Week of 1 Lent, Year One
[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 119:49-72 (morning) // 49,  (evening)
Christians are often characterized as people who are certain about where we come from and where we’re going to end up. In its extreme form, this faith emphasizes a literal narrative of how God created the world in seven days, as well as a clear set of criteria for whether an individual is bound for an afterlife in heaven or hell. But even if we don’t subscribe to these simplistic accounts of where we come from and where (or everybody else!) are going, it’s easy for us to get distracted by these debates and speculations about our origins and destinies. These distractions pull us away from the center of our spiritual lives, which is nowhere other than today.
In our gospel passage for this morning, Jesus describes “born again Christians” not as people with certainty about where they come from and where they’re going, but as the wind: “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Like the wind, Christians are a detectable presence in the world, gliding gently through it while subtly shaping it into the kingdom. We could be known for the feelings we give to others rather than for what we tell them about where we’ve come from or where we’re headed.
Our second reading for today also emphasizes the present. Every day, we’re at risk of hardening our hearts, becoming numb and unfeeling toward the world around us. But the reading tells us to “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ so that none of you may be hardened.” This opportunity lasts only as long as “today” can be called “today.” Once today turns into yesterday, we have lost a window for opening our hearts.
Fortunately, most of us have another “today” right here at hand. The focus of our spiritual lives is not on yesterday or tomorrow, let alone billions of years ago or an eternity from now. Today is when we can open and soften our hearts, and keep them from closing off. Today is when the people around us can feel the compassionate difference we make in the world, even if they can’t see us at work. As long as it’s today, we are alive. And as long as we’re alive, the Spirit lives and breathes through us.
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.