May 23, 2013
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Lyndale Church is in a partnership with Salem Lutheran and First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, owning together and sharing space in Salem's beautiful limestone sanctuary at 610 W. 28th St. Lyndale and Salem moved in December 21, 2001. First Christian January 15, 2012. We'll rotate about every 3 months through the three different sanctuaries. Check here for pictures of the construction.
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Soul TimeA sermon to ready us for the inner work of Lent, 2009 by Don Portwood
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.' But he answered, 'It is written,
"One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." '
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, 'If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
"He will command his angels concerning you",
and "On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone." '
Jesus said to him, 'Again it is written, "Do not put the Sovereign your God to the test." '
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
’Worship the Sovereign your God, and serve only God.’”
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
Ash Wednesday began the season of Lent.
Lent is the 40 days before Easter, not counting Sundays.
It has always been seen as a preparation for Easter.
The name Lent comes from the word lengthen…as the days lengthen in the northern hemisphere, but that’s not what lent is about.
There is nothing said about lent in the Bible. It’s a practice of the early church.
I learned in seminary that lent was the traditional time the early church took in new disciples or new members.
They had a discipleship program that went on during lent, then the new disciples were baptized on Easter.
It became a time of renewal for the entire church, as the older disciples also went through the same process with the new ones and so for them, lent was a time of renewal.
The UCC website quotes a sermon by Barbara Brown Taylor, “Lenten Discipline," in which she gives a wonderful description of how Lent came to be.
“Many years after Jesus had not returned as quickly as expected,
church folks "decided there was no contradiction between being comfortable
and being Christian, and before long it was hard to pick them out from among the population at large.
They no longer distinguished themselves by their bold love for one another.
They did not get arrested for championing the poor. They blended in.
They avoided extremes.
They decided to be nice instead of holy and God moaned out loud.
The church dug deep into its faith story, recalling the time (always with the number forty involved) that Israel, Elijah, and Jesus each spent in the desert, wandering and suffering, longing and learning: hungry and lonely.
"So the church announced a season of Lent…an invitation to a springtime of the soul," Taylor writes, "Forty days to cleanse the system and open the eyes to what remains when all comfort is gone…to remember what it is like to live by the grace of God alone and not by what we can supply ourselves."
Then as now, folks had their "pacifiers," as Taylor calls them, all the things and ways that we keep ourselves from feeling what it means to be human, even if that means being in pain or being afraid.
Our pacifiers can convince us that we don't really need God.
In fact, Taylor believes that just about all of us struggle with an addiction, "anything we use to fill the empty place inside of us that belongs to God alone.
That hollowness we sometimes feel is not a sign of something gone wrong.
It is the holy of holies inside of us, the uncluttered room of the Sovereign our God. Nothing on earth can fill it, but that does not stop us from trying.”
So here’s this story of Jesus, just beginning his ministry,
baptized in the Jordan by John.
He hears those wonderful words that we all need to hear too,
“You are my beloved child with you I am well pleased”,
and what does God’s Spirit do? Leads him into the wilderness.
For 40 days he fasts and prays….hungry and alone.
It’s there Jesus wrestles with who he is and how he will carry that ministry out…
is it about himself or others? Will he use special tricks? Who really is he serving?
Whether there was a devil tempting Jesus or not….
this story makes a lot more sense for my spiritual growth,
if I understand it as being the devil inside him, his shadow side.
What do I mean by shadow?
The Shadow, is a psychological term introduced by the late Swiss psychiatrist, Dr. Carl Jung. It is everything in us that is:
The Shadow is an archetype.
It’s a collectively unconscious idea, pattern or thought present in everyone. Everyone has a Shadow. Yes, probably even Jesus too.
This is not something that one or two people have, or just bad people.
We all have a Shadow.
And spiritual mystics or psychologists have always said
a confrontation with the Shadow is essential for self awareness for growth,
for living faithfully.
We cannot learn about ourselves if we do not learn about our Shadow.
That I believe is what this story of Jesus in the wilderness is about.
The Season of Lent then is Soul Time.
It’s the season, 40 days, to ask that that old Quaker question,
How is it with my soul? How is it with your soul?
Lent is this soul time set aside by the early church for renewal and growth,
for doing the hard work of being Christian and human:
loving and caring for self, others and God.
Though our wilderness or desert times may come, not just during Lent,
but as issues arise around
1) relationships we have or don’t have,
2) issues of family,
5) work or not working,
6) friends and community,
7) the church.
8) you fill in the blank.
Lent is Soul Time, “A time of looking in - to see how we are…
how it is with our soul.
Not how is the face we show to the world, but how it is with our soul,
that soul that only we know and often repress.
Lent is the season to become aware of and look at our shadow,
our anxieties, fears, recognizing the draw it has, the power over us.
It’s a hard time of trusting God, relying on God
and sitting with the loneliness, hunger, grief, desires,
difficult stuff we usually try and stuff back down with
food, tv, shopping, staying busy, drinking… whatever our pacifier might be.
That’s hard to do. Many of you know the loss my family experienced this summer with the death of our two day old grandson. My son Ben had come home from Spain to be with his brother for the birth. Ben has studied meditation. He let me know there were times his brother Matt was in grief and pain, and Ben would say, “Sit with it. Sit down, face into it. Sit in silence with it. Don’t give in to getting busy, doing something, playing music, making music. Sit with it.”
Those are words for us too, “Sit with it.
Don’t give into that feeling that leads you to that bag of processed unhealthy food, the x rated website,
all the other pacifiers: tv, shopping, drinking, that we use to cut the pain.”
Sit with that feeling. Surround yourself with those words,
“I am God’s beloved Child, with whom God is pleased”. Dialogue with that feeling of love and that feeling of hunger, loneliness, fear, anger, anxiety.
If we don’t deal with out own shadow, it has a way of coming out.
Look at the people in your life who annoy you, irritate you, "push your buttons" causing you to move into judgment.
In actuality we may be reacting to our own self-projections.
It would be too horrifying to hate a part of ourselves,
so it is easier and safer to negate a trait in ourselves and project it on another.
If that wasn’t the case, often we could just observe some experiences
and not get so caught up in them. We would not be taking things so personally.
Facing into your shadows allows you to ask the question, "Why am I triggered here?” How does this relate to me?"
We project our stuff as individuals and we do this as a nation.
It’s probably part of what’s happening in this nation with fear of muslims or islamo facists or undocumented workers.
Our fear is projected onto others in a way that triggers a much bigger reaction than may be rational.
It takes courage to accept the possibility
that we may have these negative traits in common with people we dislike and even more courage to spend time in the wilderness or dessert of our unconscious dealing faithfully, lovingly with them.
But the people who drive us crazy can be out best teachers
and if we can identify that part within us, own it,
and then allow ourselves to disengage from it,
we can move into self-acceptance and acceptance of the other.
Two important suggestions:
1) Come at your shadow from that foundation of love…you are God’s beloved child…all of you is loved, even the parts you can’t admit to yourself, let alone anyone else. You’ve got to love your shadow to health, not repress or hate it.
2) remember in this process it’s difficult to do this by yourself. Shadow work is hard work. Call me, call a friend…Let me, let them know you’re working on some tough stuff and you want someone to check in…or be able to be called when it tough going.
Lent’s not just about giving up meat and eating fish, it’s 40 days of soultime, in the wilderness and desert:
A time to dialogue lovingly with your self and your shadow self.
So turn off the tv, the music, the political pundits…face into the shadow, the anxiety, the voices that you hate…
and you will discover, like Jesus,
that the end result makes you more loving, more transformed, more healed, more able to minister in this world.
And you discover your own ministering angels.
And that these shadows of fear and anxiety,
we think of as those horrible parts of us,
can transform into their own angels of light within us.
May it be so.