I Need Help (First Sunday of Lent)

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“He used to remind us that the Holocaust did not begin with the building of crematoria, and Hitler did not come to power with tanks and guns; it all began with uttering evil words, with defamation, with language and propaganda.” Susannah Heschel, daughter of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, now of blessed memory.

In today’s Gospel and readings I see so many parallels to where we are today. For those among us who have some yearning to “make America great again.” Well, that may sound nice, but I can never figure out what we might actually go back to that would be so great. Greatness, if you ask me, can never be returned to, greatness – if it is to be – is found only by going forward. For others who may long for a greatness built upon justice, unity, and equality, other things can be read into today’s readings by understanding the risk of temptation – and avoiding temptation.

Jesus has been in the desert a long time in today’s reading – even if we are at the beginning of our own Lenten journey.  Maybe he is hangry! No, I’m not trying to be funny. He has been sleeping in the wilderness without the benefit of a nice tent, cozy sleeping bag, a water filtration device, and energy bars. Think about what this means. Not exactly a comfortable retreat to “get away from it all.” Quite the opposite!

Me, I love the desert, but boy oh boy,  I have no desire to stay out there for 40 days and nights! Yet that is exactly what Jesus did. And then he meets satan, the satanas – which means the tempter or evil one in general. Now Jesus must be so tired and hungry. The evil one makes three pitches which all center on Jesus Continue reading

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Invitation

imagesI’m feeling very nostalgic for the 80’s these days. Although I was inching my way to 30 and beyond as the decade progressed, it was a time when I arced through many galaxies on the journey to becoming who I am today. And yes – without a doubt – God was woven into every element of every fiber of this time.

You may wonder why I say that… Well, I lived in the juiciest years of that decade as an executive by day, but dressed all in black and skulking around dark, smoky, loud, generally unsavory nightspots when the sun went down. I stayed out too late, I smoked too many cigarettes, I definitely drank too much. And I danced and danced and danced, imagining it happiness at the time.

There were many happy moments, but happiness was what I sought. Happiness was an elusive pursuit, always bolting around the next bend before I could grasp it. And how I tried to gather it up in clenched and greedy fists, fueled by a heart that was Continue reading

Bread line, Lent 1 short

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Seen in Spain, during Camino.

“I gotta put bread on the table!” How often has that line, or something like it been used to justify doing things? Doing things that go against what we know is right. Whether it is not honoring the Sabbath, completing a work assignment that has moral implications, missing time spent with family or loved one… you fill in the blank. We’ve all done it. We all do it.

Today’s Gospel is from Matthew show us Jesus is in the desert being tempted. It has to be hot, challenging, and lonely. He must be exhausted, hungry and thirsty. It would be easy to give in, it would be reasonable even. Right?

But is anything about a life of faith, a life following Christ, ever reasonable in the material sense? Think about that and you have your answer. This does not mean some intense over-scrupulosity that turns self-induced sacrifice into some kind of holy-making exercise. Instead, we are asked to keep God first in our sights and choose accordingly. It means trusting God when the last shred is about to tear away. It is that simple, which indeed that difficult. And it does not always work out in the way we wish for. There’s the rub.

How often do we do what we should not? What else can we do…  we don’t want to end up on the breadline, do we?

(I’m off of social media for Lent. What I am doing is posting a photo a day on Instagram, with a short reflection. Each one posts to Facebook automatically. If you are on Instagram, check it out.)

Lead us not into temptation

mediumTemptation. What does this word mean? For many of us it means things like avoiding the temptation to look at our phones compulsively, or to stay away from snacks. It might mean the feeling of wanting to buy something new, when we have a perfectly good whatever-it-is at home, but we want a new one. There are many sentences that begin with “I was so tempted to…” and end with something that does not seem very harmful. We pray, “lead us not into temptation,” but what do we mean when we say those words?

A long time ago, I was speaking to someone who was practicing the 12 Steps of AA. He said that rationalizing the dismantling of small boundaries was the road to ruin for him. Often he would be tempted to put himself in a situation that might not seem to be so bad, but one that he knew might be a trigger. And he might even do OK in that situation, not yielding to the magnetic force of his addiction. Then he would Continue reading