I don’t know if “unlesses” is a real word but I am using it as a noun and the plural of unless. We all have our “unlesses.” They’re about how and what we see. They are the restrictions, limitations, and conditions that shape and inform our relationships and understanding of each other, Jesus, and ourselves. Jesus has his "unlesses" too. Unless is the hinge around which we either see or do not see Jesus.
Some of the funniest and most terrifying aspects of my life are my self-contradictions - the contradictions with which I live, the contradictions that live within me. My wife would probably say they are more aggravating and frustrating than funny. Most days my life is a living contradiction between what I say and what I do, what I think and what I say, the values I claim to hold in my life and the way I live my life. My guess is that you have contradictions in your life too. I don’t think they’re unique to me. What if every contradiction is a messenger telling us about a deeper truth?
I think business as usual is the issue. The animals and money changers are not the problem. They are the symptom that something else is going on. I think Jesus went to the temple that day for one purpose and with one intention; to throw out and overturn business as usual. There are times when we need the tables of our life overturned and the animals thrown out. It’s just so easy to fall into the trap of business as usual.
In some ways the past year has felt like a long never ending season of Lent. It has been a time of fasting, self-denial, and giving up; a time when people and things have been lost or taken from us; a time that is continually pointing to our mortality and the fragility of life. What are you doing with all that? And what is all that doing with you? Unless we face our own mortality we can never claim the fullness of life. Unless we recognize the fragility of life we will never discover its true value.
"All shall be well. All shall be well. Every manner of thing shall be well." I hope you will hold on to what those words say. Let them bind you to faith, hope, and love, and connect you to one another. The theme of those words - all shall be well - is the thread that runs through today’s psalm.
It was The Third Sunday in Lent. We had planned to celebrate the Holy Eucharist beginning with the penitential order. It ended up being a different kind of Sunday; not your usual Third Sunday in Lent. We omitted the penitential…
Ash Wednesday - Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” That’s the last line of Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Summer Day.” I had never thought of my life…
The promise and risk of life come to us asking for a response. Jesus had decisions to make. And so do we. We make decisions everyday of our life; decisions and choices about what to do, who we want to be, how we want to live. We sometimes call them temptations. We feel torn and pulled between the promise and the risk. Temptations hold before us the illusion of promise without risk. But that’s not the way the wilderness works, and Jesus knows that.
With each decision we’re betting that the future will be better, not because it necessarily is, but because it might be. And that “might,” the possibility of a better future, of more life, is what gives us the strength, the faith, the hope, to risk a decision and remain open to the future, even when we don’t know how it will turn out.
Maybe Lent and the gospel of Jesus are not primarily about being good, a program for changing from a bad person to a good person, so we can get a future reward. I’ve got nothing against being a good person (whatever that might mean) but I’ve never read where Jesus said, “I came that you might be good, better, an improved version of yourself.” What I have read is that Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Throughout the gospel he shows himself to be giving life, revealing life, and calling to life. And that’s not about tomorrow, after you die, or some heavenly future. “Now is the day of salvation,” Paul tells us (2 Corinthians 6:2). Now, in this time and in this place. Life is now.
There comes a time in each of our lives when understanding and knowing give way to the darkness of not knowing and not understanding. The journey of faith, it seems, is a journey through the darkness. Maybe we all come “to Jesus by night.”