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Friday, March 7, 2014

Lead Us to the Water (1st Sunday in Lent, Year A)

At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert.

For us humans, it always seems to be a question of “who’s leading whom?” Whose voice is telling the truth? Which voice saying “Follow me” is leading to life, which leads to death? Which god are we following? Are we sure we have the right one?

Ever stop to wonder about the temptations mentioned in Matthew of Jesus by Satan? What’s wrong with what The Divider wants? What’s wrong with feeding the hungry, even if the hungry one, for now, is you? What’s wrong with temporal power when you’re sure you would be the best person for the job? What’s wrong with asking God to prove himself, to catch us when we fall once in a while?

For that matter, what’s wrong with knowing good from evil, and being like God, which was the test of the first parents in the garden?

It seems to be something like Dirty Harry’s observation in Magnum Force, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” At the heart of all this, there seems to be something about God being God, and we being created, and there’s no getting over that. There’s something about having a sense of not being above others, that we’re all human, and children of one God. And there’s something about the chutzpah of our race that refuses to believe it, that makes us want to have it all, create ourselves, and while we’re at it, create God in our own image.

The wonders of science and technology make this even a greater temptation for us these days - it really seems like anything is possible with enough time and intelligence applied to it. We’re such accommodating people; we’ll go wherever someone is willing to take us if the goal is worthwhile and the journey is appealing. The trouble is, what if we don’t know the middle man? Or what if the leader, however good her intentions, doesn’t really know what lies at the end of the road? Or what if the path goes through others, or tramples on them, or uses them, or leaves some behind?

What if the person or institution, company, or government doesn’t love us, or love anyone, but just needs to lead and dominate?

But then, what if there were a voice that said, “You are my beloved. On you my favor rests,” and that voice weren’t the voice from a throne or drenched in Hollywood reverb, but was a tiny whispering voice whose echo was entirely in our DNA, so full of truth it was unmistakeable? What if that voice were from the creating God, and that God were so completely ungodlike that s/he bent down from heaven to wash our feet?

Then, when the other voice came in the hungry desert, we’d know it to be a liar. We would know that there wouldn’t be any shortcuts to our humanity, that the Spirit given to us was a spirit of power, but the kind of power that makes life teem across half a trillion galaxies for billions of years for the joy of it, mining the infinite well of God’s own being for the joy of giving it all away. Not a spirit of domination, but creation; not a spirit of might, but of surrender; not a spirit of self-glorification, but of self-gift.

Maybe that’s all there is, that God is love, and that nothing less than love will ever satisfy us, and the trouble is that love, so wildly and recklessly strewn through the cosmos, looks, feels, and acts so much like death. We keep hedging our bets as sacred love keeps scaring us toward those other gods with their promises of bread from stone, imperishable kingdoms, and that terrible, cold, death-dealing certainty which masquerades as faith.

So, at the outset of Lent, trying to get back to the God of Jesus, leaving the other gods and their voices that “court us with lies,” we sing “lead us to the water,” lead us to the cross, raise us up on eagle’s wings, create us all over again. Hold us in your mercy, you who are God, you who are love, you who did not grasp at being God, you who ever move downward, outward, bowing, kneeling, kissing, healing, creating light, life, more love; hold us in your mercy, eleison, eleison, eleison.

Gathering: Lead us to the Water (Kendzia, OCP octavo)
Psalm 51: Create in Me (Kendzia, OCP octavo)
Gospel Acclamation: Mass of St. Aidan (Cooney, WLP)
Preparation rite: Lead Me, Guide Me (Gather)
Communion: On Eagle’s Wings (Gather)                  
Recessional: Change Our Hearts (Gather)