Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Lent 2008

I have not been writing much. I haven’t had the time--too many funerals, programs and such. And the time between Christmas and Easter this year has been the shortest in years with too many things to cram into it.

I am down with the local crud that is infecting the area. I don’t want to get too far away from my Kleenex box or the bathroom. I visited my doctor today to get some magic pills to get me through the week. My doctor is very active in her Episcopal parish where I once worked. We have sung in the same choir and we know each other’s lives fairly well. She greeted me with “So this is Clergy Hell Week, isn’t it?” And while it might be a bit irreverent, she is so right! There are more services in church this week than at any other time of the year. And invariably I get a cold or loose my voice this week. Hopefully, I will be back in order by Maundy Thursday—and more importantly, not contagious.

But with close proximity to Kleenex and laptop, today does seem to be a time when I can stop and contemplate what Lent has been for me. I took on a couple of disciplines that I rarely do. I gave up sugar –at least the sugar I could control. I was beginning to have the feeling that sugar was becoming addictive for me. I have lost 10lbs since I was last at the dr’s 8 weeks ago. That isn’t half bad. I was surprised that I didn’t have a harder time of it. The only problem is that I was beginning to get a bit cocky about it, which of course, defeated the humility that giving it up was supposed to engender in the first place! The purpose was not to lose weight—the purpose was to offer the gift to God. Oh, well. I love being a Lutheran at times like these—being simultaneous saint and sinner. And Luther did say, “Sin boldly.”

The other thing that I did was to take on the voluminous Constantine’s Sword by James Carroll. I found it more formidable that I had expected because he has so captured much of my own era and development as a Christian. It made me uncomfortable reading it. I am still only a quarter into the book but I am determined to read the sucker.

This book forces me to look at what I have learned over the years as necessary to the Christian message. He shows how the gradual separation between Judaism and Christianity led to the kind of antipathy that has grown into the anti-Semitism that resulted in the Holocaust. And while I not willing to give up all that history or tradition, I have to be very careful how I use the New Testament and the early fathers of the Christian tradition to tell the message of Jesus.
Yesterday, when this malady was still at the drippy nose stage, I had lunch with my rabbi friend. I needed his compassion during Holy Week. I needed to hear that the message of Jesus is still the message that he and I share. It is the message that Jesus came to show us the Father. And when we lose that vision of God we forget why Jesus came.

Both Christians and Jews sinned—we both closed our doors to one another. Through history we found reasons to say that we are not alike, that we don’t want the same things for our children or for our eternal reward. We closed up ideas into dogmas and excluded one another from our hospitality. They accused us of worshipping other gods—we accused them of killing God. And so we continued the scandal of the failure to love.

I was scandalized by Roman Catholicism’s recent return to the Tridentine Reproaches for Good Friday that were jettisoned at Vatican II. They are prayers that Jews may become Christians even though our Lord was a Jew. It is a failure to respect the faith of Jesus—the rabbi, the one who taught a radical hospitality in the name of his Abba—father.

Do I ignore 2000 years of Christian history? Not for a moment! But I do have to challenge that history in the name of God. I must be willing to note that we Christians have been sinners as well as my Jewish brothers and sisters. We have not treated each other well in the name of the God we share. And the time for refocusing our efforts on the split that has alienated one from another is here.

I must be willing to look carefully at the theologies that I have always touted because so many touted them before me. I must be willing to look for the ways that we can share each other’s faith respecting the histories that stand between us. And we must be willing to look with hard eyes at the kind of inhumanity that the failure to do so engenders.

Yes, there have been other attempts at genocide other than the Holocaust. We need but look at Darfur, the Tutsi and the various tribal wars since WWII, but none are done in the name of the Cross as was the Nazi attempt at extermination.

Yes, this Lent has been a changing one for me. I pray that I will be able to live up to the new person that I have become.

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