This is Holy Ground: a reflection on the readings for the First Sunday in Lent, 2017

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This is Holy Ground: a reflection on the readings for the First Sunday in Lent, 2017

by Sister Gretchen Johnston

Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15
Psalm 103:1-4, 6-8, 11
1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12
Luke 13: 1-9

Chronos or Kairos. More or less. Now and Then. A while. Soon. Later. These are some of the words we use to describe time.

As a little girl, I used to get irritated when my parents would use these terms. I didn’t want to go to my grandma’s house “in a while,” I wanted to go NOW! In the car, I didn’t want to arrive at our destination soon, but right NOW! A familiar phrase to all those who have traveled with children is “Are we there yet?” On long car rides, this is usually asked with increasing frequency as the trip goes on. “Are we there yet” is a question that many people ask, with increasing frequency around big decisions or moments of uncertainty.

Picture this.

You are minding your own business, working in a nice, safe job. Maybe it doesn’t pay much or lead to anything else, but you are glad enough to do it because it is secure. Maybe it is not too demanding, maybe it does not use all your talents, but you are content. But…When this happens, BEWARE! Something happens and draws your curiosity. Why does life always have to be this way? It isn’t right…What? You want ME to do something about it? This is your burning bush; this is God calling you through your own curiosity. Oh, but people won’t believe me. Go anyway, I will be with you. I AM the God of Abraham, of Sarah, of Jacob, of Rachel, of Moses, of Jeremiah, of Mary, of Benedict and Scholastica, of Hildegard; I AM the God of ordinary people called to help Me in extraordinary ways.

In Exodus, Moses experiences God in a now moment. As a sign of this, Moses takes off his shoes. Shoes are for traveling somewhere. God IS, the one in whom all being is contained. The God Who IS; but also the God of those in the past. God wasn’t Abraham’s God, nor Isaac’s God, nor Jacob’s God. God IS their God in their past. God Who IS; but also the God of those in the future. God will be with Moses and will be with the Hebrews as they come out of Egypt. God IS their God in their future.

The place where you meet God in your life right now is holy ground. Reverence God who speaks to you out of the future into the now and calls you forth into uncertainty. The very Source of Being is calling us to a deeper kind of being-with-God. Not a kind of god outside and separate from oneself, which Moses envisioned at first. “What is your name” suggests to me Moses’ familiarity with the many Egyptian gods, and having to know which one you needed to pray to in specific circumstances. These gods were completely separate from one.

Picture this.

You are walking along the road with your friends, talking about current events in the state and country. Some terrible things have happened. Why did they happen? Maybe these people sinned, so they are being punished. This ordinary man says: Unless you change your way of life, thus-and-so will happen to you. What? you think. I haven’t done anything too bad. I must have done something right, and that’s why it didn’t happen to me. And then this same ordinary-looking man begins to talk about trees and tree-raising techniques. And you find yourself agreeing with his words: That’s the way things work around here. If a plant does not bear fruit, get rid of it and replace it with another that will. But he does not quite say what you expect. He says to wait for it, tilling the soil and fertilizing it more and maybe it will bear fruit next season. Wait a minute…Why is he comparing me to a fruitless tree?

In the Gospel, Jesus also talks about and with time. I find it striking to see Jesus’ way of using the word “perish.” I don’t think he is merely saying that if we don’t change our lives a tower is going to fall on us. The parable talks about waiting—after all, every tree has a different time to bring forth fruit. It may be that part of our spirit withers every time we do not repent. It seems that to Jesus, “repent” is something like “ongoing conversion of life.”

Every time we perish, every “now” time that we do not live into the fullness of life, we do not bear fruit. And the gardener says, Let’s wait a little longer. It may be that more life may come. I have all the time in the world. Every time we repent, our life shows more life, and every time we don’t repent, our life shows more withering.

So…are we there yet? Where are we now? Whom do we love? Where have we been, and where is the uncomfortable future we are being led into? At least we’re doing better than those people. So many questions! So many uncertainties! So many comparisons! So little time! So many awful things to react to! Are we there yet? No we’re not. They’re ahead of us. Gotta catch up to them! Are we there yet?

STOP!

Take off your shoes, for this is holy ground. This uncertainty, this waiting in barren silence to be fertilized, this acknowledgement of humanity and mistakes, this willingness to even be willing to change, this is our holy ground. This broken moment of our NOW touches all Now moments in the God who says, I AM. I AM in the past, present, future. I AM the one to whom all times are now. I AM the one who has all the time in the world.
I AM WHO AM.

Chronos or Kairos. More or less. Now and Then.  A while. Soon. Later. These are some of the words we use to describe time.

As a little girl, I used to get irritated when my parents would use these terms. I didn’t want to go to my grandma’s house “in a while,” I wanted to go NOW! In the car, I didn’t want to arrive at our destination soon, but right NOW! A familiar phrase to all those who have traveled with children is “Are we there yet?” On long car rides, this is usually asked with increasing frequency as the trip goes on. “Are we there yet” is a question that many people ask, with increasing frequency around big decisions or moments of uncertainty.

Picture this.

You are minding your own business, working in a nice, safe job. Maybe it doesn’t pay much or lead to anything else, but you are glad enough to do it because it is secure. Maybe it is not too demanding, maybe it does not use all your talents, but you are content. But…When this happens, BEWARE! Something happens and draws your curiosity. Why does life always have to be this way? It isn’t right…What? You want ME to do something about it? This is your burning bush; this is God calling you through your own curiosity. Oh, but people won’t believe me. Go anyway, I will be with you. I AM the God of Abraham, of Sarah, of Jacob, of Rachel, of Moses, of Jeremiah, of Mary, of Benedict and Scholastica, of Hildegard; I AM the God of ordinary people called to help Me in extraordinary ways.

In Exodus, Moses experiences God in a now moment. As a sign of this, Moses takes off his shoes. Shoes are for traveling somewhere. God IS, the one in whom all being is contained. The God Who IS; but also the God of those in the past. God wasn’t Abraham’s God, nor Isaac’s God, nor Jacob’s God. God IS their God in their past. God Who IS; but also the God of those in the future. God will be with Moses and will be with the Hebrews as they come out of Egypt. God IS their God in their future.

The place where you meet God in your life right now is holy ground. Reverence God who speaks to you out of the future into the now and calls you forth into uncertainty. The very Source of Being is calling us to a deeper kind of being-with-God. Not a kind of god outside and separate from oneself, which Moses envisioned at first. “What is your name” suggests to me Moses’ familiarity with the many Egyptian gods, and having to know which one you needed to pray to in specific circumstances. These gods were completely separate from one.

Picture this.

You are walking along the road with your friends, talking about current events in the state and country. Some terrible things have happened. Why did they happen? Maybe these people sinned, so they are being punished. This ordinary man says: Unless you change your way of life, thus-and-so will happen to you. What? you think. I haven’t done anything too bad. I must have done something right, and that’s why it didn’t happen to me. And then this same ordinary-looking man begins to talk about trees and tree-raising techniques. And you find yourself agreeing with his words: That’s the way things work around here. If a plant does not bear fruit, get rid of it and replace it with another that will. But he does not quite say what you expect. He says to wait for it, tilling the soil and fertilizing it more and maybe it will bear fruit next season. Wait a minute…Why is he comparing me to a fruitless tree?

In the Gospel, Jesus also talks about and with time. I find it striking to see Jesus’ way of using the word “perish.” I don’t think he is merely saying that if we don’t change our lives a tower is going to fall on us. The parable talks about waiting—after all, every tree has a different time to bring forth fruit. It may be that part of our spirit withers every time we do not repent. It seems that to Jesus, “repent” is something like “ongoing conversion of life.”

Every time we perish, every “now” time that we do not live into the fullness of life, we do not bear fruit. And the gardener says, Let’s wait a little longer. It may be that more life may come. I have all the time in the world. Every time we repent, our life shows more life, and every time we don’t repent, our life shows more withering.

So…are we there yet? Where are we now? Whom do we love? Where have we been, and where is the uncomfortable future we are being led into? At least we’re doing better than those people. So many questions! So many uncertainties! So many comparisons! So little time! So many awful things to react to! Are we there yet? No we’re not. They’re ahead of us. Gotta catch up to them! Are we there yet?

STOP!

Take off your shoes, for this is holy ground. This uncertainty, this waiting in barren silence to be fertilized, this acknowledgement of humanity and mistakes, this willingness to even be willing to change, this is our holy ground. This broken moment of our NOW touches all Now moments in the God who says, I AM. I AM in the past, present, future. I AM the one to whom all times are now. I AM the one who has all the time in the world.

I AM WHO AM.

  

  

  

  

  

  

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