Beloved St. John’s community,
This lent, which began yesterday, we at St. John’s are going to focus on joy and gratitude. What?! You may be thinking. Isn’t that—counterintuitive, tone-deaf, completely not.getting.the.memo.about.lent, wrong in face of all the urgent things that need doing in our world, or just denial?
No, dear ones.
In essence, this is because I believe we are being invited to make a giant paradigm shift—a healing from centuries of empire-infused theology. The shift is not only to believe, but to experience, the utter sacredness of all things.
It may seem dangerously naïve to insist that all things are sacred. Russia has invaded Ukraine and already many have died and are fleeing the country. Last month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its Sixth Assessment Report which described the grave and mounting threat climate change poses to human well-being and a healthy planet. Racism is alive and well. And on, and on, and on.
Yes, these things are true. Beloved, this is equally true:
Creation is made from the substance of God. You are made in the image of God. You are loved because of who you are in the deepest part of your being. We can experience this, and it can give us daily and endless causes for gratitude and joy. And if we can allow ourselves to be transformed by the power of God, by the reality of Christ within us, we can cease dominating others and the natural world and we can heal.
The Way of Jesus begins with the practice “turn,” which is a contemporary understanding of the ancient theology of repentance that is the traditional theme of lent. But there is a critical difference. Whereas much of Western theology has emphasized the empire-inspired-notion of “original sin”—that we are created evil and need to repent so that Christ can rescue us from ourselves—we are waking up to the truth, which is that God created everything good, and that to “turn” means to turn toward that goodness. To turn toward Christ, which is the merger of divine and human that each one of us is meant to embody. We turn away from anything that gets in the way of our becoming fully who we were made to be.
And to turn imperial theology on its head, this lent, let us give up anxiety and fear, and practice gratitude instead.
Each morning, I invite any who would like to pray this prayer or something that feels right to you:
Gracious God, lover of all people and all beings, today I state my intention to be aware of the manifold goodness all around me and within me. I will notice the goodness in others, the beauty of each face and the natural world, and each and every tiny cause of hope. I will connect with God within myself and other people. Tonight, I will remember and reflect on this goodness and beauty. I will give thanks to God for the many sources of joy I encountered today and ask what difference that will naturally inspire in the way I behave tomorrow, with God’s help.
You will see lots of opportunities at St. John’s to connect with the theme of joy and gratitude. Each Sunday morning from March 13 – April 3, we will have an adult forum in the parish hall addressing a different source of joy each week. You will see other surprises about this theme. And I truly hope you will engage one another about this topic in small organic conversations that take on a life of their own.
Let us use joy and gratitude as the experiences that propel us toward the transformation we so urgently need in this world.
With joy and gratitude for each one of you,