Remembering a martyr

Today marks the 34th anniversary of the assassination of the Archbishop Oscar A. Romero, one of the more influential theologians in my life.  Typically on the anniversary of his death I reread parts of his writings and remember why he’s been so influential and affirming to my understanding of God and the mistreated, the marginalized, the ragamuffins, as Brennan Manning would put it.  But also of the call to action-in-love placed on the Church.  I hear the story of his life (click on his name above to read more) and I’m moved and energized, and angered and indignant, convicted and reminded of the Gospel – scandalous as following it is.  In Archbishop Romero I see what a life lived for God, and consequently others, looks like — A life of sacrifice, personal growth, compassion, love, and humility.  As we find ourselves in the Lenten season his story strikes me all the more.  It strikes me as a challenge to grow, to die to self, to sacrifice, to repent of our participation in injustice and to live scandalously for God and God’s people – that we may be able to claim as Archbishop Romero did, that our purpose is to live for the glory of God, and that to live as Christians is to look to Christ.  May love be our guide.  Amen.



Patrick on the Water

I love the different prayers of St. Patrick that appear on St. Patrick’s Day.  I share part of one that I like with you today in celebration of this day, followed by a song you should check out.  May we arise each day with the assurance that God goes with us wherever we go.

As I arise today,
may the strength of God pilot me,
the power of God uphold me,
the wisdom of God guide me.
May the eye of God look before me,
the ear of God hear me,
the word of God speak for me.
May the hand of God protect me,
the way of God lie before me,
the shield of God defend me,
the host of God save me.
May Christ shield me today.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit,
Christ when I stand,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Below is also a link to a song that I love that was written by Garrison Doles, inspired by St. Patrick.  To me this song speaks profoundly of a life lived desiring to follow God — in good, easy, bad, painful, and content times. Enjoy and meditate.

If God is God at All

If God is God at All

I’ve been thinking about this quote a lot this week (and the book chapter it’s found in)… It’s given me perspective; do I believe that God is truly God? If I do, that should bring some peace in the midst of confusing and disorienting circumstances. God is faithful and God is present. Perhaps we don’t receive the responses from God that we think we need (the ‘fixing’ of situations, etc.), but God is God, after all, and our worries and concerns are known and cared for, and that’s a big deal. Thanks be to God!

Ashy Memories

Growing up Hispanic Protestant, all things that even smelled Catholic were to be kept far, far away.  We missed out on precious and valuable traditions, for sure.  For this reason I’m relatively new to Lent.  It wasn’t until part way through seminary that I was introduced to this holy season.

I still remember listening to an Ash Wednesday sermon in chapel which is still one of the most personally impactful sermons I’ve heard to date.  The sermon was given by a professor who would later become a friend, and she eloquently yet in real and raw fashion talked about the significance and symbolism of ashes – the pain, struggle, hope, and grace.  I was also able to participate in the small church I attended in Orlando during seminary.  It was there that I first was part of the carrying out of an Ash Wednesday service.  I’m so thankful for that time that was gifted to me.

On another Ash Wednesday finishing up seminary I was volunteering with Orlando Health’s Spiritual Care department, and that day I met an elderly woman who was living in an assisted living facility with the anticipation of soon having to be in the nursing home wing.  I remember this day specifically because she had a big black/gray smudge on her forehead.  At first I thought she had something wrong with her skin (okay – I was finishing seminary and it was still morning – give me a break), but no, the chaplain had been going around with ashes.  Most everyone in this place had a cross (or smudge) on their foreheads.  I remember this as it seems like such a holy and somewhat ironic encounter that this Ash Wednesday experience would occur in a place where there is a frequent reminder of our humanness and our returning to dust.

Post-seminary while living in North West Florida in a small rural town with inner city demographics, I remember Wednesday was one of our after school days.  I was in the small Presbyterian Church where we held our after school program, this particular Ash Wednesday.  The days there were difficult, often heart-wrenching, but sometimes rewarded with beautiful smiles and hearty hugs. On that particular day one of our volunteers had been to a morning service in Quincy, the neighboring town, and carried a black smudge (cross) on her forehead, which the kids found quite interesting.

The next year has been my favorite so far, as I got to be fully involved in the inspiring and keen Ash Wednesday service at KUMC, Tallahassee.  Marking folks – children and adults – who came and knelt to receive the cross on their foreheads while I said the words “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return” has been one of the holier experiences of my life.

Now I’m officially a Rev. and in my first appointment looking forward to this year’s Ash Wednesday experience.

I say all this because for me Lent means several things – a time of inner-reflection, of checking my ego, of embracing the messy and rawness of mortality, a time of preparing for what it looks like and means to follow Jesus to the cross.

As I look back on all these memories, I can say for certain that I’m not the same now as I was then.  I have changed; I hope to be able to continue to say that throughout all my Lents.  One question I ask myself at the start of Lent is, ‘where are you this Lent?’  I’m not speaking geographically, but in my growing up in Christ — in my discipleship journey.  I invite you to think of your ashy memories if you have any, and to let the ashes bring you forward as well to memories to come.  At the same time I hold in my heart friends who find themselves during this Lent recently finding out about a father’s cancer diagnosis, or holding on to a spouse’s ashes after several months of his death, or remembering the anniversary of the death of a young son — may the hope that are in the ashes sustain them in this time and the times to come.

Join me in prayer (from the UMC Book of Worship):

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the early Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church that before the Easter celebration there should be a forty-day season of spiritual preparation. During this season converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when persons who had committed serious sins and had separated themselves from the community of faith were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to participation in the life of the Church. In this way the whole congregation was reminded of the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the need we all have to renew our faith. We invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to observe a holy Lent: by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy word. Today we gather to make a right beginning of repentance, to acknowledge our mortal nature, and to bow together before our Creator and Redeemer.