I have not written for a month and a large part of that has to do with my Lenten disciplines.
I come to the church every morning at 8:30 for contemplative prayer. I light a candle, play some music and do one reading from Wondrous Encounters by Richard Rohr. Then we sit in silence for 15 - 20 minutes. I opened up to anyone and Kerry Baker has joined me every morning and Gail Taschner has come often. It has been very meaningful and often the "starter prayer" has stayed with me all day.
However, what I have not done is my usual journaling - and that writing often is the seed for this writing in my blog and so - a month has gone by.
The other Lenten discipline for me has been in leading three groups through the book Listening to the Spirit, a handbook for discernment. And the discernment is around this question: "What is the Gospel Message to our Church as we relate to gay and lesbian Christians?" These groups have involved about twenty people and they have met Wednesday and Sunday nights and Sunday morning. It has been really interesting and fulfilling to lead these groups.
There are some passages that people point to that seem to say that gays and lesbians (well gays actually, since there is no mention of lesbians in the Bible) are engaging in sinful practices. However, as we have studied them, it is clear that there are other ways of interpreting all of these texts. For many people this class has been a time of real growth in learning about Biblical interpretation itself. In some ways the Bible contradicts itself and so we all have to have greater understanding than just reading a verse at face value. In addition to that, Jesus comes and opens up the word, so to speak. There is much of the "Levitical Law" that he rejects - for example about touching the ill, eating certain foods and circumcision. So, how do we decide what continues to be "sinful" in the light of the grace of God.
There are subjects that I think about and preach about in which it is very clear that the culture is always at work affecting us. For example, Jesus shows us a way of life that is putting our trust in God - not in mammon. And we live in a world in which we are encouraged to compare ourselves to others and find self worth in how we look and what we have. But when we talk about the issues of gays and lesbians - it is often the church and the Biblical interpretations that have affected the way the culture responds. And for those of us who are open and accepting of gays and lesbians, our inclination is then just to ignore or reject the Bible.
Instead, these classes have really opened up the Bible to me and to others and helped us to a deeper understanding of God's message to all people.
Anyway, my point is to say that it has been an very different Lenten discipline to have these groups as a regular part of my week - but I believe that God keeps calling us to learn and to struggle and so we have.
Today is the Tuesday of holy week. For a pastor we are preparing for so much - Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and then Easter. It is always somewhat daunting for me to be both at the cross and at the tomb. What I know is that the pastoral needs that are real - like death, depression, marriage issues, etc - remind me how important it is for us to have Jesus who suffered for us and suffers with us.
And the good news of Easter - is always going to be the hope of the world. There is life after death, there is spring after winter and there is peace after the struggles of learning, growing and preparing.