Pastor’s Email Devotion
The Week of Lent 1
February 14, 2016
For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. (Romans 12:4-5, NRSV)
Only a few hours separated the white and the black dust … and only a few inches. The white dust clung to the corners of my mouth on the evening of Shrove Tuesday. The black dust had been rubbed onto my brow on Wednesday morning. Both signaled the arrival of the season of Lent, but in vastly different ways, in spite of the hauntingly similar medium. The fasnacht symbolizes “indulgence and excess” as theoretically, one makes a fasnacht by emptying the house of lard, sugar, fat, and butter in preparation for Lent. (Or one just buys it at the Giant.) Ashes symbolize “renunciation and austerity” as one lives a life of penitence for the 40-day season. One is white and fluffy and sweet. The other is black and smudgy and bitter. Both point to the Lenten season.
Sometimes we think of experiences as being exceptional. By that I mean that they are defined as being something “over and against” something else. I see myself as being “male,” over and against being “female.” You might see yourself as being “good” over and against being “bad.” I have read articles by those who should know, that suggest most things are rarely exceptional. Most realities in life are a combination of opposing forces: good and evil … light and darkness … male and female. In Chinese philosophy, the terms “yin and yang” may be familiar to you – the concept that forces which appear to be oppositional forces are actually complementary, or at least interdependent. Lutherans would be inclined to use the word dialectic – well, this Lutheran would be so inclined, at least. It casts the landscape as a verbal one, but suggests a similar thing, namely that experiences in life find themselves regular pulled between opposing forces, with the truth lying somewhere between the polarities at any given moment. That image of the “dialectic” has always resonated with me. It is why I remain a Lutheran Christian.
So for this week of prayer and reflection, I offer you a challenge. Give thought to something in your life that appears to you to be composed fully and completely of one reality. And reflect upon it in ways that raise the possibility that it is not “exceptional” in the sense described above, but dialectical. Sometimes polarities in our lives allow us to be dismissive – we are inclined to exclude something from our consideration, because it is diametrically different than what I see myself as being. I’m a Lutheran, thus I become dismissive of fundamentalist Christians. I am a Mets fan, so I become dismissive of Yankee fans. You get the picture. Explore what the world might be like, if you saw just a bit of yourself in those who are so different than you are … and saw a bit of them, in you. This is not for the faint of heart, so if you have the stomach for it, enter the experience in prayer, and reflect on it in prayer afterwards.
My Lord, you are a God of contradictions. You speak to me through people I do not wish to listen to, and you draw me to those I would normally avoid. You invite me to see my world as larger than I can imagine and wider than my vision can comprehend. Teach me and grow me to understand my connectedness to all of your creation, and may I see your Spirit at work within my own spirit in unexpected and blessed ways. Amen.