Redeemed

MEADOW-AT-GIVERNY-claude-monet-artist-monet

Meadow at Giverny, Claude Monet, 1888

Meditation for the Twenty-Third Day of Lent

O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, those he redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. Some were sick through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities endured affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress; he sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction. Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy. —Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

There was no light in the pit, nor was there
another heartbeat, only mine, and that was faint.
We were falling, my cold heart and I. The sides of
the cave were slick, and I could gain no purchase.
Nothing grew there except terror, which swelled
like a storm cloud and would have smothered
me.  And I said, God, I shall never see another
morning unless you lift me with your mercy. I
shall never walk in sunlight unless it be by your
grace. But you are removed from this pit; you are
not in this place. God, can you, even you, forgive
my unbelief? Will you renew a right spirit in me?
Can I ever again know the joy of your salvation?

There was no sound in the pit, nor could I hear
my own heartbeat, and I wondered if the whole
world had grown dark and silent. I feared for
myself and for those I had loved, long ago, when
I was able to love. It seemed that the very
universe had succumbed to darkness. Then my
feet touched a great stone that stopped my
falling, and my hands felt a solid thing, like the
bark of a tree, and when I breathed, a sweet wind
filled my lungs, and I heard a sound, an oboe and
a tympani, and, fearful of hope, I said, God, if I am
redeemed, it is you who has saved me. It is your
strong right hand that even now pulls me from
this deathly cavern. It is your light that warms my
bones. It is your word that restores my life. Are
there psalms sufficient to praise you for your
steadfast love? For the rest of my days I shall tell
of your deeds with songs of joy.

Amen.

 

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Where Shall We Dwell?

Fishermans Cottage on the Cliffs at Varengeville-Claude Monet-1882

Claude Monet, Fisherman’s Cottage on the Cliffs at Varengeville, 1882

Poem for the Nineteenth Day of Lent

If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. —John 15:10-12

Where shall we choose to dwell: in a palace or
the love of God? Bricks and mortar have no soul;
oak and cedar cannot take the place of joy. But a
cottage swept clean of malice, with anger and
jealousy washed away, is hospitable to gentleness
and tranquility. They grow and thrive there, and
make the pleasantest of neighbors. Sweet and
fragrant is the household where God’s
commandment reigns: Love one another. The
gardens flourish and the larder swells with the
fruits of the spirit. All the castles on all the
continents cannot shelter God’s children with
security if love does not abide in them as well.
Sons and daughters of God, build your house
upon the firm foundation of compassion, charity,
and kindness. Let the walls echo with songs of
praise. Furnish your house with wisdom and
justice. Open wide the windows, let the spirit flow
through every passageway, refreshing every
room and cupboard, flushing out all that spoils
and decays. From this moment forth, abide in the
love of God and the truth of Jesus Christ, and live
in peace.

What Is the Good News?

El_Greco_-_Christ_Healing_the_Blind_-_WGA10420

El Greco, Christ Healing the Blind

Meditation for the Thirteenth Day of Lent

Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem. (Isaiah 52:2)

HOPE AND NEW LIFE. Turn away from evil and embrace the Good News.

Christ really has been raised from death—the first one of all those who will be raised. Death comes to people because of what one man did. But now there is resurrection from death because of another man. I mean that in Adam all of us die. And in the same way, in Christ all of us will be made alive again. (I Corinthians 15:20-22)

ETERNAL LIFE. The body dies and decays; the spirit lives on.

I gave you the message that I received. I told you the most important truths: that Christ died for our sins, as the Scriptures say. (I Corinthians 15:3)

FREEDOM. If we had to pay a fine for every unkind thought or angry word, we would all live in a culvert. But, having done the best we can to right our wrongs, we needn’t carry guilt and shame around with us, punishing ourselves for our sins and hating our sinfulness. Indeed, these take a toll on our bodies as well as our hearts and minds. They paralyze our ability to love. In Christ we are given innocence at any time we choose to claim it. In the resurrection we are set free to experience joy, which blesses us and all whom we encounter.

Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” (Matthew 11:4-5)

HEALING. Physicians have told me they see miracles all the time. That the body inclines toward healing is a miracle in itself. The body and mind want to be healthy. Torn skin scars over, and scars fade. Broken lives are mended. Broken relationships are restored. These are laws of nature lived through Christ.

“In the winter, seeing a tree stripped of its leaves, and considering that within a little time, the leaves would be renewed, and after that the flowers and fruit appear, he received a high view of the Providence and Power of God, which has never since been effaced from his soul.” (Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God)

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” (Isaiah 52:7)

VICTORY. God is supreme. Good is greater than evil. If we didn’t believe this in one form or another, we wouldn’t be able to get out of bed. Every minute of every day would be lived in dread of calamity.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33) Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)

PEACE. Much misery arises when we try to control everything—ourselves, other people, circumstances…. Who, having gained a measure of power, does not seek even greater power? When we realize how little we can truly control, we can lean on the infinite strength of God. Thus are we free to live and love in this moment.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

HAPPINESS. The Spirit brings “mystic sweet communion” with Almighty God. By sowing its seeds, in prayer and meditation, we will harvest well-being in all its spiritual dimensions. Having that, what more can we ask? What else do we need for happiness?

Jesus replied, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

LOVE. We don’t have to wait for love to rush in and sweep us off our feet. You and I can make a decision to walk in the way of love… the love of God, the love of others, and the love that our Sunday-school teachers failed to mention: the love of ourselves. There is nothing noble or generous about neglecting our own needs or being easily manipulated.

Jesus “did not command self-love; he assumed it and made it the measure of neighbor love: ‘As you would that men do to you, do so to them.’” (John Piper, desiringgod.org)

Ring the Christmas Bells

isabella-breviary-adoration-of-magi

Ring the Christmas bells, ring in Emmanuel
today. A child is born in Bethlehem amid the
creatures in the stable. Humble his
surroundings, yet he comes to rule the hearts of
people ‘round the world. Are you afraid?
Give to the holy one your fears. And do you
weep? Give him your tears; he makes of them
your baptism. Return to purity, O children.
Come, oh, come to him.

Ring the Christmas bells, ring in the victory
of joy and peace. A child is born in Bethlehem,
and creatures give him homage. Kings adore
him; precious are the gifts they bring. Now sing
for him a lullaby; sing him to sleep. Sing this:
Sweet Jesus, God among us, Lord Emmanuel.
So innocent is he, yet he accepts our sin and
our distress. Return to bliss, O children.
Come, oh, come to him.

Ring the Christmas bells, ring in the hope of
better days to be. A child is born in Bethlehem,
a world transformed his gift to you and me.
He is the Morning Star; the very sun bows
down to him, and through his tender mercy
what was old and weary now is new again.
Give him your tears, and they become your
baptism. Return to innocence, O children.
Come, oh, come to him.