Early Lent is a time of release, reverence, and renewal
Many of us are like pack mules; carrying bundles, loads and stresses. Seemingly, life’s necessities, that of which are heavy, find us stumbling rather than walking. My reading these days is on drug and alcohol abuse and the experience of the resulting hellish pain and disablement. Victims? Yes, from inner urges, habits and destroying the very nervous system of those habituated.
Release from addictive behaviors is an absolutely pressing need. There are many expressions of help: understanding persons, counselors, peers, family, pastors, and designated institutions.
Please, we who are a bit normal agree: There is a menace — a burden; the suffering can be addressed.
The prayer in which I began this meditation, is from the bulletin from the Ash Wednesday service at Austin’s St. Olaf Lutheran Church. I left the sanctuary with the mark of the cross on my forehead. That touch of ash was to remind me that I am to be a person humbled by that mark, but to know that in that humility, I shall for the days ahead, find a strong hand that speaks of God.
Many persons acknowledge that the traditional historic denominations — institutionally based, main-line churches, and religious groups — are in decline. This reality applies to America, but also to the European continent. If membership (name on the books) is less in numbers, we may ask in this Lenten season, what are the issues? An assignment of sorts — something to think about.
Hold on now — the shifts one can identify may point to a positive emerging manner of people shaping a new spirituality. To employ milk and honey, flowers, guided silence, chanting, and special postures of the body and terminology that is not framed in traditional words, songs, and liturgy may create an opening. There are gatherings devoted to “Centering Prayer” of which I have participated.
Outside the historic orientations, there are emerging creative forms of spirituality that are often intentionally related to the sacred, to the Divine. Meditation, even meditation centers, and concentrated movement exercises, searching one’s inner self and many other spiritual practices, may be an expansion of knowing one’s creator. To think about: Are not the objectives and goals of Lenten days fulfilled in ways that may best not be savaged or limited? Is God limited?
There has emerged a culture often termed “New Age.” It takes many forms and expressions and acknowledges a Higher Power or that we are not alone in this world. There are “pointers” to other realms, realities, or beings (angels?) that become more personally just, and grant peace often not found in the church on the corner. The experiences I’m referring to are of a positive, reflective nature. An under riding belief is that seekers are not to be put in boxes! Many would be comfortable with Psalm 51. A major key to all of this is mutual support! People will go to the places where they feel nurtured; where they can say, “a clean heart gives me purpose.”
Reverence is the tone and tranquility surrounded us on Sunday, February 26th. We were lifted to another level by the Austin Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. What an amazing privilege to hear the strings of a violin played by a guest musician, Richard Roberts. Felix Mendelssohn is always welcome in Austin! The orchestra’s grand performance of the Requiem, Op. 48 by Gabriel Faure not only expanded the walls and ceiling of the church, but swelled in our hearts! The Latin text was written with the English words printed in the program. Translated, “In Paradisum,” reads in the concluding words of Faure’s composition: “May the angels receive them in Paradise, at thy coming may the martyrs receive thee and bring thee into the holy city Jerusalem. There may the chorus of angels receive thee, and with Lazarus, once a beggar, may thou have eternal rest.” The performance by the Austin Symphony Chorus was magnificent!
Brought near to those in attendance, were feelings of music being a primary source of human goodness. An example of this is in a letter to Malia and Sasha Obama as they were moving out of the White House and written by Barbara Bush and Jenna Bush Hager. “You stood by as your precious parents were reduced to headlines. Your parents, who put you first and who not only showed you but gave you the world. As always, they will be rooting for you as you begin your next chapter. And so will we.”
On these days of Lent, sacred to many persons of spiritual conviction, compassion is increased. We share that in our daily lives. In saying this, I encourage us to recognize that peace and heavenly strength are granted to many persons in their various religions.
Renewal is a life-long project. Every life, regardless of circumstances, education, family matters, personal history, health, reversals, betrayals, wealth (or lack thereof!), living situation or residence, food, job security, the health of the soul and a sense of hope, is the recipient of getting hit over the head! Yes! Let’s look with clear vision and note that in these days of Lent, we may make a difference. That may mean making a difference to just one other person.
Before me is the “New Yorker” magazine of March 6, 2017. The cover is a cartoon-type drawing of Mr. Putin. Ever hear of him? I believe I am with the vast majority of citizens who desire peaceful negotiations between our nation and Russia. It’s all in the news, of course. The deep meaning in the spirituality that Lent calls forth, is a time when those who pray or practice the devotions of civility and humanity will say: “O God, in these days we repeat our pledge of allegiance and believe that noble persons at one time (the 1950s?) inserted the name of God!
An essay in the New Yorker edition I’ve cited, has information on Ms. Melina Matsoukas. She was a contributor to the popular song “Formation” by Beyonce. You know the song? Maybe! In speaking with the singer of her song “Lemonade,” Matsoukas talked of her Buddhist faith. She said of her faith: “It’s with a fluctuating practice.” Well, what can one say? Most of us know that word!
In this early part of Lent when speaking of release, reverence, and renewal, I add the hour enfolded by the grace that was received in the celebration of a person of great dignity and example of service.
Persons of our area and family members from distant places were in attendance of the Mass of Christian burial for Eugene Edward Sammon. Remarks and memories of eight grandchildren enhanced the thankfulness for a lovely family. With Belita Schindler as organist, and Father James Steffes leading the service of thanksgiving and hope, we sang “How Great Thou Art.”
The moments and days of Lent are a reminder of a goal; to have open hearts and minds to the mystery of God.