Thursday, April 5, 2007


We begin with Frank O. Holmes' excerpt from his meditation manual for Lent, "My Heart Leaps Up" AUA, 1956.

Easter Day: God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. Gospel of Matthew. Prayer: O Thou who art Alpha and Omega, our Source and Home, Thy Power is sufficient, Thy Love is complete. Into Thy hands I commit my spirit, knowing that in thy victory is the assurance of my true good, and of the good of all souls, now and evermore. Amen.

Type rest of the post here

Read More......

Good Friday/Holy Saturday

From Frank O. Holmes' meditation manual "My Heart Leaps Ups" AUA 1956.

Good Friday: Jesus...who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross. Meditation: I am not asked to endure beyond my strength. My responsibility is to use, this day, those resources of courage which have been entrusted to me. Let me then show forth, without delay, the largeness, patience, and power of my mind. And let me have confidence that, when the harsher and more solemn crises of experience come, I may trust myself to the ample power and mercy of the Divine Spirit to which my human spirit is akin.

Holy Saturday: Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee. St. Augustine. Prayer: In the face of all that I cannot understand, and before the future which I cannot foresee, I would offer Thee the reverence, the trust, the confident hope of my heart. Help me to know that beyond all ugliness is beauty; beyond all wrong is forgiveness; beyond all separation are understanding and peace. Amen.

Type rest of the post here

Read More......

Maundy Thursday

from Wallace Robbins' "For Everything There Is A Season" :

There were many reasons for rejecting Jesus. His own brothers and his mother could not take his claims to a mission seriously and urged him to come home. His neighbors were annoyed by his presumption, for they knew that he was the son of a carpenter and that he had grown up in Nazareth. Who did he think he was!

The scholars pointed out that he was unschooled, without academic credentials. Those who were specialists in matters of the occult said that the remarkable cures he seemed to be able to effect were due to his familiarity with demons. The good decent people were shocked that he not only had no compunctions against it but actually sought out the company of grafters and prostitutes. It was doubtful to the pious whose dyspepsia wasted their flesh that a man who openly enjoyed eating and drinking was worth much spiritually. One of his closest followers watched him receive a luxurious present with disgust. He said aloud that it could have been sold and the proceeds given to charity. The man upon whom he chiefly depended for intuitive knowledge and ready loyalty chided him for taking his mission so seriously that he would willingly risk his life for it.

Near the end Jesus, who mostly appears to be positive and optimistic about men, grew discouraged about all of his own disciples. He was aware of their different motives for joining him, different from one another and different from his own. Some wanted honors in the coming kingdom; others, power over this world; others wanted to be given his affection, to lean on him; still others, to possess his spiritual strength and have the glory of going about casting out evil and doing good. He could give them none of their wishes in the quality and quantity they demanded and he became a man of sorrow even before a scourge was laid into his flesh or a nail was driven between his bones, for those who marched with him, waving the banners of victory one day, he knew would scatter on the day of danger. When darkness would cover the earth and the curtain which covered God would be rent from top to bottom, his followers would be far from him: betrayers, deceivers, run-aways.

The church, which in some distorted yet true way stands as a shelter and home to the spirit of Jesus, is subject to the ancient rejections of Christ himself. For the church is approached as was Jesus as a source of personal favor. What good can the church do me and my family? is the question. The answer is harsh, unwelcome. The church can only teach you to stop asking such selfish questions, perhaps to teach you to deny yourself and take up your own cross.

Happiness does not consist of avoiding life and all the mixture of good and bad people in it. Nor does it arise out of abstaining from food and drink, and insulting those who offer you the tokens of their love. All the goods of the earth are blessed and all the people are better than good, for they are forgiven. The world is good because the spirit of healing broods over it even in its groaning and travail. The worst of personal living has in it the gift of grace, and death has no victory over him who knows that it is not on this side of its shadow but through its darkness and on the other side that there is felicity. It is by losing our life that we find it, not just at the end of our years, but now.

There are still reasons for rejecting Jesus and his everlasting spirit which haunts the church which he founded, waiting for unselfish muscle to find animation, waiting for devoted spirits to affirm his purpose.

From Frank O. Holmes' meditation manual "My Heart Leaps Up" AUA, 1956.

Maundy Thursday: I believe in...the communion of saints. Apostles Creed. Prayer: For the wonder of all companionship: the exchange of word and thought, the achievement of work together, the sharing of joy, I give Thee thanks. In cheefulness, patience, fidelity, and good-will, may I be found worthy, this day, of the comradeship of good men and good women. Amen.

Read More......

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Palm Sunday

From Wallace W. Robbins' "For Everything There Is A Season"

There is no reason to call the Sunday before Easter Palm Sunday or the day of the Trimphal Entry. Although the Fourth Gospel does refer to palms, there were no palms growing in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus. The author of the Fourth Gospel, notably unreliable as an historian, was writing to convince the world of the Greeks, a world of athletic contests and gnostic mental debate. The first three gospels, on the other hand, know nothing of palms but speak out of the Jewish longing for the coming of the biblically qualified Messiah. According to their accounts Jesus met the conditions of the expected one by riding on the ass, the humble servant of God, rather than coming as a victorious charioteer, reining in the wide-nostriled warhorses of the conqueror. The pitifully small reception committee spread their garments and the leaves of the city trees in the way, shouting under the protest of the guardians of Israel, a welcome to David's Son. Hardly a notable entrance, was this.

In the week which followed there was a personal victory for Jesus, but there was only a social disaster which followed the so-called Triumphal Entry. Under attack, his dignity, faith and detachment have impressed even unbelievers. He was badgered by hecklers, insulted by the Establishment, finally tortured in flesh and collapsed in hope by the misapplied legal authority of Rome. The leaves that were strewn in his way in welcome left the bare wood of the cross at the end. The green spring of the year in which these events are recalled is the autumn of hope, the time of the blood-colored leaf falling to ground.

It is in this tragic truth rather than in the contemporary ecclesiastical ceremony that we can find the meaning of the tree which both Matthew and Mark set before us in the second day: there is a fig tree as plentiful of leaves as the pathway of the march was the day before, but as fruitless as the week would prove to be. Jesus condemned this tree of luxuriant outward show to remain forever fruitless. Mark adds an especial touch to the event of the encounter with the showy, sterile tree. He says, "For it was not the season for figs."

I once heard a "liberal" who seemed to have read the Bible at the same flat, factual plane as a Fundamentalist, grow angry with Jesus for cursing the poor tree for not having fruit out of season. "It was a petulant act, unreasonable in nature. Why should he expect the tree to do what in its nature it could not."

Botanically, this irate comment makes sense, but we have here a symbol of the Holy City full of promise unrealized, a season not of agriculture, but of human culture. Indeed the fig tree in Luke is replaced by the vision of Jerusalem which is to be dashed to the ground "because you did not know the time of your visitation." It was not a time of anger, but of sorrow. "I would have mothered you as a hen mothers her chickens and you would not," Jesus wept.

Where did we even get the idea that historic and earthly time heals everything? Not from Jesus who saw time as an eternal now in which there is no extension granted to those who have new land, new wives, unlighted lamps, or even the dead to bury. If you do not act upon the invitation to the heart, others go in your stead to the banquet. If your lamps are not ready, you are left in darkness.

Shakespeare knew that there is a time in the affairs of men; Jesus knew that there is a time in the affairs of men which belong to God. Both knew that readiness is all.

From Frank O. Holmes' "My Heart Leaps Up"
Palm Sunday: He was walking toward us like a god over the waves...Race, language, religion, were forgotten. (Saint-Exupery, in Wind, Sand and Stars describing the Arab stranger who brought him and his companion water when they were dying of thirst in the desert.) Meditation: May I not speak the word "brotherhood" lightly. As my affection for my friend persists in spite of differences and faults, and as I pledge my loyalty to my country in the face of its imperfections and my own shortcomings, so let me love mankind realistically. Let my appreciation be so warm and my concern so genuine that they will bridge all separations, survive all discouragements, and thus open the way for the working of a Divine grace in my life with others.

Seventh Monday: Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, he answered them..."Behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you." Gospel of Luke. Prayer: O God, who hast appeared unto me in the past as an encourager of my trust and hope, and who art ever calling me to serve the future's vast and noble vision, remind me, now, of the nearness of Thy presence. Thou art calling me, this hour, to serve and love; and if I will give Thee an undelaying response, I shall discover before this day is done, the invigoration of Thy divine energy, and the joy of Thy commendation. Amen.

Seventh Tuesday: Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Gospel of John. Prayer: Almighty God, make us to feel that when we are seeking truth most sincerely, when we are speaking truth most bravely, we are least alone. A great cloud of witnesses are about us, a great company of the like-minded are with us. An irresistible army is moving forward to those places which we see and which they shall see. So in our journey we are companioned by all those who have loved righteousness and sought truth and done justice.

Seventh Wednesday: In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength. Isaiah. Prayer: Not only in word and work would I find and praise Thee, but also in stillness and silence. Even in moments of weariness and weakness, when I would be free of the burden of willing and seeking, remind me, Lord, of Thy presence. Grant that at all times I may be aware of the Love which is the source of all life and the everlasting home of my soul. Amen.

Read More......

Friday, March 16, 2007


From "For Everything There Is A Season: Meditations for the Christian year: by Wallace W. Robbins, first published in 1978 and republished in 1987 as a special issue of The Unitarian Universalist Christian Journal. And then selections from the lenten manual "My Heart Leaps Up" by Frank O. Holmes published by the American Unitarian Association in 1956.

Meditations by Wallace Robbins, 1910 to 1988. Educated for the ministry at Tufts and Meadville, Wallace Woodsome Robbins served in Alton, Illinois, Unity Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, as president of Meadville Theological School and as a professor in the Federated Theological Faculty at the University of Chicago, and as the long-time minister of the First Unitarian Church in Worcester, Mass. His mission, he often said, was "to make Christians more liberal and liberals more Christian."

Lent 1.
All words about religion are shallow vessels; they overflow before the first dipper of truth has been poured into them. All words about religion are faulty pitchers; they leak throughout the path from the spring to the kitchen. All words about religion are adulterated; they infect the pure truth they were intended to keep unsullied with the vain hopes and the cynical dirt which every hand puts to them.

Thus it can be said that religious words do not contain the whole truth, or are almost empty of truth, or that they are, as to truth, impure. And this has all been said many times by those who, in temporary doubt or in malicious spirit, think to discredit the belief hat a fountainhead exists. It is a very illogical conclusion. One cannot say with reason that the well is dry because the pail is small, leaky, and dirty. We can more properly say that between man's thirst for righteousness and the living water of God there is a less than perfect means of conveyance. But, there is nothing peculiar to religion about this imperfection of communication. Even between lovers there are misunderstandings. It is not verbal means, but the spirit of trust and faith which overcomes the limitations of sign and symbol, of grammar and logic.

Lent is a time to think deeper than words can go; a time to pray more earnestly than mind can think. Thirst of the soul and the "water of life, bright as crystal," these two will find their own ways of meeting.

Lent 2.
On more than one occasion I have observed the behavior of people when they have been requested to keep silent and to say nothing except in an emergency from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. Since something like eight of those ten hours were to be spent in sleep, that meant only two hours of conscious silence. Most people disliked this intensely and not a few grew hostile or, as we say in the back lands of New England, they got ugly. Two hours of silence was more than they could bear.

Some felt their frustration most when they confronted another person who, nodding only by way of greeting, said nothing. Apparently they needed more response than this and, failing to have the assurance of a verbal kind from their fellow man, became anxious. They felt punished, for, after all, we do say, "I'll never speak to you again!" The quiet man who looks, who smiles or frowns but does not speak, is for them a vengeful man who punishes by his silence.

Some felt upset to be quiet because they needed to hear themselves talk. They were perhaps their own psychiatrists who did themselves good by telling themselves all about it. Or they were like the person we heard about the other day who could not think before he spoke because until he spoke he did not know what he was thinking.

The sealed lips forced others to look inward and to enter into dialogue with themselves. Instead of tossing off a bothersome problem on someone else, they had to live with it and try to solve it by themselves, in their silent aloneness; a painful experience for those who have learned to talk themselves out of doing any problem solving.

Finally there were those who found that even prayer takes on a threatening aspect when silence ensues, for it is only when man gets through speaking that our courteous God takes His turn to speak to us. Silence is an invitation to God to put in His word, and we do not always want to hear it lest it be alien to our intentions and a disturbance in the midst of our unreal pleasures.

What a rebuke is silence! For it is in silence that we stand in the solitary light of truth, uncovered and known. What a medicine is silence! For it is in silence that the seed of faith is planted, and grows, and becomes the fullness of life.

There are two reasons why God does not always answer prayer. The first is that so many people do all the talking that God cannot get a word in edgewise. The second is that too many people think they have the answer and spend their energy urging God to agree. God is not silent because he cannot speak, but because he is too polite to break up a filibuster or because he is dumbfounded to hear the extraordinary solutions which men urge upon the whole universe to their petty problems.

It is interesting to read and to hear the positive testimony of those who have been taught by the newly popular meditation techniques. These spiritual exercizes depend upon their success in shutting the mouth and blanking out the petitionary thoughts of the practitioner. Trained gradually to be silent and to be still, to listen rather than to speak, these meditators begin to hear in the silence God's petitions to them. It turns out, more often than not, that it is God who is asking the questions nd that is is man who is expected to answer, a situation which neither Judaism nor Christianity finds to be a surprising novelty. Moses encountered God, not because he was looking for Him, but because God was seeking Moses. Jesus, in Gethsamene, got an answer to his prayer which made him sweat blood in agony.

Sometimes I think that theologians who have insisted upon the perfection of God, declaring Him, for example, to be omnipotent, have not read the Bible very carefully. The Scriptures often put God's plight before us as a tragic one because man has frustrated Him in His intention to establish justice and love. He is sad to behold the sufferings of the weak, the arrogance of the powerful, and to have no power to change man except through man's agreement. If only there could be fellowship and peace amongst men! If only there could be joy instead of suffering! There stands athwart the Kingdom of God, the will of man, stubborn, resistant.

It is the anquished cry of the Transcendent which, when heard, makes us come to a religious decision either to respond to the anquished cry of God for human help, or to flee, hands over the ears.In our time "the church" has become a code name for God. You can thus allege that you are only against the church or, better say against "organized religion," while really meaning that you wish to avoid an unpleasant situation vis-a-vis with God. Over the years, especially at fund-raising time, I hear people say, "The church does not do very much for me." Which means that God does not run a very good service agency. Canvassers easily fall into the error of answering with an elaborate defensive catalogue of all the services the church has available, including funerals. The better reply would be to say that the church is not your servant, but offers you the opportunity to be reminded on a regular basis that you are invited to become a servant of man in God's name. At least to be sympathetic to God's cry for His people in their several necessities; to become an active agent yourself, rather than a passive complainer.

Try being silent before the Spirit until your soul is a s still as a mirror, then listen and look. You will find that you came into this world to "minister, not to be ministered unto.

One of my colleagues has told me that he does not believe in intercessory prayer. If prayer works at all, he thinks, it works because a person has so concentrated his own being that it comes to a point. Praying for others is futile, they must pray for themselves. You cannot breathe for them, eat for them, live their lives. So you cannot pray for them.

Strange, I sometimes think that the only prayers I can be sure are valid are those I pray for others. Gradually over the years I hve prayed less and less for myself because I think that my ego, even when I push it hard, does not wholly move aside and give me an unobstructed view of truth. On the other hand, when I concentrate on the needs and the hopes of other people I seem to be much clearer of vision."Of course that does not answer the contention that prayer is only an exercise of the soul, not a social action. I realize that, and I am not going to try to deal with such objection except to say that even if it does not work, I cannot but help praying for others. After all, it is not my business to say whether prayers are effective and how, that is God's problem. I just pray and do my part; I expect Him to do His."The other night I was at the bedside of a woman whose gracious speech was once her delightful gift to her friends and visitors; now she cannot speak at all but her lips try, her eyes try, she tries with all her waning powers to speak. So I prayed for her.

Sometimes I meet people who have left off praying decades ago. Perhaps their childish bedtime words got to looking foolish in their adult minds; perhaps a literal, fundamentalist Man upstairs used to listen to them and moved away after they went to college and took Science I, a survey. These prayerfully inarticulate people come to times of terror and deep pain as we all do sooner or later, and they stand there mute before their own judgment, struct dumb by the horror in existence. I pray for them.

There are the young people growing faster in strength than in wisdom, bursting with vitalities uncontrolled by temperance, powerful in courage but without prudence. Strong, vital, courageous, prayer seems pusillanimous to them. I pray for them because pride prevents them from praying for themselves.

Jesus urged us to pray for our enemies. I do. I pray for those too arrogant to pray for themselves, too egotistical, too cruel, too poor to be honest, too rich to be good. I pray for grafters, murderers, slanderers, thieves and pickpockets, prostitutes and drug fiends, for the middle class in its smugness and the lower class in its depravities. I pray for those too presumptive of their own moral goodness to pray for themselves. I pray for clergymen who do not believe it does any good to pray for others, that God will lead them out of their isolation and deliver them from their self-improvement.

Lent 5.
Living in a time when we marvel only at vastness, it is remarkable to see how Jesus upheld for man's wonder the small things. Tracing a loop around the moon with a space-craft, hitting Venus, unlocking energy from mass and making a flash of sun-like intensity--these provide for us our sense of awe. But for Jesus the examples of the shining glory of life were at the small end: the field of flowers which surpassed in beauty a king's coat; a seed, barely visible, which grows down into the darkness of the earth and upward into the light with strength to withstand the wind and to support the fowls of the air; a sparrow, hollow of bone and only a finger's pinch of feathers, but weighty enough to tip the scales of total existence when it falls; a day's ration of bread; a little baby taken into the kindest of God's blessings.

It is not a matter of historical era, a difference in perspective due to increases in our understanding of vastness. There was, if anything, a greater sense of vastness and of marvelous force then than now. Gibraltor was as distant as the moon to us, and Rome more powerful than America and Russia combined, and, over the edge of the world were continents and great islands people with strange, feater-decorated beings they never dreamed existed.

No, the difference is not the times but in the soul's perspective. From the beginning men could see that they were up against vastness. The first campfire lighted a circle of wonder, but the shadows beyond the light were immeasurably greater. The scientific search began with a lighted faggot in a brave hand,m held up against the dark.

The questions of life are not only of extent but of intent. We can prove that God exists at the end of a syllogism or that He is power which man cannot enlarge his mind to think, but, the matter of His intent, the question as to whether this intelligent order and this unrestrainable creative force has a capacity for affection and a concern for His creatures, this is the crucial matter. The answer of Jesus is that God is love and that there is no small or insignificant thing in His order of familial charity. Men should want to obey God, not out of fear of His tyrannical, heartless commandments but out of a warm gratitude and a happy desire to do rightly for Him who loves you as a good Father. Make no mistake. I am a modern man and admire and wonder at man's exploration of the vast mysteries. If I am invited to ride to the moon, I am packed and ready to go, but, I think that a sympathetic heart sheds a light more intense for all of its smallness, than the distant, but very faint gleam of the kind in outer space. I think Jesus is right about the small things, so I watch the birds, and read the seed catalogues, play with children and try to be properly thankful for my daily bread. The love of God and His peace are in these little creatures and these humble mercies.

Lent 6.
In the Book of Common Prayer the Collect for the Second Sunday of Lent addresses God "who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves." It is an expression of human weakness which has raised up angry and brave talk amongst men of this scientific age, for these men see man so increased in physical power that he can shovel tons at a lift, throw a ball around the earth and even hit the moon and the planets; their powers have unlocked the nucleus of the material of the earth. They also point out that the increasing power of man is not only physical but mental. It is the computers, the man-made brains which construct and control new factories, new spacecraft; even poetry and music have been written by these electronic brains.

It seems to these men who have stronger arms and faster minds that it is a far stretch from those who first spoke this Lenten prayer in the Sixth Century when, after a thousand years, Roman law and Roman power came to an end. Then a world collapsed and there was no sure one to come. Everything which men had taken as solid supports to peace and security became wraithlike dreams through which you could pass your hand. Why should they not have been led to say, "We have no power to help ourselves?"

But should not we take second thought about the services rendered by man-directed power, both physical and mental? Have these not hastened the times between wars and made them more total? Have they not spread social blights on our cities and over the forests and farms? And how does even the most beneficient of human powers touch upon the final problem of existence which is the question of the meaning of one's earthly end?

It does not appear to be a realistic hope that the increase of power in man's control will stand up to that power which is beyond his control. The historical storms of riot and war are only increased in destruction, and the emotional storms of the person sweep over the landscape of the soul unimpeded, too often beyond control.

Humility is not a virtue to be practiced in order to achieve some reward, but it comes upon us as recognition of who and what we are when the uncontrollable smites us; it is the admission that in some matters of life and death, "we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves."

For those who first gave utterance to this prayer, this admission of weakness was not a matter of despair, for theirs was the faith that a the heart of the mystery of creation and working through it everywhere at its core was God's power of reconciliation and compassion. His was the power which locked up the atom and created the universe. His the power which set up the interdependent web of life; His the power which set mankind into cooperation and social cohesion; His the persistent and healing power which closed the wounds of nature and restored the tempers of men.

Have we come to a time when we cannot speak so personally of this force? Then let us at least admit to the existence of a power which stands against the chaos, not as enemy but as master. It is to that order of good that we can still bring our anxieties to be calmed, our follies to be laid aside, our sins to be forgiven. It is in trust of that power which guards us and keeps us that, having done our work, we may lie down to peaceful sleep.

Lent 7.
Lent is a time of self-inspection, the contemporary re-enactment of the forty days of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. But, the passing of many centuries, so many triumphant Easters and the crowning of Jesus with divine honors have taken the struggle and the anguish out of the original and very human soul-searching and testing of Jesus. It is necessary to use decisive and willful powers to put aside the pageantry of the life of Christ and go, in real thirst and hunger of the flesh, in real confusion of mind and heart, into the lonely desert of his soul's trial. Whatever later theologians may propose to the contrary, Jesus did not know how his retreat into self-examination was going to come out. He was faced with an array of motivations which put powerful claims upon him, and these made an unrepressed case for their legitimacy and their correctness.

The church has always admired the victory of Jesus over each and every one of his temptations to put his extraordinary gifts to a self rewarding rather than a sacrificial work. Rightly so; it is a magnificent triumph of obedience to God over self-aggrandizement, of humility over pride. But, what the theologian tends to overlook is the still deeper humility which allowed Jesus to confess that he was tempted, that he was by no means especially protected from sin, that he was not directed by God to resist, but was free to act within his own soul. Not until the temptations were conquered did the angels come.

The modern observation of Lent has reproduced the fasting, the bodily denial of Jesus; it has neglected that aspect of the forty days which starved our pride and denied the thirst for power over other men.

If we were truly to keep Lent we would make a self-inspection as frank and as open as his. To use contemporary language: we would do a self-analysis, a self-appraisal of what we tend to be in consequence of what we have allowed to claim us as an ultimate goal. Is it material success, personal honor, power over others, or is it God from whom all human good is both derived and measured?

Behind this inspection is a pre-supposition, it is: we all, sooner or later, openly or hiddenly surrender our lives to a central and controlling force. It is that central devotion of our private lives which is to us our God, our idol, our devil. The question for us all is not shall we worship, but what do we worship, for whatever we accept as the highest good is that which controls our destiny. Our business is not to ask what life has made of us, but what we have chosen to make our lives. If we do not like what is opening up in our years, we should look sharply at the hinge we have allowed to be the pivot of our days.

Lent 8.
In this season of special meditation on the meaning of Jesus in our own lives we may well remember that to all Christians Jesus has been in fact what all men ought to be to themselves, to their fellow man, to God. Under the greatest of trials of fear, of discouragement, and of pain he proved steadfast in his final confidence that he could trust the ultimate outcome to God's love and abiding care. Seeing very deep into the human heart, divided as it is between fear and courage, the love of self and the love of God, he annealed that broken-heartedness with the fire of a pure faith. By his trust in God to sustain his children as a father, and by his faith in God to cure the warring parts of the soul with a new peace, he showed the generations to come what they had not seen in God before. They knew his awful holiness, his majestic law, but Jesus revealed to them his compassion.

Jesus was never less than human; he was more human than men had known how to be before him. His spirit was tall enough to look over the heads of the jostling crowd to see that there was a pathway to God, not easy, but very straight, a place where God and man are as one.

His way to at-one-ment with God was very lonely and heavy with tragedy: it cost him the years of his life to tell us all, even those who crucified him, that true man is the son of God and that God waits with compassion and forgiveness to receive us all, even the wasted life of the dying thief, into full reconciliation and divine peace.

He carried so much of us in his fully humanity that his victory is ours also. He speaks to us now, no longer as a man taking the risks of faith, but as man wholly within God and God in him. "Come unto me, all ye who are heavy-laden,and I will give you rest."

Lent 9.
The liberalism of fifty years ago declared mankind to be perfectable; it was in error. Although there is a nobility in man, a glory, and a heroic capacity, no man is, has been, or ever shall be perfect. It is possible that an angel does not cast a shadow. I do not know much about angels, but a man does cast a shadow. The brighter the light of God in which he lives, the more intense is the darkness of his shadow. The dark side of man is shaped like him, walks with him, and never leaves its attachment to him.

The God-seeker is in the greatest danger of forgetting his shadow, for he faces the light of God and the shadow falls behind him....This is why the moralist may come to deny both the light and the dark, asserting that goodness is within man alone, like the carpenter driving a nail, he is too intent on his good work to notice that there is a sun and that there is a shadow which, alongside of him, drives an ephemeral nail into an unsubstantial roof.

Jesus found it easier to talk realistically with moral outcasts than with good people, for they were haunted by their own emptiness and knew their own needs. In the topsy-turvy world of Christianity good people are bad and bad people good. But that only seems to be so. In reality we are, all of us, both good and bad: men with shadows.

The new Liberalism must be reinformed by Christian insight in order to see that man stands between the light of divinity and the darkness of evil. Then our tolerance will not be toleration, and our freedom will not be license. Then our worship in the congregation will not be an encouragement we offer to human good so much as a necessity to renew a true vision of who we are in the light of God."

Lent 10.
Religion has two goals: righteousness and love, and these two qualities of social and private life cannot be sustained without a continuous enabling grace, the instant force within every sincere prayer. For God's grace, the source of all human good, can enter into a man's being only by his prayer, with his permission. Freedom is the ability to say yes and no, and ultimate freedom in the ability to say yes and no to God Himself. For example, Adam said, No; and Jesus said, Yes.

A decent society of justice and of peace, and people who value people, who bless the earth, the fire, the water, the winds are not possible without the centrality of faith; but we have little faith in the world today. Indeed the prevailing concerns and the inner drives of contemporary man are for power and for self-esteem, and so prevalent is this urge to live securely beyond the manipulation of others and central to one's one field of influence that energies of man's spirit and flesh are consuming him with the ambition of Lucifer.

In business and politics, in academies, and regrettably in the institutional church the political game is prestige and control, and some have given their full and final devotion to these purposes until they have become empty men, "inauthentic men" as existential theology calls them, polite without being courteous, moralistic without being moral, euphemistically noncommunicative, evasive of the depths and the agonies, of the heights and the ecstasies of life.

"Inauthentic" is the word for our time; it fits too many leaders of the people in too many socieities of too many countries, and the very trust and respect, the power to command and enforce obedience which these leaders want most of all is now being denied to them by their disillusioned followers. The Establishment is rotted out and hollow, and the negative word, first said behind the hand, is now being said openly. While the grace of God still encircles men, it is pushed off to the perimeter of their willpower, held at such a distance that the moral vacuum sucks up its living victims into viable death. Moral zombies walk the earth, preside over governments, plan our economy.

A favorable prognosis is not likely because this diagnosis is not acceptable. Power and selfishness are drugs which promote their own habits and increase the cravings of their victims for more power and more ease. Grace, even graciousness, is too bland a diet for those hooked on corrosive anger and jaded pleasure, addicted to headstrong commands.

Where not long ago a fading faith envisioned God as "a long oblong blur," there is now a black hole six feet long, three feet wide, six feet deep--right in the middle of the soul. If God is expected to fit anywhere in the contemporary world, it is in this grave of modern man. But it is the essence of God that He does not "fit" anywhere, so He refuses to provide the first requirement of a burial, a willing corpse. God is not dead, but He has no habitation in prideful souls.

This church offers to liberate men from their enthrallment to self and thus open the way for faith, for consequent righteousness and love. But everything in our religion is contrary to the public's real desire and wish for thrones and scepters, for leisure and sensual gratification. Men who are determined to stay in prison are most difficult to liberate.

Of the two keys of Peter, it is most likely the key to Hell best fits the modern soul. That is to say that only when the depths of suffering are exposed does modern man become shocked to see the reality of life. Struck at last with the truth, there comes a vertigo and nausea as the great gulf opens. All the escapist activities of his life and all the missed and neglected opportunities of his soul are now regarded with regret. On the abyss of death, men have a final chance to pray.

Lent is a time to look into the abyss, to steel oneself to look without flinching; it is a time to put one's back to trivia and to go forward, even if it is to Jerusalem. It is a time to look at the death of one man and thus to prepare for life that is for all, abundant with spirit, eternal, victorious.

Lent 11.
Despair is a crippling, and, if it persists, a killing oral disease: it is the end of courage, the surrender of hope, the death of faith. As a beleaguered city never surrenders to the enemy without but only to the despair within, so a man can endure physical and psychological attacks most painful and persistent and survive them, yet fall quickly before the hostility of a glance when his inner resources are depleted, his hope gone.

Every doctor who is allied in battle with a patient in danger watches for the signs of despair with a hostile eye and a determination to stop it in its tracks. He also tries to keep from his patient the visitors who are carriers of despair as though they were contagious.

A minister girds himself with all the armor of prayer when a friend comes to him in melancholy and looks and speaks listlessly. He knows that there is to be a mortal combat between the soul of his friend and destruction.

But the balancing force against despair is not self-confidence, for this too is a disorder within which causes nations, even under threat, to isolate themselves without allies; which causes the sick to take home remedies; which causes the morally threatened to underestimate the powers against them. To assume that by ourselves we can stand up to the extravagant forces of negation is to presume. We need allies; we need friends; we need God.

Despair says we have nothing to depend upon: presumption says we need nothing to depend upon. These are the twin handrailings that lead us down the stairs to emptiness, to nonexistence. It is the healthy and life-affirming word of Christianity that we not only need something to depend upon, but that we have something to depend upon.

You may feel that you have reason to doubt that word. Perhaps you have. In that situation it would be foolish to ask you to have faith; but, would it not be consistent to ask you to doubt your own doubt? If you did, it would allow you to take the confidence of the Christian seriously. It is through the passages of the open mind and of the open heart that faith comes in like a current of fresh air to feed the flickering lamp that was all but smothered in its own gloom.

Lent 12
It is a favorite point of atheists to observe the pain and misery of the world and conclude from this sight of evil that God must be either powerless to plant goodness everywhere, or powerful to scatter wickedness. He, they say, is either powerful and evil or good and powerless.

They miss the Biblical observation that from the beginning all of creation was endowed with freedom. Not every seed is required to grow; not every alewife hatched in a New England brook is required to swim to the sea. The choice to be fulfilled in plant or fish is not interior to the seed or the egg and the freedom of being lies in circumstance, luck if you please. But, where there is luck there is primitive freedom. God gives some power to all His creation, really gives it and, while He must have been in His mercy tempted to do so many times, He never snatches His power back. Especially is this true about mankind for in man is a distinct freedom to make moral decisions. Man has a 'right" to set out, uninhibited, upon a wrong course.

So from the very beginning of creation God puts a self-limitation upon His own power. If He were the ruler of a state instead of a Universe, the atheists would be pleased for the gift of freedom which came in consequence; they would be pleased that He is not a tyrant. From a Christian perspective you can say with gratitude: God is a Father who refuses to live your life for you.

But, that freedom provides the conditions for all the disorder, mistakes, and downright evil which is always found in democratic states and in free souls. Disorder, evil great or small is a consequence of leaving it up to us. Yet, it should be seen that in leaving it up to us, God does not leave us alone. He stays with us and waits.

Chief of the freedoms He has given us is the liberty to address ourselves to Him. Chief of the powers He has given us is the strength to imitate His self-restraint of power and to be humble. And, when a humble prayer is made to God, He shows us how we may turn the very evil and suffering of life into the goodness and joy we have wanted. Grown to its full dimensions this theme of good out of evil is the story of Crucifixion and Resurrection.

Lent 13
It is cold comfort that there is always someone worse off than we, that only shows how wide-spread and how thick is the suffering that is spread in the world; hardly a matter for rejoicing. Whoever felt better because someone felt worse! Will a child who has lost his mother be consoled because another child has lost his father also? Is the inflation in the United States more bearable because it is worse in Europe? Is an American political scandal acceptable because other nations have scandals even worse? If you have lost an infant, does it ease your heart to think that the infant mortality rate is higher in Africa?

Except for vindictive souls whose ground of emotion has been overrun with the poison weeds of hatred, no one benefits from the pain of others. The devils in the nether regions are said to enjoy the suffering which they provoke, but man was made for sympathy and love. And it is monstrous when he casts in his lot with the fiends; it is a perversion of the human soul to enjoy another's pain. It is a hell of an argument to propose that general anguish cures particular agonies.

As opposed to the cold comfort offered by the vision of a suffering more intense than your own, there is the warm bath of suggestions of those who say, it is all for the good. Then there follows tales of heroic compensations: the man without feet, it turns out, has the unlooked for advantage of being cured of bunions and forever freed of chilblains. Yes, everything turns out for the best. Even if you die, something splendid can be made out of it, like suggesting that you may not have fully recovered, but, of course, if you do escape death even though handicapped and miserable, then one is told: "At least he's alive." Finally, it is also proclaimed: "It is good for your character."

I say that suffering is evil and that there is nothing good about it. Sometimes you have to live with it and endure it because it will not go away, but familiarity does not make a good companion, a teacher, and a guide. One has to learn to live with the unwelcome guest of pain and be uncomplaining because people do not like to be reminded that your body has a double occupancy: it scares them. People who mumble to themselves or cry out in pain, are thought to be nuts! But they are not nuts; they are possessed by the demons of pain or sorrow. Their condition is biblical, not medical.

That is not to say that good medicine cannot cure many physical and emotional disorders, but it cannot and never will find cures for loneliness, desertion, bereavement, and the shudders of the soul when it is aware of the ultimate end of physical being.

The biblical way of dealing with suffering is not singular and there is more than one proposal as to its meaning, its purpose, its treatment, but that is because there are different kinds of suffering: that which has self-made origins, that which is inflicted by outside forces, that which is common to life and inescapable; these correspond to sin, to chance, to destiny.

The first thing to do is to see which it is and apply the appropriate countervailing force: penitence, patience, faith. All these call upon healing powers beyond self which make for forgiveness, pity, love.

Paul, who knew all the disorders, also knew all the true comforts. "When I am weak, I am strong," "Pursude, yet not forsaken;" "Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing."

Here are weekly Lenten citations and prayers taken from the American Unitarian Association 1956 Lenten Manual "My Heart Leaps Up" by the Rev. Dr. Frank O. Holmes, who was minister emeritus at Unitarian churches in both Oklahoma City and Jamaica Plain, MA.

Ash Wednesday: Tell me truly, Ahura, as to prayer, how it should be to one of you. O Mazdah, might one like thee teach it to his friend such as I am.--Zoroastrian Gathas. Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?--Gospel of MarkPrayer: Divine Spirit, who art forever urging me to ask that I may receive, and to seek that I may find, bless me this day that I may hunger and thirst after righteousness. Amen.

First Thursday: God be merciful to me a sinner.---Gospel of Luke. Prayer: Move me, Lord, to reach beyond my present grasp; to acknowledge the vision of the better person I would become, and the nobler world I would help create. Amen.

First Friday: Shun the brush and shun the pen, Shun the ways of clever men.--Alfred NoyesPrayer: Not in forced gaiety, or frightened cleverness, or timid evasion, would I seek my way in life. Let me face the world with the full powers of my mind, that with all those powers I may learn to live and rejoice. So shall I discover true lightness of heart and peace of soul. Amen.

First Saturday: At the end of the day I hasten in fear lest thy gate be shut; but I find that yet there is time.---TagorePrayer: When I complain that life is short, and that I have too much to do, remind me that my imagination can travel with a speed greater than that of light, and that it requires only the fraction of an instant for me to act with courage, or to begin speaking with kindliness. Let me make the most of the present hour and day, having faith that in the future, too, there will be time for the growth and work of the soul. Amen.

First Sunday: I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. Psalm 122Prayer: Grant me the wisdom to belong to the worshipping community of mankind; to unite with my neighbors in the exaltation of thanksgiving; to offer to life my response in word and song; to find my peace in the large confidence and companionship of Thy Church. Amen

First Monday: Consider that but a few years ago you were not in the world at all, and that you did not exist...The world had already lasted such a long time, and it had no news of us.---St. Francis de Sales.Prayer: Creative Spirit, the evidences of Thy greatness are present in the order and intricacy of the world about me, and also in the mystery of my own being. Accept now my thanksgiving for the delight of life, and for the opportunity, this day, to share in its beauty, service, and joy. Amen.

First Tuesday: Thou, Almighty Father, has created all things; both food and drink hast thou given unto men to enjoy, that they might give thanks unto thee.---Prayer of Thanksgiving, Didache, 2nd cent. Give us this day our daily bread.--Gospel of MatthewPrayer: As one among the creatures of the earth, I, too, must eat to live. Without food my body would perish within a period of days; without water I would die in hours. Let me then be humble before this fact that, since my birth, the sustenance required for my existence has not been lacking. Let me eat my food, not greedily, but gratefully. And let my dream be of a worldwide community in which the human and divine love shall be evident in the opportunity of every man to earn and enjoy his daily bread.

Second Wednesday: The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee. First Corinthians. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139Prayer: I am awed, Lord, by the energy and subtlety of the forces that made possible my being. Even this moment I am alive because a vast community of nerves and sinews, muscles and bones and specialized organs, are united in a significant order. Even when I am unaware, sleeping or waking, this order is at work, maintaining my being and making for the increase of my strength. Let me show my thankfulness by the worth of the aims to which this miracle of my body is devoted. Amen.

Second Thursday: May we live in the world as in thy great house.--Church School PrayerPrayer: I wonder before the tenacity of life's hold upon this otherwise bleak and barren earth; the way in which the moss finds its crevice in the rock, the bird the corner for its nest in the tree. Grant, Lord, that I may return my thanks for the spot of earth where I find safety. And may I be concerned to do my part in the human community so that every man have his place to lay his head. Amen.

Second Friday: In the handiwork of their craft is their prayer. Ecclesiastes.Prayer: Grant me imagination, Lord, to see the usefulness of the work to which I am called and of which I am capable. I would give thanks for whatever place I hold in the world's productive life. And may I remember that whether the task is paid or unpaid, conspicuous or obscure, as long as it serves men's need, and I perform it cheerfully and well, it will bring me honor in Thy sight, and peace in my mind. Amen.

Second Saturday: Nor is the least a cheerful heart, That tastes those gifts with joy. Addison.Prayer: For the delight of the eye in seeing, and of the ear in hearing; for the sensations of taste and touch and smell with which my day to day experience and even my necessary labor are made pleasurable; for the satisfaction of the mind which comes to me through today's thought and effort and companionship: I would give Thee thanks. Amen.

Second Sunday: When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.--Gospel of MatthewPrayer: Give me courage, Lord, to belong to Thy Church; to share my faith with others, and to draw upon their insight and hope; to learn a language of the spirit which there men can speak and understand; to let my mind be enlightened and my heart be moved by the larger conscience and vision of aspiring mankind. Amen.

Third Monday: For we have seen but a few of his works--Ecclesiastes.Meditation: I am glad that the Universe, my home, is large enough for all needs of the soul; that there are no walls to limit my imagining, or that of my fellows; that even the human mind, so swift and penetrating in its curiosity, finds its environment a challenge to its power; that impressive as are the discoveries of science, the speculations of philosophy, and the intricate realizations of nature and history, there are beyond all these the possibilities of what is still to be known and achieved.

Third Tuesday: Before all things we give thanks to thee that thou art mighty.--Didache.Prayer: Even as I am awed by Thy power, I rejoice in it, O God. In that power is the assurance of the spirit's hopes, and the promise of the future's worth, I am proud, too, that Thou has entrusted into the hands of men the direction of a portion of this energy. May we, may I, prove responsible in this trust. Amen.

Third Wednesday: Praised be my Lord for our mother the earth, the which...bringeth forth divers fruit and flowers of many colors, and grass.--St. Francis of Assisi.Meditation: Before the wonder of living and growing things let me be humble. It is of this bold and varied venture of Creative Power that I have received my being; these creatures are my kin; in their tenacity and adaptability I see the vigor and promise of the human race; their artless joy calls me to cheerfulness and hope.

Third Thursday: How Natur...teacheth man by beauty, and by the lure of sense leadeth him ever upward to heav'n;y things.--Robert Bridges.Meditation: That there should be color at all in the world, the whiteness of pure light, the blue of sky and sea, the delicate flush of a child's cheek; that there should be rhythm and melody in sound, the sweetness of the meadowlark's call, the roar of thunder and the lion's voice; that there is the regularity of the planets' movements, the awesome vistas of great distances, the soft hush of wind through the grass--that with the being of things there is this accompaniment of grace, I offer my wondering thanks. This is an unfailing comfort to me: that the Lord of Life is also a Lover of Beauty, and by this delight teaches and ennobles.

Third Friday: Whle the earth remains, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.Meditation: I know how much more intricate and far-reaching than men used to assume is the order with which I am in relationship. Every chemical element has its unvarying properties, every molecule its regulated energy. And this order, whose domain reaches from the invisible electron to the most distant star, touches me, too and makes possible the stability and continuity of my being. The forcve which holds the planets in their courses enables my heart and brain to function, and offers my will its opportunity to act. Let me then not resent what is fixed and unchanging and sometimes limiting in my experience, but find here the materials and tools with which I am to work. And, like every good workman, let me appreciate the materials and tools, and rejoice in the work.

Third Saturday: Behold the sower went forth to sow. First the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.--Gospel of MarkPrayer: Mighty Spirit, teach me to rejoice in all experiences of growth; in the seed which draws its nourishment from soil and air and becomes the graceful flower or towering tree; in the fledgling which learns to soar and sing; in the cell which develops into the mystery of flesh and brain; in the sowing which increases into the harvest. Above all, I thank Thee for the outreaching power of the human soul: for the child's endowment of curiosity, the inquiring urgency of youth, the older person's hunger to understand and to be understood. Help me, in all times and places, to be an encourager of the spirit's fuller realization. So shall I, too, enter even this day into a larger righteousness and a new joy. Amen.

Third Sunday: O Life that maketh all things new--the blooming earth, the thoughts of men!--Samuel LongfellowMeditation: Let me understand that vast as is the universe in times of space, it is equally ample in its possibilities of good. The distances which the astronomers mesure in light years--these are symbols of the openness of the future. And what I love and choose this day; this is my offering to God of what I am making of my life--the materials from which, in turn, I ask Him to build that better life and world which I need, and for which He, too, is seeking.

Fourth Monday: "Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak with thee."--Ezekiel. Meditation: Let me show my reverence, first of all, by accepting myself; by modestly and gladly doing this day the best I can with the brain and tongue and hand given into my keeping. So let me live with the quiet confidence and proper pride which should mark every creature of the Divine Love.

Fourth Tuesday: "O heavenly Father, protect and bless all things that have breath; guard them from all evil, and let them sleep in peace." --Schweitzer's childhood prayer. Prayer: Let me show my reverence, Lord, by my gentleness. And may this gentleness be both persevering and active. I know that it is only as many of Thy creatures perish that I live; I would then, this day, increase as far as I can the delight and joy of all whom I can touch with my concern. Amen.

Fourth Wednesday: "Ye know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. No so shall it be among you." Matthew. Prayer: Wherever I find beauty, move me to desire the participation of others in that delight. Teach me, Lord, to rejoice in every man's good, and to feel with every man's lack. Where there is injustice, I would have the courage to oppose it. Even this day may I assist some other human being to enter into the opportunity, responsibility, and joy which should be his. Amen.

Fourth Thursday: "If thou seest a man of understanding, get thee betimes unto him; and let thy foot wear the steps of his door." -- Ecclesiasticus. Meditation: Let me not be too proud to add my attention to the world's regard for the great and good, or to heed the word of truth spoken by my neighbor. I would learn from wisdom wherever I find it, and welcome light whencesoever it comes.

Fourth Friday: "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." --Lord's Prayer. Prayer: For the miracles of mercy which I have experienced in my own life: the opportunities I have been given, over and over again, to begin anew; the kindliness which has encouraged me to leave the mistakes and regrets of the past behind me; the never-failing invitation of Thy spirit ever to reach forward with hope--for all these I offer my heartfelt thanks. Grant that, in return, I may dare to give and to forgive for the sake of the larger good. Amen.

Fourth Saturday: "How sublimely great is man when regarded as a spiritual being in fellowship with the infinite Spirit! Within him is enshrined the idea of God." William Ellery Channing. Meditation: Let me open my mind to the wonder of man's thought of the divine; his deeper sense of obligation, his impulse to praise, his persevering consciousness of companionship in high endeavor. Even as I seek to free myself from the many inadequate pictures of deity before which men have bowed, let me keep my hold upon this supreme idea of man as in relationship with his Maker; and of myself as called to live as the child, heir, and son of the Eternal.

Fourth Sunday: "At church, I saw my fine, natural, manly neighbor, who bore the bread and wine to the communicants with so clear an eye and excellent face and manner...The softness and peace, the benignant humanity that hovers over our assembly when it sits down at the morning service." Ralph Waldo Emerson. Prayer: Let me be neither too proud to learn from others, nor so falsely self-depreciative that I fail to share with them the best I know. Even as I seek Thee within the better impulses of my own heart, let me seek and find Thee, too, in the presence, praise, and prayer of my fellows. Amen.

Fifth Monday: He has no body now on earth but your own. No hands but your hands. Yours are the eyes with which He has to look out in compassion upon our world....Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good.--St. Teresa. Prayer: Ever-living Spirit, who art forever bringing into realization new meaning, beauty and life, grant me the courage to enter into the freedom Thou art offering to men as children sharing in Thy creative power. Move me with the imaginative boldness to accept responsibility in my own life, and in the life of the community of which I am part. I would dare to share with Thee in the making of the days and years--and world--to come. Amen.

Fifth Tuesday: The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself. --Prophecy of Ezekiel. Prayer: Thou art, O Lord, the originator of the rich and varied manifestations of the spirit. For the amazing mystery of each soul's uniqueness I give Thee thanks. And let me neither be overwhelmed by the responsibility which thus rests upon me, nor unresponsive before it. I would this day, and through the days to come, earn my way in the world of the spirit: exert my full strength in its service; pull my weight at the oar; carry my share of the burden; contribute my word, my skill, my faith. Amen.

Fifth Wednesday: Among the most poignant tragedies of history are those in which men have cried "Impossible" too soon.--Sidney Hook (The Hero in History). Prayer: Not greater marvels around me, not a more divine or a more wonderful world, nor greater opportunity for service--but grant unto me the experiencing mind, the power to realize what is ever here. And when for the moment my awareness fails, grant unto me the continued confidence that those realities which I have seen in great moments are still with me. And so, through experience may I have hope. Amen. (After Samuel McChord Crothers)

Fifth Thursday: Though he slay me--as no doubt he will--Yet will I maintain my innocence before him. --Job. Prayer: Let me not cry, "Peace, peace," when there should be no peace in the everlasting war of good against evil, of the better against the worse. Let me not accept as inevitable any unnecessary suffering, or cry "Impossible" before the dream of a more just world. Keep alive within me this day, O Lord, the sacred flame of indignation; help me to say "No" to whatever is inhumane; that by my word and courage the forces of decency and fairness may be strengthened in my time. Amen.

Fifth Friday: God has given us a rational nature, and will call us to account for it. --William Ellery Channing (The Baltimore Sermon) Prayer: Help me, Lord, to commit myself to the aim of being, at all times, a reasonable person; of facing events and relationships with the powers of the mind given to me and the knowledge available to me. Even this day may what I say and do be more surely than in the past the expression of my honest and responsible thought. Amen.

Fifth Saturday: By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. --Gospel of Matthew. Thou who makest elequent the tongues of little children, fashion my words and pour upon my lips the grace of thy benediction. --Thomas Aquinas. Meditation: I would commit myself anew to the enterprise of honest and responsible speech. May my words more and more express my spirit at its best; communicate truth as I see it with the accent of my most generous love and hope. Thus, by what I say, I shall in turn be helped to a clearer understanding, and shall enter more closely into the comradeship of that holy Spirit which is the spirit of truth.

Fifth Sunday; If you do not care about your life, give it to me. -- Kagawa. Meditation: How encouraging it is that there are hopes worth my serving; that there are needs, tasks, visions to which I can rightly give my strength. And let me remember that thus to devote myself is not to lose my life, but ever to find it more abundantly.

Sixth Monday: A Samaritan...when he saw him, was moved with compassion. Gospel of Luke. Prayer: Grant, O Lord, that I may not hurry through the day, absorbed in my immediate aims, and forgetful of the deeper meaning of experience. Let me take time to see the beauty which is present on every hand, and to recognize goodness. Let me pause, again and again, to sense the fears and delights, the disappointments and longings, of my fellowmen. Let me share generously and sensitively in the larger life of which I am part. Amen.

Sixth Tuesday: ...these reports reveal that in those very places where incitement and seduction had succeeded most, men and women existed who opposed the evil power and who dedicated themselves to the natural impulse in man for compassionate acts.--Schweitzer. Prayer: Divine Spirit, source of all compassion, in my quest for the good, lift me above unnecessary and self-conscious struggle. Help me to open wide the channels of my understanding and good-will, that I may live more freely witht he affirmative and joyous power of love. Amen.

Sixth Wednesday: For their sakes I sanctify myself. Gospel of John. Meditation; Let me grasp this deep truth that it is a privilege to love; that, indeed, only those who are first lovable themselves have the right to offer their love to others, or to ask for love in return. Let me seek first, then, to make myself honest, observant, sympathetic, patient. Out of the spirit's health, loveliness will come as surely as flower and fruit crown the strong and sturdy plant.

Sixth Thursday: He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? First Letter of John. Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother. Gospel of Mark. Prayer: How glorious is this fact: that, in the face of all inconstancy in human character, and the many weaknesses and betrayals of which men are guilty, there are those on every hand who love deeply persons whom they know well, and who are loved by them in return. Grant me, Lord, the wisdom to create, the blessedness to discover, out of the day's tensions and disappointments in my relations with others, this delight of understanding, appreciation, and trust near at hand. Amen.

Sixth Friday: Render to Caeser the things that are Caesar's. Gospel of Mark. Meditation: Let me not disparage the organized life of the society in which I have my life. Churches, schools, labor unions, philanthropic agencies, governments: these are the necessary means of my, and other men's, security and happiness. Let me, even this day, show my love of country by speaking some word, initiating some influence, strengthening some association, that will make her stronger in terms of the spirit; more truly a blest community "with liberty and justice for all."

Sixth Saturday; We love him, because he first loved us. First Letter of John. Prayer: Deepen, Lord, the responsiveness of my heart, that before the solemnity and joy of life, my awareness may quicken into wonder, and my wonder into the delight of trust and love. Amen.

Read More......

Ash Wednesday

From Wallace W. Robbins' "For Everything There Is A Season: Meditations for the Christian Year" 1978.

Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, comes upon this week, and the entire Western Church enters into a time of abstinence and meditation as contemporary Christians retrace the road of Jesus from the Mount of Transfiguration to the hill of execution."In an earlier time this vigil was for forty hours but it was finally extended to forty days. As the Sundays were excluded, they being always days of joyful worship, the beginning of Lent was set back to Wednesday to allow for the full forty days.

It is noticeable that although changes have taken place in the rules governing the intensity of fasting and meditation and in the length of time from hours to days, the one consistency is in the number forty. Forty hours or forty days; it appears of lasting significance that it be forty. Probably this number was agreed upon to correspond with the number of days Jesus spent in the wilderness before he took up his destiny as the serving King. But these forty days had their prefiguration also: the days of the flood, the years of wandering in the wilderness, the days of Elijah's fast.

Forty is a biblical symbol for temptation, a word considerably devalued in present currency to mean the allure of evil. We have come to think of that part of the Lord's Prayer as simply a plea that we be kept out of those situations which are occasions of sin. Typically, modern usage makes the situation of temptation an outward matter. Help man to be clear of outward conditions and you will have cleared his soul of inner turmoil.

Prohibition dealt with alcoholic abuse in this outward fashion, but, because of the inner compulsions of the addicted and of those rebellious against all authority, the situation became worse."The biblical "forty" stands for a different understanding of temptation. It is the tension which one feels in his heart when he sees that victory lies ahead and that safety means turning back. He may wish that the conditions which have brought him to this trial of soul had never come to pass, but since they have, the testing is not in his ability to resolve the conflict but to endure it and, ever in fear, to press forward. The real victory is not to be measured by the success of the action, but by the inner success even in the face of outer defeat.

Nomadic Israel in the wilderness for forty years was not victorius in any achievement except that of survival as a loyal people. Neither by outer attack or by inner dissension could the ultimate integrity of Israel be broken and that inner strength was all and sufficient.

Jesus emerged from his personal journey in the wilderness confirmed in his Jewish vision of what constitutes passing the test, the cleared vision of man as built from the inside out and not made by the laws of state, the rituals of religion, the allurements of pomp and circumstance.

To reflect upon this inner meaning of nations and of men is the business of Lent.

---Another Ash Wednesday reflection from the meditation manual by the Rev. Clarke Dewey Wells, "The Strangeness of This Business."

In a culture where the plastic smile is mandatory and cheap grace abounds, the sober subject of ashes comes almost as refreshment. At least we know we start without illusions. All our minor triumphal entries end, like Lear, a ruined piece of nature upon the rack of this tough world.The ashes of Ash Wednesday are mixed in a common bowl of grief. They are made from palm fronds used in celebration the year before at the brief hour of triumph, Palm Sunday. In the Catholic tradition the ashes are made into a paste and daubed on foreheads of the faithful, a grey sign of execution that must preface any Easter.

John Bunyan said that the woman of Canaan, who would not be daunted, though called dog by Christ (Mat 15.22) and the man who went to borrow bread at midnight (Lk 11.5-8) were, ultimately, great encourageements to him. They hung in there during dark days.

For religious liberals ashes can symbolize, too, the dying of the seed that it may be born, the place of the pheonix, and yes, the dissolution of integrity so that deeper integrities may emerge. The divine creativity leaves ashes in its wake so that new worlds may rise up and adore. In the strangeness of this business Ash Wednesday is the opening to Easter.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which slings so closely, and let us run with perserverance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12.1

Read More......