Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lent--We Begin our 40 Day Journey

"...why deny ourselves any opportunity to come aside awhile and rest on holy ground? Why not withdraw from the daily web that keeps us muddled and wound? Wordsworth's complaint is ours as well: 'The world is too much with us.' There is no flu shot to protect us from infection by the skepticism of the media, the greed of commerce, the alienating influence of technology. We need retreats as the deer needs the running stream."
  --Gloria Hutchinson

This is one of my favorite stories. Wheeler Robinson told of visiting a cathedral in Paris as the choir practiced. He stood in the narthex as the choir sang the twenty-third portion of the Mass: “Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, misere nobis.” Which translated means: “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, be merciful to us.”  Robinson noticed a man who also came into the vestibule. He looked nervous and distraught. As the choir kept singing the man began to moan and then to whisper, over and over, “O God, if he could! If only he could!” And with that the man ran out of he church and Robinson never saw him again.

Lent is the time when we listen again to the old words:” Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.” For the Church it all begins again on Ash Wednesday. We are reminded, once more, of the dustness of our lives, the unfinishedness of much of what we do. But this holy season we get a glimpse of those words the choir sang. They are still music to our ears. Lent says it for forty days: There really is a Lamb. He takes away all our sins. He showers mercy upon us all.

This Lenten season could not come at a better time. Millions without jobs. Politicians gouging away at each other. Mistrust everywhere. Down my street, the man who lived on the corner went bankrupt and his house is in foreclosure. Students jogging by my house must try to forget about student loans and jobs and future. We, in the church, seem powerless in the face of so many complicated problems. But we do what Christians have been doing for centuries. We turn back to the old story. We remember so many others who have staggered through war and famine and pestilence and personal tragedy and yet made it. Not alone. They found mercy when they needed it most.

So as we turn in the next few weeks to the last days of Jesus’ life in our meditations. We will listen to the word that God still sends. And hopefully we will discover, as if for the first time, the power God’s love and grace always brings. And it will be enough.

(This powerful sculptured piece is found on the grounds of the Trinity Episcopal Church, 33 Mercer Street, Princeton, New Jersey. I have been unable to find the artist's name.)

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