Monday, February 20, 2012

Preparing for Lent - 2 of 3

In the previous post, we looked at the “Now” of “Be Here Now”- our orientation to time and our choice to practice forgiveness & trust over bitterness & anxiousness. Continuing our reverse trek, we will now look at the idea of being present “Here”.

Here is an orientation to place, to the space we currently inhabit, the community we are currently planted in, the circumstances that currently surround us. I associate it with terms such as stability, rootedness and connection.

When we think of Jeremiah 29, we most often think of verse 11 – God knows the plans he has for us, and they are big ones! The future’s so bright, we gotta wear shades! Let’s go get ’em! It’s all fine and dandy that our creator has plans to prosper his people, to give them hope and a future, but that doesn’t change the fact that from Adam to Abraham and beyond, God’s people have always had to endure the nitty-gritty of daily life, and the consequences of their choices. That’s why my favorite part of Jeremiah 29 is found earlier in the chapter, in verses 4-7:

This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Once again, the Israelites have found themselves in a foreign land, not a place they want to be, not the place God wanted them to be, yet here they were. And rather than a baby in a basket, rather than plagues and a Passover, God tells them to settle down, to make a home, to plant themselves in this place. And that prosperity? It will be dependent on how much they participate in seeking peace and prosperity for this land of their exile.

In the movie Click, the main character finds himself at the end of his life, distraught because while he was trying to fast forward through the moments he found dull or difficult, he missed out on the moments that were sacred and beautiful. In much the same way, if we keep waiting for life to happen somewhere else, under different circumstances, WE MISS LIFE! Participating in life means we are willing to be vulnerable, allowing ourselves to be known beyond our masks. Participating in life means we take the chance of being hurt, and we take the chance of being loved. Participating in life means releasing our illusion of control and embracing it all – the boredom and the grief and the beauty and the joy and the bellyaching laughter.

Being rooted in a place, does not mean that we can never go elsewhere, but it does mean we do so intentionally. When we read about the Holy Spirit going with us in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth – some of us become very eager to jump to all of those uttermost parts. However, unless you choose one of those places, root yourself into community there, allow your walls to come down so that you can truly engage the people around you, you are not doing much for the peace and prosperity of that place, or the peace and prosperity of your own heart.

Mother Theresa famously said, “I want you to go and find the poor in your homes. Above all, your love has to start there. I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know who your neighbor is?” It can be very easy to go and serve in unfamiliar places where we only land for a short while, because it does not require much vulnerability on our parts. But if we really want to impact and be impacted by a community, we have to be fully present there, allow our walls and masks to fall to the ground, and settle down into daily life with one another.

The prayer exercise we practiced in conjunction with the discussion of being “here” was a lectio divina reading of Psalm 37:1-9. Sit with the passage and ask the Lord to speak to you about what it looks like to settle down into a place. Read slowly through the passage and get an overview of the verses. Pause, and let it sink in. Read slowly through it another time, and pay attention for a word that stands out to you. Read slowly through it a third time, and listen for your word in context. Sit with that word for a time, and allow the Lord to plant it in your heart.

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