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  • Seasons of the Spirit: Behold, I Tell You a Mystery!

    Reflections on Lent, Holy Week, and Easter

    On Ash Wednesday we enter the six weeks of Lent, leading us to Holy Week and its attendant journey through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. In our country and culture we find ourselves in a time of great division, competing values, and strident, argumentative discourse. In the face of all of this, in my own Lenten discipline this year, I have felt called to use the prayer: “Holy One, give me the strength, courage, and wisdom not to add to the polarization before me and within me.”

    Native American spirituality says: “Vengeance is a lazy form of grief.” It is the ego’s temptation to use power, vindication, and “being right at all costs” to multiply divisions and destroy the power of the empathic community Jesus calls us into, in which we practice “compassionate abiding.” Jesus asks us to make room and offer hospitality for the “other” in our selves, our families, our communities, and our world. When Jesus says, “Follow me,” he asks us to follow him into the place where we learn to “love one another”. Jesus takes on the “sins of the world” projected upon him, and does not return the evil for evil, but open-heartedly and with open arms dies a death on a cross. He demonstrates for us that the way of new, resurrected life is through this self-giving love and not in the victories of war and vengeance.

    To even begin to understand this in our minds and bodies and souls, we must be willing to “clear a space” where we confront our own failure to love, our inability to live the “perfect life”, our necessity to stand in the need of God’s great mercy and unearned love. God shows us a way out of the world of separation, shame, and violence. Jesus shows us that God is willing to suffer with us, abide with us, enter into our most abandoned, painful, longing, and grieving places, sharing this experience with us to show us a way to our solidarity with the whole grieving world, bringing us all to new life. One life, lived in God’s all-encompassing embrace.

    Might we begin this journey with a practice of stillness, of silence, of stopping our reactionary running from our world and ourselves? As T. S. Eliot reminds us in his poem, Ash Wednesday, “Where will the Word be found? Where will the Word resound? Not here. There is not enough silence.”

    Are you willing, with me, to clear a space for silence, that the Word may encounter us? In that silence, may we begin to breathe into the Paschal Mystery which calls to us in this season? As we take time for “letting Another Voice speak,” we are being prepared to belong to God and to learn how to live further into the great revelation of the Paschal Mystery: life to death to life again in an ongoing movement mirroring the reality of created life on this planet. We are learning to live with faith the Truth revealed in the events of Holy Week:

    “The Light of Love rises from the shadows of our broken dreams,
    The Fire of Hope is kindled in the ashes of our unspeakable losses.”

    Through the new commandment of service given on Maundy Thursday: that we “love one another”– to the unspeakable death of Good Friday where Jesus joins us in the inevitable loss of our human life as we have known it–to the great silence of waiting found in Holy Saturday–to our transformation into Resurrection Hope at Easter–we let God be God, and realize that it is in God’s reality that all things are made new, even ourselves. It is God who saves us, and not we ourselves.

    In Eastertide, we carry within our hearts a deeper understanding that the One who has kept us company in the worst that can befall humankind has shown us the way to a hope the world cannot destroy, the way into the very heart of God who is Love itself. We are able to proclaim our resurrection with new liveliness and renewed faith, “All of us go down to the dust, yet even at the grave we make our song, ‘Alleluia! Alleluia!’”

    —Rev. Dr. Ken Orth, Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Direction Affiliate,First Congregational Church in Winchester (UCC) and Healing Worship Minister, Old South Church in Boston (UCC)