Thursday, April 9, 2009

Lenten Reflection, Holy Week

I'm always caught off guard by the term "Holy Week." It implies a consecration that this week certainly calls for, but may not always be tangibly perceived. We begin the week with waving palms and shouts of alleluias and, much like the first Palm Sunday crowds, we return to our ordinary routines on Monday. With some minor exceptions, I don't think I did anything on Monday of Holy Week that I didn't do the Monday before.

But that is an important facet to holiness: this is a week set apart for sacred use, and yet in many ways it doesn't seem different from any other. Of course it's holy because of what it represents and what it draws us to remember, not because these seven days are anything more than seven days. It's holy because of what God has done, will do, and is doing in, around, and through some rather mundane things. This week is holy in the same way that we are holy: it speaks more to the work of Christ than it does to our efforts toward holiness. We are not perfect, but we are perfected in him. You and I are no more or less than any other person on the planet, but at the same time we embody the same Holy Week message that points to the extraordinary work of God. We live these mundane lives from day to day as sacred signposts to God's grace.

Of course there is no small significance in the fact that the Holy Week events happened in the context of the Passover celebration. This sacred remembrance gives birth to and frames our understanding of this week, but in a deeper way so does the ordinaryness of these days. The work of God happens in the context of everyday life: our joyous celebrations, our daily grind, our mealtimes, our discord, our temptations, and even our mortality and our heartaches are all caught up in the salvation story. We look at the whole of Holy Week and we see that almost every moment of our ordinary lives gets caught up in what God is doing in Christ.

God's extraordinary mercy is exhibited in the midst of our ordinary days and through our ordinary lives. May we continue to find the holiness that God has placed on us in this and all our weeks.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Lenten Reflection, Week Five

Good news: Sherry decided to heat up a frozen pizza because I was off at a meeting and couldn't cook dinner.

Bad news: As she preheated the oven the house began filling up with smoke.

Good news:
It was merely burning dog food. The next day I took the floor out of the oven and found it down in with the heating element.

Bad news: The dog food was put into the oven by mice.

Good news: I now have a new favorite metaphor for sin.

I know our house has mice. Now that I know it, the evidence is irrefutable. Those scratching noises that my son heard months ago in the walls of his room, are now more than just his six-year-old imagination. Those little black specks of something that I saw behind the stove when I was investigating the problem, are now clearly droppings. I know we have mice. I know it and I have never seen a single one of them.

I am disgusted by the thought of mice in my house; I want them gone. I've started taking precautions to discourage the mice like not leaving the dog's food out overnight. We've called the landlord who will be sending an exterminator. But I am aware that, more than disgusted, what I'm really feeling is violated. If the mice had tried to store the dog food anywhere else, I may not have ever been alerted to their presence. Fortunately, the mice had no idea that their happy-warm new storage area would cause their stash to catch fire. But I am troubled by the thought that they could have just as easily gotten away with it.

Of course the mice are the sin in our lives. The mice represent those things that should not be there. They need not always be the harmful things that we have invited in, but they must also be removed just the same. The problem is, they don't always cause our houses to fill with smoke. Often they go unnoticed by those around us and sometimes even by us. It scurries around in the darkness because, as Jesus said, it fears the light.

I'm not sure how far I want to extend the metaphor; I suppose God could be the Great Exterminator or something. All I'm really trying to say is this: as we near the end of the Lenten season, part of the value of these seasons is in shining light on our lives. We don't need a house filled with smoke to know that we may be living with things that shouldn't be there. So we take this time to let the Spirit illuminate the nooks and crannies of our lives. We let God "clean house," as it were.

Let us, in all the seasons of our lives, seek to walk in the light of Christ, in whom there is no darkness at all.