Exodus 17:1-7, Faith, Future, Jacob's Well, Joe Garagiola, John 4:5-42, Living Water, New Creation, New Life, Past, Present, Robert Frost, Robert Louis Stevenson, Romans 5:1-11, Ronald D. Pogue, Samaritan, Stan Musial, Woman at the Well
“Family systems theory postulates that the operation of the emotional system reflects an interplay between two counterbalancing forces – individuality and togetherness.” Of particular significance is their study of how anxiety affects any emotional system and the individuals in it.
Anxiety is the response of an organism to a real or imagined threat and is present in every person and relationship. Acute anxiety is a response to a real threat and most people usually adapt fairly successfully to acute anxiety. Chronic anxiety occurs in response to imaginary threats and often strains people’s ability to adapt to it.
An emotional system may be a family, a company, a sports team, a governmental entity, or a congregation. Individuals find ways to adapt to the anxieties of the family systems from which they come and bring those behaviors into other emotional systems.
Two key objectives of the workshop were to help each person explore and manage the anxiety in his or her life and to learn to recognize and appropriately respond to anxiety at work in the emotional systems in which they are involved.
An example from the story of our faith is the reaction of the Hebrews when Moses was on the mountain and did not return to them as soon as some expected (Exodus 32). Aaron was left in charge of the people while Moses was away. The people gathered around Aaron and expressed their anxiety about the delayed return of Moses. Instead of responding to the anxiety of the people from grounding in the divine values and principles that shaped them as a people and him as their leader, he reacted by abdicating his leadership role and instructed them to make a golden calf, which they could worship. As a poorly defined leader, Aaron let the anxieties of the herd take charge and proposed a quick-fix solution to the imagined problem they brought to him. When Moses confronted Aaron about what he did, he blamed the people instead of accepting responsibility. He even went so far as to give a completely passive explanation for the idol’s existence: “So, I said to them, ‘Whoever has gold, take it off’; so they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”
Moses himself failed in leadership in the face of the fears of the people at Kadesh-barnea. When the spies brought back a fear-laden report from the land God had commanded them to enter, the people said, “Our brothers have made our hearts melt in fear” (Deut.1:28 NIV). Instead of responding to their fear of an imagined threat from the reality of God’s promise of protection, Moses reacted by caving in. The result, as you know, was that the people had to wander around in the wilderness until that faithless generation had died and Moses was not permitted to enter the Promised Land.
Contrast these two examples with the leadership of Jesus during his temptation in the wilderness, where he responded to Satan by managing his own inner being, during the occasion at Caesarea Philipi when Peter urged him to take another path than the one that would lead to the cross, and during his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane when his struggle with anxiety was so intense that he sweated blood.
Maybe Lent can be a time for us to search ourselves and discover the anxieties that interfere with our life in community and our ability to remain calm when others around us are losing their heads. When we do that, the life of the emotional systems of which we are members become healthier and we become more human, because we make better use of the uniquely human part of our brain that allows reason to overcome the reactions that come from the more primitive parts of our brains.
I am aware that many of the things that emerge from those more primitive parts of the human brain are necessary for survival. But when we are faced with imaginary or even potential threats, we have the God-given resources and opportunities to more fully express our humanity. And, as St. Irenaeus once said, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive; and to be alive consists in beholding God.” It is God who calls us to live our lives from divine values and principles so that we can build up the Church, advance God’s reign on earth, and embrace God’s vision of a creation restored in God’s Son.
That’s a worthy objective for the observance of a holy Lent.
Aaron, Anxiety, Caesarea Philipi, Edwin Friedman, Faith, Family Systems Theory, Fear, Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus, Lombard Mennonite Peace Center, Moses, Murray Bowen, Peter, Richard Blackburn, Ronald D. Pogue, temptation, Trust
On Wednesday of this week, your Priests will read this invitation to keep a holy Lent from the Book of Common Prayer to those gathered at one of our three services (7:00 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 7:00 p.m.).
Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.
This invitation is one you don’t want to decline!
Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent offer the faithful an opportunity to participate in an ancient discipline that promises spiritual growth and health. You'll be a better person and a better Christian if you take it seriously.
According to the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus spent forty days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by Satan. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a forty-day liturgical period of prayer and fasting or abstinence for the followers of Jesus. In case you are counting the days on the calendar, you will notice that there are actually forty-six days from Ash Wednesday until Easter. That’s because of the forty-six days until Easter, six are Sundays. As the Christian sabbath, Sundays IN Lent are not included in the fasting period and are instead "feast" days.
Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of adherents as a celebration and reminder of human mortality, and as a sign of mourning and repentance to God. Ashes were used in ancient times to express mourning. Dusting oneself with ashes was the penitent's way of expressing sorrow for sins and faults. The ashes used are typically gathered from the burning of the palms from the previous year's Palm Sunday. Here, we burn them to make ashes when we gather for the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper.
What do we do with the Season of Lent? How do we keep Lent "holy?" How does it prepare us for the Easter Feast? The invitation itself provides the answers.
By Self-examination and Repentance
Each of us is equipped with something called a conscience. It is the part of our mind that allows us to distinguish right from wrong, truth from falsehood, good from evil. During Lent, we take more time than usual to examine our consciences and, when we find something for which we are sorry, we repent. One meaning of repentance is to feel or show that you are sorry for something bad or wrong that you did and that you want to do what is right. In Jesus’ preaching, repentance also meant to change course toward the abundant life God offers. We turn from that which leads to death and toward that which leads to new life in Christ.
By Prayer, Fasting, and Self-denial
Any important relationship depends on good communication. Our relationship with Christ is no exception. Prayer is the primary way we communicate with Christ. We pray privately and as a Christian community during corporate worship. If you have fallen out of the habit of daily prayer weekly Holy Communion, Lent is a good time to return to Church! And, by the way, this applies to our children as well as adults. Remember those promises we made on their behalf at the time of their Baptism? They are on this journey with us and they look to their parents and other adults to help them find God's way.
Fasting is a type of prayer. It has sometimes been called “the prayer of the body” because when we refrain from some physical pleasure or craving, our body literally cries out. Those “hungers” remind us of places in our lives where we have substituted things and experiences for what comes only from God. So, our bodies cry out for God to feed our deeper hungers.
By denying ourselves, we also are better able to identify with our sisters and brothers who don’t have shelter or enough to eat or adequate care for their mental and physical health. Self-denial can, therefore, prompt compassion in us and that can lead to seeking ways in which we can reach out to those in need, more intentionally seek peace and justice in our world, and respect the dignity of every human being.
By Reading and Meditating on God’s Word
Lent is a time when we can start or resume a discipline of daily Bible reading. We can follow the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer and the readings provided in the lectionary for those services. We can take the Bible Challenge, or join a Bible study group. We can take the readings for the Sunday services more seriously in the days leading up to or following Sundays.
As Episcopalians, we search the Scriptures through the lenses of tradition and reason. Generally speaking, tradition is the historic and evolving teaching of the Church. Reason gives us the ability to explore, to question, and to apply the meaning of Scripture to the way we live. As we journey through this forty-day season, we can take a fresh look at the ancient texts that have transformed the lives of multitudes and appropriate them for ourselves.
These are the things the Church calls us to do to keep Lent “holy” – a time that is especially set apart to attune our lives to God’s and a time to ask God to do with us more than we can possibly do with ourselves. This holy time helps us continue on the journey with God. In last Sunday's gospel, we heard how Peter wanted to stop the procession when Jesus was transfigured and stood on the mountaintop with Moses and Elijah. But Jesus pointed down the road. We have not yet arrived at our destination. There is more to come and Jesus Christ invites us to continue the journey with him. Then, at the end of Lent, when we reach the celebration of Christ's triumph over death, we'll have a greater appreciation for the depth and power of God's love for us. Please don’t pass up this opportunity.
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