Date: Wednesday, August 1, 2012
The Promise of Lent by Charles Rice
The Gospel for the third Sunday in Lent, Luke 13:1-9, takes us to familiar territory, the places where people suffer and question: Why this, to those people, to me? Jesus does not answer that question, but he does clarify one aspect of human suffering. He relieves us of the burden of Maud’s theology: “God will get you for that.” The simplistic theodicy of her 60′s television comedy show is still with us and widespread. In this way of seeing our situation, God zaps people for bad behavior.
There is, of course, a measure of truth in Maud’s way of seeing it. Bad behavior can lead to suffering, and right action carries its own rewards. But Jesus’ life and teaching rules out that preacher’s pronouncement that Aids is a plague sent by God, or that New Orleans is flooded as reprisal for its loose ways. No, says Jesus, you must not think this way. Those poor folks who were in the wrong place when an earthquake brought down the tower of Siloam, or those killed at their worship, were not targeted by divine wrath.
On the contrary, Jesus says, God is the patient gardener. In the little parable of the fig tree (vss. 6-9) we have a picture of the demanding landlord: “What? No fruit! Chop it down.” But the weight of the parable lies not with him but with the gardener. All patience and hope, he will dig around the tree and give it some fertilizer: “Maybe next year….” It is here that we meet the loving kindness of the forbearing One, always hoping, always striving with us. That is the promise of Lent and its call to repentance: one more season of cultivating and pruning, hoping that maybe this is the year when down among the new leaves a small green fig will appear.
Singing on the Mountain by Marcia Gleckler
A cherished part of the early Kirkridge worshipping community was hearty singing. John Oliver Nelson’s favorite hymn, “Be Thou My Vision,” was among many others that found voice on the Mountain.
A long line of musicians have left us singing as we’ve journeyed back to our own lives away from the Ridge after an inspiring weekend. As mentioned in my earlier Reflection from the Ridge, Carrie Newcomer prompted our group to write on the theme, “Have You Got Power?” in response to storms in our lives when the physical and figurative lights go out. Carrie’s own words in her song, “If Not Now, Tell Me When,” challenge us to look at the causes for violence in our land that leave us disheartened about the safety of our children and wanting meaningful conversations about gun control:
Although there will be struggle We’ll make the change we can. If not now, if not now, tell me when.
Sitting at the feet of the remarkable musician Ysaye Barnwell is mind-blowing. It is unfathomable, the rhythms and harmonies in the African-American oral tradition that soar from our soul-filled weekends with her, even with disclaimers from some of the participants that “I’m not a singer.” We leave the Mountain not only awed by our own performance, but grateful to have greater understanding of the urgent social needs that are a part of our national and local landscape.
For twenty years and counting, Carolyn McDade has led retreats at Kirkridge. Her career has spanned writing and singing music for everything from anti-war rallies to chanting the names of endangered species of birds and animals. Her devotion to protecting the sacred of the earth, with her deep poetic and musical insights, has sent us away singing our own resolve to make a difference in the world. As Carolyn says, singing is an act of courage, “to really sing, in the way that disrobes the heart and lays its curve into the world.”
In any quiet meditation, her words, “Spirit of Life,” edge us closer to our own sacred, to our own witness in the world:
Spirit of Life, come unto me Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion Blow in the wind, rise in the sea Move in the hand giving life the shape of justice Roots hold me close, wings set me free Spirit of Life, come to me Come to me.
By Marcia Gleckler
In a late 2012 retreat with Carrie Newcomer, her singing and writing prompts brought a group together following massive devastation by Hurricane Sandy and earlier storms. They wreaked havoc on so many people, including some of us attending the retreat. Together with Carrie, we composed a song called “Have You Got Power?” referring to power outages many of us had experienced in our homes and communities. There were many analogous references to the deeper meaning of the question—for our souls, for facing illness or brokenness of relationships or overwhelming grief. In the darkness of our lives, where do we go for light, for power, for a way through the storm?
Part of the tradition of early Kirkridgers was group worship. The community residing at the foot of the Mountain, or dispersed to places of work and residence across the country, came together through their commitment to daily disciplines of worship and prayer.
At the end of Carrie’s retreat, Jean Richardson offered a book for us to consider as a meditation source: An Almanac for the Soul: Anthology of Hope. The book is dedicated to the “widely scattered, yet ever gathered Iona Center Community.” Iona of course was part of the early vision of John Oliver Nelson to bring church leaders together in this country following the storms of WWII.
I began to delve into those reflections, including words by Howard Thurman in a January meditation: “There is a fallow time for the spirit when the soil is barren because of sheer exhaustion.” All the anxieties of trying too hard, creating pressures on ourselves, begin to wear us down; it is time to work out new designs, Thurman says. The fallow time is a chance to clear out dead roots and dream new dreams.
At this time of the year, our days marked by wintry landscapes, the fallow ground perhaps covered by layers of snow, together we can again dream the dreams that the Iona community, John Oliver Nelson and others left as their legacy. We clear away the debris accumulated by the storms in our lives. We wait for the spirit to reveal new, enriched soil for plants awaiting rebirth and for new seeds to grow. We find new ways to respond to the darkness of our lives, new sources of light and power. Have you got power?
Marcia Gleckler is ignoring her soon-to-be 80th birthday by staying active, celebrating her three sons’ achievements, publishing her first book, and always relishing her Kirkridge connections, including nine years on the board.
HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH? by Sharon L. Miller
In February I am leading a Kirkridge pilgrimage trip to India. Going to India raises all kinds of anxieties for people – there are the crowds, the dirt, the heat and the beggars. There are always the beggars. I was raised on the Indian subcontinent and beggars were as common in my life as the large black crows that woke me each morning and the call to prayers from the nearby mosque. I often gave money or food to people who were begging, but I also learned to brush aside the dirty hands of the children pleading for baksheesh and to avert my eyes when I passed the old man whose face was disfigured by leprosy.
The last thing I thought I’d face when I came to the U.S. was more beggars. I had been raised with an image of America being a land of plen
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