Rector's Blog: Proclaiming the Dream
This blog is also available as a podcast.
What if you knew you were loved fully, totally, unconditionally exactly as you are right now? Knew it in your bones and felt convinced of your belonging in this world? Now, on top of that, what if you were convinced the same was true about every single person in this world – that every single person you met, saw, or heard about was fully, totally, and unconditionally loved right now just as they are? How might you experience life differently? How might the knowing of that transform the way you see your life and the lives of those around you? Would you see this pandemic differently? Would you look at family members with different eyes? Would you vote differently? Volunteer or donate differently? Would you care the same amount about the same things if you knew that your life was saturated in the love of God?
This kind of Love is the Gospel. When Christians talk about the Good News of Jesus, this is what we are (or should be) talking about: a whole creation redeemed by perfect Love. Take a moment to imagine your life within that narrative.
This imaginative work is central to the purpose of the Christian season of Lent. I know, I know: Lent is supposed to be about repentance, penitence, fasting, and self-deprivation. I’m not trying to sell you on a fancy new Lent without all the hard stuff. But after the year we’ve just had, if we’re serious about going into a season of penance, it’s at least worth examining the big picture of just why we’d bother.
The truth of the Gospel is that we are loved as we are right now. And we don’t believe this. And we don’t act like it. During Lent we set aside a time to examine and be honest about the disconnect between what we proclaim in our church and how we live our day to day lives. But the point of repentance is not shame. The point of repentance is to turn towards the God who loves us so we can remember ourselves. Lent is not about feeling bad or indulging in shame. Lent is about moving away from the things that keep us from knowing Jesus and growing in Love. At Church of the Redeemer, Lent is about moving towards the vision we have of Becoming Beloved Community.
Church of the Redeemer has made a long-term commitment to the Becoming Beloved Community journey, a set of interrelated commitments around which Episcopalians may organize our many efforts to respond to racial injustice and grow a community of reconcilers, justice-makers, and healers. We have made this commitment because we understand racial justice to be essential to living into the Gospel here and now, and we are eager to partner with God in this work.
Two years ago, during Lent, we began this journey with an overview of the Becoming Beloved Community initiative, and a description of the Biblical imperative for this work. Last year we focused on the 1st of four pillars upon which this work is built: Telling the Truth about the Church and Race. This Lent we will explore the second pillar: Proclaiming the Dream of Beloved Community. Remembering our Baptismal Promise to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ, we devote our energy to this season to pondering these questions together:
- How can we publicly acknowledge things done and left undone?
- What does Beloved Community look like in this place?
- What behaviors and commitments will foster reconciliation, justice, and healing?
It is my hope that our offerings this season will help you with these questions, will help you to see more fully God’s presence and love in your life, will help you proclaim the dream of a world where everyone knows they belong and are loved.
Some of our offerings will require you to sign up for emails, to pick some things up at the church, or to buy a book. I want to say a little about those so you can start to plan your Lent. These are not the only ways to experience Lent at Church of the Redeemer, and I hope you will take a look at the Lent page on our website and see what resonates with you.
This Sunday, the 14th, we will have Lenten Bags available for pickup at the church. These bags include ashes that you will be able to use during our Ash Wednesday Zoom worship, prayer crosses that were knitted and prayed over by our famous Knittin’ Kittens, and a Lenten Practice guide provided by our Family Ministry. Please stop by and pick one up! Yes, Ash Wednesday is next week. You will have four opportunities to begin Lent with worship. In addition to our Wednesday Evening devotional podcast, we will have 3 Zoom worship services which will include the opportunity for you to impose ashes. Those services will be at 7am, noon, and 7pm.
Our Lenten devotional series, Meditations of the Heart, begins on Ash Wednesday as well. We will be offering weekly meditations from the works of Howard Thurman, centered on the lectionary readings for each Sunday in Lent. Thurman was a noted pastor, preacher, and Christian mystic, who taught the idea of “Becoming Beloved Community” to Dr. King. His writings, combined with Sunday Reflection Groups on Zoom, will invite us deeper into Proclaiming the Dream of Beloved Community. Please subscribe now and join this Lenten meditation practice with intimate, small group check-ins.
We’ve spoken a lot about the need for intentional rest during these difficult times. When learning about justice work, we need to recognize the importance of building rest into our lives so that we can develop a proper perspective of the Beloved Community. If this interests you, join us for two Sunday evenings of comfort, companionship and contemplation as we read and reflect on the book Wintering – The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May. Wintering is a book of consolation and hope, a helpful guide for how we might gently be present to ourselves during difficult times, and how we might learn from these experiences and encourage others.
And of course, we will continue our tradition of Wednesday evening Lenten series, and I’m really excited about what we have to offer here. Daniel Hughes and Troy Bronsink of the Hive, who have worked with us on past retreats, will be joining us via Zoom to lead our Proclaiming the Dream of Beloved Community series. They will create a brave space in this socially disorienting moment. A space where we join the struggle to see, join, be, and further the beloved community among all God's children.
These are just a few of the ways you can walk with Church of the Redeemer during Lent, and again I hope you will visit the Lent page on our website and consider participating in at least one of these offerings. In all that we do in the coming days, may God provide us with a clearer vision of the Beloved Community we seek to become, a deeper sense of God’s presence in our lives, and a clearer conviction of our call to work alongside Jesus in the reconciliation of this beautiful world. A blessed Lent to you.
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