March 2024 Connection

“Condition and Desire”

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.  I do not see the road ahead of me.  I cannot know for certain where it will end.  Nor do I really know myself.  And the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.  But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.  And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.  I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.  And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.  Therefore, will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.  I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. -Thomas Merton
As we’ve been journeying through this season of Lent, we have been reflecting.  Our reflection began with the wearing of ashes on Ash Wednesday, reminding us of our mortality and our shared human condition – sin.  As I shared in a sermon only a few weeks ago, I like to define “sin” as anything that puts distance between us and God, us and others, and even us and…us.  And so, you see, the human condition of sin that we share means that at any given time, we find ourselves moving closer to God, and moving away from God.  Closer, away, closer, away, closer away.  You get the idea.
As we wear the ashes (or maybe simply remember them now that it’s March), we might be tempted to think that the ashes are a bleak symbol for our hopelessness – that we could never measure up to what God wants of us, and so we ought to just throw in the proverbial towel.  But I deeply disagree with that!  God’s command to us, articulated by Christ, is to love God with our whole being, to love others, and to love ourselves.  When we live into that, we defy sin that so often seems to have a hold on us.  When we fail to live into that command, we are met with a grace that reconciles us to the love of God.  In other words, God has absolutely no intention of letting sin have the last word.  
So, if there is grace, why did we bother with the ashes.  If God has no intention of letting sin have the last word, why did we devote a whole day – heck, a whole season – to it?  I believe it’s because we must name the condition in order to recognize the beauty of the grace which delivers us from it.  
In the prayer by Thomas Merton, he offers these words: “But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.”  I’m drawn to these words because I believe they reflect the desired outcome of this season of Lent: recognizing that we suffer from the human condition of sin, and yet our desire not to let sin rule our lives means that we are reaching out and grabbing the gift of grace that Christ so graciously gives to us.  It is that reach that so pleases God!
As we draw closer to Holy Week, remember that Jesus ate with disciples who wrestled with sin, forgave the soldiers who were nailing his hands and feet, and offered grace to another man upon a cross.  Remember that it was at the empty tomb where the resurrected Christ drew closer to Mary and called her by name.
Lent is about recognizing the reality of sin and desiring to close the gap.  And it is in that desire that we discover the grace that has always been there.  The miracle is that we can now see it.
Your sibling in Christ,
Pastor Brian
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