Sunday, March 13, 2011

Go Gently

(For Wilbur Howie Sr. and all whose passing is grace.)

Much of culture demands we fight,
tooth and nail against going,
denying that we’re even moving in that direction,
color for the fading hair,
tucks and injections for the sags and wrinkles.

Fight whatever comes our way
with whatever we can arm ourselves:
radical surgery, medicine; harsh treatment, equipment;
all ways to deny journey’s inevitability,
pretending we can park indefinitely.

There is another way to travel,
not so much upstream always,
not eternally against traffic’s flow,
but putting up our sail and
letting breath blow us where it will.

A toast to all who find the grace
to tread gingerly upon the earth,
softly upon other lives so that
breathing comes as if from Spirit,
flowers bloom at every turn.

Going gently toward the place
where earth gives way to garden,
where hope is planted, not buried,
where time stretches into eternity
and living yields willingly to life.

© 2011 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, March 10, 2011


So, what can I do for Lent, why should I do anything for Lent, and just what IS Lent? Forty days, not counting the Sundays, counted backward from the day before Easter to a Wednesday. Why forty? Because forty is a “Biblically epic” number (Ever notice that “forty” is the only number with a “four” in the English language that removes the “u”?). Think Moses on the mountain with God (40 days), Israel in its exodus wilderness (40 years), and Jesus in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry (40 days). The English word “Lent” comes from the Germanic root for “Spring” which originally meant “Long”, signaling the lengthening of days as Spring approaches.

That Easterly backward-determined Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, so named because the early church marked itself (as many still do today) with the ashes from the previous year’s Palm Sunday palm branches which have been saved and dried for this purpose (recalling the palm-waving crowd in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ “Triumphal” entry into Jerusalem the Sunday before he was crucified) with the sign of the cross. The ashes remind us of our finitude, recalling Genesis 3:19 “You are dust and to dust you shall return.” The cross reminds of God’s love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness.

In faith practice, unlike in folklore and popular culture, Lent has always been about doing and not doing things in order to more fully allow us and more readily place us in circumstances conducive to a better understanding of what God intends for the world and expects from us. If and when we choose to give up or take on something (or both), the purpose is not deprivation or denial. It is self-imposed discipline (a dying art in our culture), chosen because we believe that a particular addition and/or subtraction from our daily routine will clear away the clutter or confusion and allow us freedom from the grind of daily routine and expectation.

Our hope and purpose is for God to meet us within the space of this freedom. This discipline is the metaphorical empty chair we set for the table of our lives, in hope and expectation that the Holy Guest will arrive. When the Guest arrives, we find that, beyond the meal of our own preparedness, the Guest becomes the Host and feeds us with food and drink we didn’t know existed (manna, Eucharist) that satisfies hunger and thirst we didn’t know could be sated.

Come to the table.

© 2011 Todd Jenkins