Lenten Reflection from the Rector
“Rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness, and relents from punishing” (Joel: 2:13).
Such a word, the love and terror and totality it commands—my God! "Open" your heart to your Lord? "Warm" it gently for Him on medium-low in the hopes that its aroma will be pleasing and draw the Lord into your kitchen? Don't even start. The Lord has no patience for such puniness. Not right now. Not during Lent. You must rend your heart, with all of the lacerating grief Merriam-Webster tell us that four-letter word contains: remove your heart, split it, tear it apart by violence as a sign of anger or despair. A powerful, even dangerous word, that rend. One should only pull it from the scabbard with great certainty and care—as when I wrap my stole around the hands of the newly married couple and in a loud voice, enjoin, “Those whom God has joined together let no one rend asunder!” Or else.
We study and proclaim these words, this word, from Joel because we must open ourselves during Lent, and not measuredly, not "surgically", but madly—with both anger and even craziness—by ripping at our flesh, muscles and breastplate. Think of that mad prophet, Howard Beale, bellowing, “I’m mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!” Think of your own rendition as, well…extraordinary.
Perhaps you think I’ve gone off the deep end? That I'm being a bit dramatic? So be it. But know this, friends: I’m not kidding. There are times when “lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot” (Revelation 3:16) doesn’t cut it and you've just got to start spitting before the Lord does it for you.
Okay, let me cool down a little—just for a moment—to offer one of my Lenten confessions: I love Lent, its darkness and quiet and broodingness. And I love the idea of coming clean, of Lent being a six-week period of spiritual rehabilitation. As I’ve said before, I like to give myself up for Lent because I really get tired of me and all my tiresome…crap. But this year has been odd. I had such an uncharacteristically unmeditative January and February (two weddings, four memorial services, the John Philip Newell conference weekend, our annual meeting, the unveiling of strategic plan, our music director retiring early and me having to replace him, and then Lent 1) that I literally ran into the desert to escape it all.
The First Sunday of Lent, physically and mentally exhausted and verging on burnout, I hopped on a plane and flew to Morocco to escape my life. My trip to Morocco wasn’t necessarily restful, as we drove all over the country from Casa Blanca to Fes to the Sahara and back through the mountains to Marrakech. But the trip was great in that I didn’t have to make any decisions—I literally went along for the ride. My meals were made for me; I didn’t have to take care of anyone; didn't have to clean anything. Didn't have to think much. I only had to take in all the incredible colors, smells, architecture, people and ever-changing terrain. Some days I was so over-stimulated by the colors and mosaics and architecture and pottery and carpets and spices that I couldn’t get my brain to shut down at night.
I share this with you because it wasn’t until we rode camels into the Sahara and camped at sunset that I was able to let it all go. The desert will do that to a person. I truly didn’t understand the beauty and the immensity of the nothingness until we rode an hour and half into it. Talk about vulnerability! No wonder people go crazy in the desert. There is nothing there but you and the sun and the moon and the endless ever-changing mountains of sand. And, of course, God.
But as detached as one may feel from one's petty day-to-day reality, and even from one's own name (as Neil Young put it), all that emotional-spiritual baggage is still there. What I discovered is that if one is willing to let it, the desert will strip all of it away, and the divine will become palpable through an ever-thinning veil. Because…one can’t hide.
So my confession is this: I went into Lent in a weird place in my head, and then I went on vacation. This isn’t exactly how one imagines a priest heading into a holy season. But it is what it is, right? Since my return I’ve had a hard time revving back up and getting back into the mood of an approaching Holy Week. The reason why is because I glimpsed what the other side of rend looks like for me, and it’s pretty scary. I know what it feels like to be vulnerable before God—and I wasn’t able to quite go there.
Am I going to? I have to. I will. At some point, I will. But before Easter? I am not sure. I can’t make that promise, but I swear to you I am going to start in that direction. Is this a copout? Perhaps. But I am willing to name it. My first step is my Lenten confession with a priest. I've made an appointment.
Let’s give up lukewarm for Holy Week and focus on rending our hearts before God so we may be patched together with love and reconciliation and be resurrected together on Easter Day!
From the Pews...
Why do you attend St. Luke's?
"St. Luke's is a parish I call home because it is the church of my childhood,
a place I can wear shorts every week and where the priest is often in
leopard print pumps." - Joe S.
"The church is not only the building, it is the people. The people in there make me feel so much love when I visited for the first time. They love me, and I am really happy worship with them any time." - Lucrecia S.
"This church ROCKS! It's diverse, everybody of any type attends and they're all so warm and fun and always so kind to everybody from anywhere. Truly it is an amazing place to worship." - Judy B.
Welcome to St. Luke's!
Welcome to our youngest baptized member!
Molly was baptized at St. Luke's on November 3rd, 2012 during our ingathering service. Megan Haigh was also baptized on All Saints Day. We for these two wonderful additions to our faith community!
Sunday Night Mic
On the first Sunday of every month we host an open mic in our beautiful sanctuary. Roem Baur is our wonderful host. The event is fre and for all ages.
5 pm: Doors open and sign up until 6 pm
5:30: Featured Performer
6:00: Open Mic
Ends at 8pm... ish