Identity Theft

Grace and Peace to you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

Along our Lenten journey

We must be open to the constant rhythm of Creation

Which calls us back

To the presence of the One

Whose whispers blow sacred new life into our dry, dusty selves

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord

Amen

 Ash Wednesday’s meaning has definitely evolved along my journey,

From a time of lamenting and penitence

On how truly miserable we are, not fit for the Kingdom of God

Inherently disobedient

To an understanding of the power of humility and vulnerability

Immersed in a time of reflection and respite

Because the Creator God knows of our inadequacies

Knows that this journey is exhausting

And like any good Parent,

Calls us back to the place where we can be Fed,

Made whole,

So we can enter once again into the wilds of Creation

Renewed,

Ready for whatever mêlée this world ambushes in our path.

That’s a part of our normal growing throughout our spiritual life,

We are taught and prepared for that,

We are ready.

(pause)

But

What is it about Lent

That we find ourselves

Deep in the bowels of our faith

In those cobwebbed filled corners

Alone with the questions,

The problems

That have the potential to wrench us loose from the grip of the safety

Of the arms of a Parent

Who watches us wander away

And even with our Parent’s heart torn asunder

By our abandonment

There is still Love waiting for us

Regardless

(pause)

My period of absence from the church community

Was rather a strange and full of complexities

And yet, rather fruitful

And as I embraced the beginning strains of a magnificent symphony

Which would culminate into the pathway towards the Call,

Crescendo into Seminary and beyond

Those sour notes stood out and buzzed at my ears

Suddenly my whole body was as a tuning fork

Suddenly I realized that the world was not full of harmony

When it came to the subject of the Creator God

I was faced with billboard signs denouncing God

Articles, blogs, books

Calling people to atheism

Slamming the existence of God

Protesting with legal action any and every time

People of Faith expressed who they are,

Immersed normally in who they were

Because the presence of God was something that they could not

Do

Or Live without

And it began to eat away at me,

Leaving me troubled

Saddened

And in those darkened places where I was still not sure myself

My fears,

Fears of dying,

Fears of there being nothing for me

For anyone

When this life’s journey was over.

What fears that you have encountered along in your own journey,

Threaten to pull you away

Allowing a substitute, an ill replacement

For God, Our Redeemer?

Because sometimes it is fear

Not the temptations of this world

That threaten our relationship union

With God,

(pause)

We as people of Faith

Hearing this Gospel text

And the examples that Jesus encounters

Use this as a vehicle of shame

To concentrate on all of the things

We shouldn’t do

When we are weak

Because beloved,

This journey of Lent is not about conquering our temptations

So that at the end of 40 days we will be perfect

Because try as we might,

Giving up things for Lent will fail.

We’re going to have that soda, because we are tired of water

We’re going to swear up a storm in stressful situations

We’re going to eat that burger, because we want it.

We’re going to stop working out, because we don’t have the time.

And as I shared the Gospel on Ash Wednesday,

None of these things that we give up for just 40 days

Is going to advance the kingdom of God

Unless these are ways,

We are able to clear our hearts and minds of negativity

To build up one another in Love

We are able to care for ourselves,

Because WE beloved,

These bodies are sacred to us

And to the Creator

Unless these are ways

To guide us away from the temptations

That take us away

From the presence of the Living God!

(pause)

And this,

This is the core of our Gospel this morning.

Isn’t it Good News

That Jesus experienced the wilderness

So that when we go through our own wilderness

When it seems that God has abandoned us,

Here, right here-

We see God never abandoned Jesus,

And so God never abandons us

And in this wilderness journey

Jesus is showing us

Teaching us

When fears, panic

Leave a gaping hole in the center of our soul

So much so sometimes,

The darkness

The negativity

The demonic

Begins to freely hack away at our fragile self

Begins to erode our faith

It’s not the temptations of this world

Because have you noticed,

When we are feeling down,

When we stray from the pathway

There is always someone next to us

Full of faith, and love

That prays over us and for us

A community of people just like us

Who have struggled

Fallen

Failed

But whose hands and voices bring healing

Because they are filled with the Love of God!

When you are in community,

There is safety

There is sacredness

But

Removed from loving sisters and brothers in Christ and in Faith

Lost without community

Encountering

Face to face with our distorted selves in a cracked mirror

This is when we are faced with a quick fix

I will give you all authority and splendor,

If you worship me, it will all be yours”

God is not sufficient, it whispers to us

God does not care, are the lies it spouts

Abandon God,

I’ll keep you safe

I have a witness protection program

That can give you a new identity

God won’t even notice you are there

You can freely be YOU

You’ll have all the power

You will be in control

(pause)

Why is Jesus in the wilderness?

Why does God allow satan to harass and bother and tempt Him?

Because we needed to see,

The Good News of Jesus Christ

That Christ gives us the power

To say NO

To hold fast to who we are

To keep our identity as God’s BELOVED!

That does not change during Lent

It is heightened!

Each time satan attempts to rob Jesus of who Jesus is,

Jesus speaks words of Affirmation

In the promises of God our Creator

That when we fall,

When we weep

When we cry out

God is there

God is RIGHT HERE

In our Scriptures

In this Sacred, complex and deep Word

In the Life of Jesus Christ

Because of Jesus Christ,

Our place in the arms of the Creator,

Where from the dust of the cosmos,

The stars

We were created,

Is secured,

Not by anything we could ever do,

Or not do

But because of God’s unfailing love.

(pause)

Ash Wednesday afternoon I found myself taking this precious gift

Of Ashes

Of the Body and Blood

Of Jesus Christ

To not only of our homebound members

But other members of the wider community,

Sisters and brothers that I do not know

A sister in Christ even waved me down as we were leaving,

And jokingly said, “I need ashes, and you need to pray over me.”

Her colleagues nearby, I offered to them the same gift.

One of them reacted almost violently in her speech

And voice

Declaring that what I was doing was nothing more than satanic

Putting dead ashes on people

Adding to the fact I was a woman pastor.

How jarring in this moment

How easily these experiences can leave us bruised

But, then again-

Was this a condemnation of who I was

And what I represented

Or was this the negativity manifesting

Angry because when our lives fall off the cliff

When we are wandering in the wilderness

We are still running to JESUS

Running to God

Reaching for an affirmation of our identity

Marked with the sign of the Cross

A radical symbol which has transfigured death

Into Resurrected,

Eternal

LIFE!

(pause)

Thanks Be to God

 

 

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