the tension

“The season of Lent, during which winter and spring struggle with each other for dominance, helps us in a special way to cry out for God’s mercy.”

-Henri Nouwen

lenten prayer of St. Ephraim

O Lord and Master of my life,

grant not unto me a spirit of idleness,

of discouragement, of lust for power,

and of vain speaking.

But bestow upon me, Thy servant,

the spirit of chastity, of meekness, of patience, and of love.

Yea, O Lord and King,

grant that I may perceive my own transgressions,

and judge not my brother,

for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages.

Amen.

-Orthodox Book of Common Prayer

Faith, like a child

Faith, like a child, you are wilder than I want.
You are harder to predict than you once were,
Harder to control.
Oh they are illusions of control, I know.
But I try,
When I dress you up in fine, fashionable clothes so that you will look like the others,
When I keep you at home to protect you from the world,
When I try, in vain, to fight the pull of time so it won’t change anything about the way you laugh, the way you whisper, the way you play—all these little ways I know are yours alone.

Faith, like a child, you never ask permission before growing,
before stretching your arms out in the world like you own the place,
before suddenly turning inside yourself,
before surprising me or disappointing me or throwing me off with some new habit, some new quirk.
Just when I think I know who you are, you evolve into someone new, and we have to get reacquainted with one another, like we’re starting all over again.
Why can’t you just stay still?
Why can’t I rock you through a lullaby without you wiggling free?

Faith, like a child, you are the object of my greatest hopes and fears.
The thought of your death preoccupies my thoughts.
You are far too fragile, far too dependent.
It could happen, you know—
because I looked away for just a second, because I didn’t notice that something was wrong, because I exposed you to an illness, because I entrusted you with the wrong person, because of circumstances beyond my control.
I want to hold you tighter, but I no longer trust my arms to carry your weight.

Faith, like a child, you frighten me.
I am afraid to blow on your glowing embers, for fear that my breath will spark a wildfire,
Or snuff you out.
I am afraid to hold you too tightly, to hold you too loosely,
Afraid of when you look too much like me,
Afraid of when you look like a stranger, like someone else’s child.

But faith, like a child, you are resilient,
Like your Sister, you bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things.
You are braver than you ought to be, more trusting than is safe.
Like a child, you make the most fanciful connections between things—
Metaphors that only make sense between the two of us,
Art that in its simplicity gets right to the essence of a bug, a sunrise, a family, a death.
You are whimsy.
You are curiosity.
You are petulance.
You are grace.
You are a little hurricane of life and destruction and healing that upsets everything in your path.
Faith, like a child, you ask too many questions.

Faith, like a child, I love you.
Unconditionally.
And I vow to do my best to provide discipline when you need it, freedom when you need it, protection when you need it, and space when you need it,
So that when the day comes, you will be ready to care for me.

-Rachel Held Evans

marked by ashes

-Ruler of the Night, Guarantor of the day . . .
This day — a gift from you.
This day — like none other you have ever given, or we have ever received.
This Wednesday dazzles us with gift and newness and possibility.
This Wednesday burdens us with the tasks of the day, for we are already halfway home
halfway back to committees and memos,
halfway back to calls and appointments,
halfway on to next Sunday,
halfway back, half frazzled, half expectant,
half turned toward you, half rather not.

This Wednesday is a long way from Ash Wednesday,
but all our Wednesdays are marked by ashes —
we begin this day with that taste of ash in our mouth:
of failed hope and broken promises,
of forgotten children and frightened women,
we ourselves are ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
we can taste our mortality as we roll the ash around on our tongues.

We are able to ponder our ashness with
some confidence, only because our every Wednesday of ashes
anticipates your Easter victory over that dry, flaky taste of death.

On this Wednesday, we submit our ashen way to you —
you Easter parade of newness.
Before the sun sets, take our Wednesday and Easter us,
Easter us to joy and energy and courage and freedom;
Easter us that we may be fearless for your truth.
Come here and Easter our Wednesday with
mercy and justice and peace and generosity.

We pray as we wait for the Risen One who comes soon.

-Walter Brueggemann (b. 1933)

Christ has no body but yours

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

-Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)

vast beyond all measure

How deep the Father’s love for us,
how vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
to make a wretch His treasure!
How great the pain of searing loss;
the Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One 
bring many sons to glory.

-Stuart Townend, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us

 

building the kingdom

“The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it…What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”

-N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope

stepping out of self

Out of my bondage, sorrow and night,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;

Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light,
Jesus, I come to Thee;

Out of my sickness, into Thy health,
Out of my want and into Thy wealth,

Out of my sin and into Thyself,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

-William T. Sleeper, “Jesus, I Come” Based on Psalm 130:1