look well

Open your eyes, to realize, God’s presence in your soul.

Here we are at the cusp of Lent—a time some people love and others, well, not so much.  How we see Lent is largely determined by how we see God and the beginning of things. While you may not spend much time consciously thinking about it, how we live in the world is directly influenced by our frame.

For much of Christendom, the primary orthodox frame is original sin. Although human beings initially dwelled with God; Adam and Eve, so the story goes, broke the rules.  This primary disobedience permeates creation and, consequently, God must send Jesus to fix the problem, to stand in the breach on our behalf.  However, only those who believe—according to the primary orthodoxy—are saved. As the Ash Wednesday collect puts it: we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain forgiveness. Interestingly, while Adam’s action affected all, Jesus’ redemption is limited to only the few.  While Jesus broke through the purity codes, traditional Christianity essentially erected new ones.

However, there is an equally valid alternative orthodoxy, as Richard Rohr, puts it, evident as a sort of counter point throughout Christianity history.  St. Francis epitomized it best.  Starting not from original sin as the problem; the alternative orthodoxy begins with original blessing.  Over and over again, God says ‘and it was good’ as creation unfolded and pronounced the creation of human beings ‘very good.’  With blessing as the starting point, the reality that things aren’t as God would have them in this life is because we’ve fallen asleep, if you will, to who we really are.  The incarnation itself is the redemptive act—that God chooses to become human, sanctifying all of creation as worthy and blessed even as it was from the very beginning—that is already accomplished although we are only beginning to awaken to that reality.

Depending on your frame, Lent becomes an opportunity to judge yourself against some sort of measure—whether you’ve done a good job of resisting this or taking on that.  Or it becomes an invitation to dare to gaze at the wonder and blessing of who we really are—out of which there may indeed be things we wish to do differently and can begin to shift in our lives.  It is my deep hope that this Lent you may see and claim the original blessing for yourself and for all whom you encounter.

2016-02-09 Discovery ClassI’m leading a Discovery Class, eight Thursday evenings in Lent and Easter designed to support those who wish to explore this alternative orthodoxy.  It will be a safe place to consider those frames, conscious or unconscious, that are operative in your own life.  Jesus came that we might ‘have life and have it more abundantly.’  Perhaps now is a time when you wish to take a step further into that promise.  The Bishop is joining us on May 1, and some who participate in the class may choose—if they are moved—to be baptized or renew their baptism, be confirmed or be received into the Episcopal church from another tradition.

One thing that came through in the cottage meetings was that whether people came from other traditions or grew up in the Episcopal one, many aren’t sure where they are with their faith. Many people have walked away from a religious tradition altogether, perhaps because there wasn’t enough room to explore in safe environment our inherited frames, be exposed to alternative orthodoxy and look well within, as our final Ash Wednesday hymn encouraged:

Look Well Within
Look well within, wake to your soul.
Touch the awe that makes you whole.
Open your eyes, to realize,

The wonder of your soul.
Guilt has no power, Shame cannot hide,
All the beauty that lives inside.
Open your eyes, to realize,
The wonder of your soul.

When you were formed, by heav’n above,
You were formed in perfect love
Open your eyes to realize
The wonder of your soul
Look well within, wake to your soul.
Touch the awe that makes you whole.
Open your eyes, to realize,
God’s presence in your soul.

—Text: Renée Miller
Music: Thomas Pavlechko
Wellspring, Selah Publishing

What are your questions? What do you wrestle with?

Hope to see you Sunday!