to everything I said without interruption. After a moment of silence, she simply stated, “I did the best that I could.” If I had thought that I wasn’t her favorite daughter before, I certainly didn’t win any browny points that day. Although I had no way of knowing how much of life was ahead of me because of her, I immediately realized my mother’s perfect love up to and including that moment; how much life I had actually lived because of her. Coming from very humble beginnings herself, she had a college graduate as proof. She had done the best she could. It took me a while to forgive myself for being so cruel that day. In spite of my “audacity of the self”, she never held it over me. So much more is God’s perfect love deep enough to forgive things we think are unforgivable and not hold our selfish feelings against us. Each of us in our journey towards love through Christ must do the best we can.
…perfect love casts out fear… 1 John 4:7-21 Truly, who among us can perfectly love? Who among us walks without the occasion of some doubt? Who among us occasionally reconsiders decisions to be made or regrets decisions already fulfilled? As much as we strive towards this perfection it is not ours to perfectly attain. Try as we might there is always some wonder if we’ve done the right things or if we are moving in the right direction. How is the fear ever removed? If we could live with perfect love – would not the world be a perfect place? We have to settle for striving for perfection and recognize that we will make mistakes. When we make mistakes we must learn to forgive ourselves. Christ, the perfect love of the Father, understands this about us. Himself, called to the people of Israel, time and again stepped out of his own box to which he was called, to heal, bless and forgive those who brought their faith before him. So too we are called to love, knowing that what ever our dreams, desires, frustrations or fears, God’s perfect Love for his creation encourages us to continue striving towards him in spite of our imperfectness and because of our faith in him.
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