Lenten Meditations 2019

Meditation 10

Scripture Readings:
Isaiah 43:16-21
Philippians 3:4b-14
John 12:1-8
Psalm 126

God does not call on me to be stingy in my generosity to the poor; God calls on me to be lavish, like Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with costly perfume.

For years I sat in church wondering, “Who is my neighbor, and how do I love him?” When our daughter, Tweed, was little, we decided to enroll her in our local PreK program at Hope-Hill Elementary. Hope-Hill serves the largest public housing development in the South East, 700 families living below the poverty line. Tweed was the only White girl in her grade, one of the only kids who didn’t live in Bedford Pine. I began volunteering at the school, and my question was quickly answered: these kids are my neighbors.

I run an arts organization, so I decided that the way for me to love the kids in my neighborhood was to build an arts program for them. We started Creative Kids after school classes at Hope-Hill in 2015, and for a moment, I was satisfied. But then I discovered that there are dozens of schools like Hope-Hill in APS alone, schools with such high poverty rates that the cafeterias don’t take money; everybody gets free breakfast and lunch. So I started a second program. Now we are in six schools, and about to launch a new program at Barack and Michelle Obama Academy of the Arts.

As a foster mother, I am constantly confronted by ways that poor kids lose out. Their schools are basically segregated. Their parents don’t have the means to take them to after school enrichment activities and cultural offerings. They don’t get to travel. They have few or no books, they aren’t read to as much, even their vocabularies are smaller, as they get exposed to fewer words than their wealthier peers.

I am determined to provide these kids the best performing arts education that money can buy. I do not want to provide shorter classes or second-rate curriculum; I will lavishly provide the best. And in Atlanta, that’s the Alliance Theatre, which has graciously permitted to use their library of scripts, so we can provide the same experiences that privileged children have at the Alliance, to Atlanta’s most at-risk kids, for free, at their schools.

-Ariel Fristoe

 

Meditation 9

Scripture Readings:
Isaiah 43:16-21
Philippians 3:4b-14
John 12:1-8
Psalm 126

John 12:1-8 is the well-known story, told in all four Gospels, of the woman (sometimes named as Mary) who anointed Jesus’ head and feet with priceless, perfumed ointment the week before Good Friday. Some of those present criticized her action and Jesus’ acceptance of her gift. In John’s version, the critic is Judas Iscariot, who complains that the ointment should have been sold and the money given to the poor, instead of the anointing of Jesus.

Jesus’ answer is: “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” Many have struggled to understand this story. Jesus says, in three of the four Gospels, that the woman should be allowed to anoint him with this valuable ointment, because there will always be poor people, but the apostles will not always have him. At first, this sounds so uncharacteristically selfish — so egotistical, the opposite of how Jesus normally appears in the Gospels, and a bit heartless toward the poor whom we know he loved.

The version I see most often is from “Jesus Christ Superstar” (lyrics by Tim Rice), which we watch every year:

Mary Magdalene:
Sleep and I shall soothe you, calm you, and anoint you
Myrrh for your hot forehead, oh
Then you’ll feel
Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s fine
And it’s cool, and the ointment’s sweet
For the fire in your head and feet
Close your eyes, close your eyes
And relax, think of nothing tonight
Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s alright, yes

Judas:
Woman, your fine ointment, brand new and expensive
Could have been saved for the poor
Why has it been wasted? We could have raised maybe
Three hundred silver pieces or more
People who are hungry, people who are starving
They matter more than your feet and hair!

Mary Magdalene:
Try not to get worried, try not to turn on to
Problems that upset you, oh
Don’t you know
Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s fine
And we want you to sleep well tonight
Let the world turn without you tonight
If we try, we’ll get by, so forget all about us tonight
Everything’s alright, yes, everything’s alright, yes

Jesus:
Surely you’re not saying we have the resources
To save the poor from their lot?
There will be poor always, pathetically struggling
Look at the good things you’ve got
Think while you still have me!
Move while you still see me!
You’ll be lost, you’ll be so, so sorry when I’m gone.

What is going on here?? Are we supposed to just accept that many of our fellow human beings will live out their lives in desperate poverty? Are we supposed to shrug that off, call it God’s will, and occupy ourselves with focusing only on our own personal relationships with Jesus? There are those who preach exactly that.

But I finally found an insight that rings truer for me. One writer has noted that Jesus was likely referring to Deuteronomy 15:11, in which God says: “For there will never cease to be poor in the land; therefore I command you, you shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.” The two are linked: the statement that there will always be needy people, with the command that we “open wide” our hands to them. Jesus was probably reminding the apostles of God’s expectation that they and his other followers should always share their abundance with the poor. He was also telling them that his death was near and what it meant, although they may not have understood. Anointing with precious oils and ointments was widely practiced in ancient Israel, for some very specific purposes: consecration, purification, the elevation of kings, the sanctification of priests, for rituals of atonement and sacrifice. By accepting this anointment and referring to his own burial, Jesus evoked all of these.

This story feels like a powerful reminder that there are times when we must pause, when something extraordinary, something holy, is afoot. It will always be our duty to be mindful, and generous, toward the poor. But we must also remember to honor the holy times, with the very best we have to offer, in as humble a spirit as the woman who came forward with her priceless perfume and wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair. Attention must be paid.

– Katherine Brokaw

 

Meditation 8

Scripture Readings:
Isaiah 43:16-21
Philippians 3:4b-14
John 12:1-8
Psalm 126

“Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed;
will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.”
Psalm 126:7

Lent—a precious time of reflection and anticipation—the anticipation of a joyful Alleluia! How do we move gently, peacefully and reflectively through the chaos of Holy Week into the divine feast of the Alleluia?

Suggestion: Give yourself the gift of a quiet time and place; breathe; perhaps light a candle; open your heart to awareness. Allow these two quotes to come to mind for points of reflection:

First:
“…So, when the shoe fits,
The foot is forgotten.
When the belt fits,
The belly is forgotten.
When the heart is right
‘For’ and ‘against’ are forgotten.”

From The Way of Chuang Tzu
(Compiled by Thomas Merton)

Second:
“…Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face;
here would I touch and handle things unseen;
here grasp with firmer hand eternal grace,
and all my weariness upon thee lean.”

From Hymn #318: “Here O my Lord, I see thee face to face”
(Lyrics by Horatius Bonar 1808-1889)

When, in our silence and awareness the “heart is right” a new arising and a new energy can always be available to us. We then have a deeper capacity to peacefully live in community, to carry our seed into blossom, and to live into the joy of the Alleluia of Resurrection. With God’s help, “for and against” are forgotten. We can prayerfully open to an arising of “eternal grace.” We are never alone.

-Barbara Hammond

 

Meditation 7

Scripture Readings:

Joshua 5:9-12
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Psalm 32

Forgiveness, reconciliation, justice, joy and Love: these are the themes that jump out to me on this Fourth Sunday in Lent. The familiar parable of the Prodigal Son highlights the vast difference between our human notions of fairness and justice and God’s overarching Grace and love for each of us, in spite of our sins, foolishness, and flaws. And celebrating forgiveness and the depth of God’s Grace, Psalm 32 calls on us to, “Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the LORD; shout for joy, all who are true of heart.”

In our everyday world, it can be hard to forgive and, often, a challenge to find joy. Our world seems mired in pain, division, injustice, and inequality. I pray for relief, but it seems in vain. To find joy, I focus on love. When I feel sadness and pain for human suffering, prayer – more often than not, at this point in my life – does not provide me with the comfort I seek. Rather, consolation and cheer come from the love of my husband, my daughter, my dog, and my friends – and I find great comfort, joy, and peace from beauty found in nature and through art. I wonder if these are the ways God chooses to answer my prayers and show His Grace.

In his July 5, 2018, sermon to the 79th General Convention, our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said something so beautiful. “The key is to throw yourself into the arms of God. Throw yourself into the hands of Jesus. And then, you might actually learn to love an enemy. Then you might pray for those who curse you. Then you know what it means to blessed.” He closed a lengthy sermon with, “And just throw yourself in the arms of Jesus and let those almighty hands and arms of love lift you.” My favorite part of all of this is the verb “throw”. It is filled with such bold, fearless energy! It is the only verb that would match the gravitas of the noun, Love. “Throw” is so definite, so joyous, so desperate, so trusting. If you throw yourself in the arms of Jesus, there is no turning back. You must trust that He will catch you.
For today’s meditation, I ask you to watch two videos:

1) “New Beginnings”
Choreography: “After the Rain” by Christopher Wheeldon
Music: Spiegel Im Spiegel by Arvo Part
Dancers: Maria Kowroski and Ask la Cour

Presented by the New York City Ballet on September 12, 2013, as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and a tribute to the future of a city New York City Ballet calls home

and

2) “Cry” (sections 2 and 3)
Choreography: Alvin Ailey
Dancer: Donna Wood
Music: Laura Byro’s “Been on a Train” by Laura Byro, “Right on, Be Free.” By the Voices of East Harlem.

Great American choreographer Alvin Ailey dedicated the three-part “Cry” to “all black women everywhere, especially our mothers”. Please do not miss the last section, which depicts triumphant, ecstatic joy that has come after brutal hardships, bitter sorrow, and the depths of pain.

Louisa Basarrate is a wife, a mother, a servant, and a friend. She has not been seen in church for a while, but back in the day, she gladly served All Saints’ on the Vestry as Junior Warden under Senior Warden Steve McGehee and then as Senior Warden.
She offers this Lenten reflection in memory of Barbara Fisher Hall.

Meditation 6

Scripture Readings:

Joshua 5:9-12
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Psalm 32

Lent IV, Manna

Lord, when our bodies and souls are empty,
fill us with what is good,
for Jesus’ sake.
(attributed to the Very Rev’d Keith Jones, Dean of Exeter, in 366 Graces, compiled by John Allport, 1998)

The recognition of the good gifts of life, of sustenance and abundance, is the starting point both of “grace” as words of blessing before a meal and of “grace” as the foundational experience of God’s known yet still unfathomable love. As an “Easter people,” shaped by a love that gives all and that overcomes, we move through this season mindful of what is good in creation and in our lives and seeking to learn what living gratefully means.

Appreciating emptiness is harder for me. I did not grow up in a tradition in which Lent was very much observed, and the value of its discipline has for the most part eluded me, at least in any sustained way beyond episodes of realization and reflection. But perhaps the recognition and exploration of emptiness is an important starting point too. In Mending the Heart, John Claypool wrote of the “wound of grievance – when other people have hurt us,” the “wound of guilt – when we have hurt others,” and the “wound of grief – when we are hurt by loss.” This is a year in which I have experienced a significant loss, more easily nameable than other wounds or the accumulated things left undone that I may not have fully acknowledged or examined. I approach this season of preparation asking what is the good that I seek to fill the emptiness, not for my own comfort alone, but “for Jesus’ sake” and for the sake of the persons I am called to love, to join in community, and to serve.

Lord, fill us with what is good.

-Kim Andrews

 

Meditation 5

Scripture Readings:

Joshua 5:9-12
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Psalm 32

The Prodigal Son- I struggle with this one. I have a lifetime of practice being an “Elder Son” and it’s tough to hear Jesus tell a story that doesn’t cast my type in such a great light. So, I wrestle with this parable every time I hear it and I look for new and life giving ways for it to speak to me. This time around, I was struck by the fact that the Elder Son is missing the party. He’s so busy doing all of the right things that he’s missing the party, missing the joy, missing the love, missing the connection, missing peace in his “kingdom”.

One corner of our kingdom in the Diocese of Atlanta is Camp Mikell. I’ve been going to Camp Mikell since before I could walk and even now, as a grown up, I get to spend a week there each summer as a camp nurse. I love it. I am very efficient and very organized, I’ve got my process down like clockwork. At Camp, one of the essential tenets is that the party is with the kids. It’s repeated again and again. The party is with the kids. It underpins everything every day. It means, yes, we have to make sure everyone is safe, fed, and the programs are run well, but if we get caught up in the machinations, if we forget that the party is with the kids, then we’ve lost our purpose. If I only hand out medications and Band-Aids, even if I do it competently and efficiently, if that’s all I do, I’ve missed it. I’ve missed the party, missed the joy, missed the love, missed the connection, missed the peace in the kingdom.

It’s not easy for us Elder Son types to stop the machinations, but I hope I will continue to be reminded that missing the party is missing the joy, missing the love, missing the connection, missing peace in my kingdom.

-Virginia Harrison

 

Meditation 4

Scripture Readings:

Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Romans 10:8b-13
Luke 4:1-13
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

In monastic communities, Psalm 91 is said every night at compline, which is the last prayer office of the day just before bed. Compline is the only office whose psalms never change, it is always Psalms 4, 91, and 134 which are said each night. So what makes Psalm 91 worth praying every single night for a lifetime?

Scripture often tells us to trust in God and not be afraid, but rarely are we painted so poignant a picture of what that actually looks like. The psalmist says that the person who trusts God is truly free to live without fear of anything, even the strength of lions or the venom of snakes. Psalm 91 is a reminder every single day that through God, we can live with a confidence so bold that even clear and present danger will not keep us from doing the right thing.

The confidence born of trusting faith is what it takes to be generous toward one’s community even in a time when one’s stability is not yet established, as this week’s passage from Deuteronomy encourages. Note the text doesn’t say, “Wait a few seasons until you feel comfortable in your new home and give God what’s left over after a bumper crop.” Nope. The text says to give God’s community the very first of your produce, and make giving it away a party! Because what you have was given to you, and you can trust that out of the same abundance you will receive more.

It is our trust that God is good that allows us to generously live out the abundance we are experiencing, instead of clenching our fists ever more tightly around what God has so freely given us. Maybe the monastics are onto something with this practice of reminding themselves to confidently trust God every day.

-Simeon Bruce

Meditation 3

For Lent 1

“The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart.”

-Virginia Schneck

 

Meditation 2

FAITH VS. FEAR

In times of great change, my default is to be pulled into fear and anxiety. My initial response is to live in my head and think of all the possible variables and outcomes. It is much harder to be still and sit with the assurance that God is with me. All too often, if I listen to my inner voice (God), I am able to find moments of peace with the challenge, and allow fear to transition into anticipation. When I lose focus and the fear becomes painful, I find solace by shifting my focus from my own self-centered fears to another person’s needs. The shift towards serving others allows the necessary perspective for re-calibration. I truly believe that every day presents itself with a million little options, and that I should be GRATEFUL for the choices I am granted. If I live in gratitude for what life brings my way, the fear and anxiety of the unknown will subside. When I am able to reflect on the“challenges” survived, I am able to recognize that God has acted in my best interest every step of the way. The challenge is to be open and aware of His protection and guidance at all time.

Isaiah 58:

The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;

and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,whose waters never fail.

-Brandon Tully

 

Meditation 1

Scripture Readings:
Joel 2:1-2,12-17 or Isaiah 58:1-122
Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6,16-21
Psalm 103 or 103:8-14

So, which is it, God? This Lent, shall we assess the chaos in our lives and let You bring us order and peace? Or, shall we realize we are way too comfortable and let You shake it up a bit? “Wade in the water, Wade in the water, Wade in the water, children, Wade in the water, God is gonna trouble these waters…”

Where do you need to be this Lent? If you’ve been paying attention, there is a bit of Chaos in our waters right now. Where will you find Shalom? No better time than Lent to figure that out. Are you comfortable? Uh oh. Might be time for God to trouble your waters. Chaos to Shalom, Inertia to Stirring the Waters. Which will your Lent be this year? Let those with ears to hear, slow down and listen. Ram Das says, “The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” This year’s contributors will help us ponder where we are and where we need to go in Lent 2019. Traveling mercies to you, whichever path this is for you.

–Gretchen Château, Co-Curator

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