By: Maggie Leonard
Reflection—v. 14, Wake up, sleeper!
The writer of this passage is quoting Isaiah, pleading with God’s people to see the injustice around us, to see where people are being oppressed, and to act mercifully toward the vulnerable. It is a call to see what is going on, to bring one’s attention to it, and to act in love accordingly. To be awakened, someone or something brings about the change in mental state from asleep to aware. To wake, one changes their own mental state. To be woke, the person is past the process of waking—they are finished with it. Today, being woke means to become informed and to stay alert of the implications. There’s a chance you’ve seen it, #woke or #staywoke. It’s a term that originated in the African-American community as early as 2008, but gained popularity in 2012 after the shooting of Trayvon Martin and has continued to gain traction. It has its roots in the Black Lives Matter Movement. To some, it might seem an interesting choice in grammar. I really appreciate the nuance. To be woke requires attention, awareness—one cannot be passive as if asleep. To be woke requires intentionality, nobody can make you woke. You have to be willing to see. I have to be willing to see. It means that learning cannot be undone and that a blind eye will not be turned.
Prayer God of Love, give me the courage and boldness to see what is going on around me, and the compassion to offer mercy and love.
Reflection—v. 14, Everything that is revealed by the light is light
One of the greatest gifts that prayer and mindfulness practices have given me is the ability to cultivate my ability to witness with love. To witness, in this respect, is to take in information without reacting to it. It is the practice of noticing and observing without having to make a judgement or put the label of ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ upon it. A low test score isn’t bad, it reveals that I have things left to learn. Falling out of a yoga pose isn’t embarrassing, it means that I’m off balance or have strength yet to develop. A poll that reveals an opinion different than my own isn’t wrong, it means people have different experiences of the same situation. In fact, most of what we see and would interpret as negative could in fact be seen as helpful information for making a decision. It can reveal that of which I am not yet aware. Outside of the movies, I have never met anyone who was not doing the best that they could given their circumstances. Nobody sees themselves as the bad guy. Most people involved in unhealthy behavior don’t see that behavior as unhealthy, but have self-justified reasons for their actions. More information, more perspective, more revelation may be more complicated, but it is ultimately good. May we see the experiences of others as light on the way to love.
Prayer Patient Lord of Light, may I trust that all that is revealed may be used to draw your people closer to you.
By: Maggie Leonard
Reflection—v. 11, don’t participate in the unfruitful actions of darkness… It’s embarrassing to even talk about what certain persons do in secret.
Here, darkness is unequivocally tied to secrecy—not just about what we hold in our hearts but our actions as well. It’s what we hide—that which compromises our morals. Frequently we try and hide our dark deeds. Deals made behind closed doors are usually done so at the expense of uninvited parties. Usually, those invited are perceived to have power or money—usually both. The encouragement of this passage is away from obscurity and toward transparency. It is about exposing what is not readily seen or understood. It names the shameful nature of covert actions. More information and openness of communication might not benefit our personal situation, but we should not avoid it. God is the light of the world, we are called to live in that light and to share that light—in Christ we live with openness and integrity.
Prayer Light of this world, we turn to you this day that you help us live with transparency. May we not take advantage of dark corners to further our self-interest, but to turn toward your light with integrity.
By: Maggie Leonard
Reflection—v. 9, Light produces fruit that consists of every sort of goodness, justice, and truth
Light, in this passage a metaphor for knowledge and seeing clearly, is at the heart of all things good, just, and true. That is not to say that any of these things are necessarily easy or comfortable. In my experience, it’s quite the opposite—truth and justice require facing hard realities that are often different than my long-standing perceptions. These days, it seems that transparency and information are not always looked upon favorably—we live in echo chambers and reject evidence that doesn’t align with our personal experience. But we are reminded here in Ephesians that light—that which helps us to see—brings about fruits of God’s work. What is good is not always the information itself, it’s not talking about good news, but the goodness is found in the potential result when we pay attention and take seriously the knowledge that has been shared. Pursuing goodness, justice and truth requires work and emotional growing pains. But what an opportunity—to participate in that healing process, to stand with God, to spread goodness in the world.
Prayer All-knowing God, use your light to open my eyes, and give me a strong heart.
By: Maggie Leonard
Reflection—v. 8, you were once darkness
I always struggle with imagery of light and dark during Lent. Historically, the metaphor has been conflated so that darkness—including skin color—represents evil. Darkness is not equal to evil, but is used to describe a state in which it is difficult to see. To be darkness is not about being evil, but instead about embodying what one is not able or willing to see about themselves, others, and our social constructs. To be light is about the purposeful movement toward truth and love. It’s about being honest with ourselves about the intentions and impact of our actions. It’s about our willingness to receive information. It’s about our willingness to witness. There are times in our lives when we are not willing to see our own hearts. There are other times when we are not willing to see circumstances around us. Lent is a season of revelation, where we look into our own hearts and see what lies there. It is a celebration of information—with the knowledge that we might not like what we find. We must not dismiss the authenticity of information with which we disagree or disheartens us. The hard work of Lent is to prepare our hearts to receive that which we never thought possible.
Prayer I stand in the dark, God, not seeing clearly. Show me a different way.
By: Chad Hyatt
Reflection—v. 4, ‘God who is rich in mercy…’
In a simple chapel, Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity pray each day. Just around the corner from our daily chaos, the little room is dominated by a large, dark crucifix. Beside it, the words ‘I thirst,’ as if falling through time from the lips of a dying Savior, are printed in block letters. The tender, haunting melody the sisters sang today still echoes in my ears: ‘What wondrous love is this…’ And I must confess, this poor sinner is undone. The cross makes no sense. There is no logic to it. It overwhelms our senses, until numbed by it, we are left with nothing but the utter senselessness of it. No preacher can explain it; we can only tell it. Even then, we know our most eloquent words are no more than the stammering of fools. There is no theology before the cross; there is only silence. Only this can rightly be said, only this which we can scarcely grasp: only love, only mercy could hang on the cross for us. Only mercy can make sense of what makes no sense and somehow fill the universe with a deeper meaning than our hearts can hold.
Prayer What wondrous love is this, my God, that you give your life for mine?
By: Chad Hyatt
Reflection—v. 17, ‘God did not send the Son… to condemn the world…’
God did not send Jesus into the world to condemn it. That might come as a surprise to those of us who have listened to a lot of preaching about Jesus; we preachers do more than our fair share of finger-pointing to make up for Jesus’ lack of it. But God, whom the Bible consistently portrays as the only just judge of human injustice, does not rise to condemn us. That in itself is surprising. But what John says next leaves us speechless: we condemn ourselves. We cling to darkness and make war with light because we think shadows cover our wrongs. The implication is clear–and it is devastating. God has no need to judge us, for we have already judged ourselves. We are fully aware when what we do is wrong. And we would rather hide it–justifying, rationalizing, excusing, and blaming–than change it. But we are fooling no one–least of all, ourselves. The light comes to us, not to condemn us, but because we need it to find our way out of the dark.
Prayer Jesus, lead me from the darkness of deception into the light of truth.
By: Chad Hyatt
Reflection—v. 3, ‘…all of us…’
Lent calls us to ponder once more the unbounded breadth of God’s love. Paul’s distancing ‘you’ soon gives way to the more inclusive ‘all of us.’ As church folks used to say, there are ‘no big I’s and little you’s.’ In God’s lavish mercy, there are no ‘righteous’ and ‘sinners,’ no ‘Jews’ and ‘Gentiles’–and, for us, no ‘homeless’ and ‘housed.’ Labels that kept us apart no longer exist in God’s ‘all of us.’ We are all sinners, and by grace, we are all righteous. Far from removing the urgent need of housing for all of us, we are reminded we share in a common struggle together. All of us are broken. All of us struggle. All of us are bound to a way of walking in the world that is destructive. But absolutely all of us–as absolute as our brokenness and struggle are absolute–belong to God. In Jesus, we have found a new way of walking–toward life, in freedom, and with God.
Prayer God of lavish mercy, all of us have been lost, and all of us are being found in you.
By: Chad Hyatt
Reflection—v. 5, ‘…by grace you have been saved…’
As we move deeper into Lent, we get closer to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, triumph and tragedy await us, with the unexpected ending which, beyond all hopes, becomes a new beginning. Our scriptures this week move us, in their own unique ways, to consider our redemption. The central truth of redemption, a reality that will make possible everything we will consider over the next few days, is grace. Grace, purely and simply, is gift. It is the unilateral initiative of God; grace is God’s choice. It is generous, lavish, overflowing–and never stingy. Grace is free; there is no fine print, no strings attached. Grace is the character of all life–because life with all its wonder and possibility is freely given to every one of us by God. And though we have disdained the gift, in ways big and small, in ways we can all see and in ways hidden and secret, it is the grace of God that saves us nevertheless. None of us earn it; none of us could. We can only welcome it with the same generous heart in which it is given.
Prayer God of grace amazing, help me to live each day conscious that every breath is a loving gift.