Thank you Jen!
This Week At OSA
Adapted from a post originally published on the Word and Service blog by Jen Doerr
Martin Luther purportedly said, “I have so much to do today that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” I believe this was the beginning of Lutheran humor. His statement is akin to the popular claim that carving out space in life to exercise gives a person more time. The body feels better, revives itself faster and therefore can be effective over longer periods. Prayer is the same kind of exercise for the soul. It's spiritual calisthenics, rhythmical and repetitive, sometimes painful, but ultimately restorative. Whatever I feel compelled to do in faith expands my time to meet God’s needs. And so I pray and I write. Sometimes, I even exercise.
In the dark weeks of Lent, when I remember my mortality — that I came from dust, and that dust is where I’m headed — I notice things. I notice where my body cricks and pops. I notice my hands don’t quite look or work the way they used to. They are now more experienced at being hands, and show off their bones and angles with none of the roundness of childhood remaining. My fingers ache in the cold and pause with the mind, struggling to bring words.
Over these forty days, the sky teases people of faith by gradually extending its light deeper into evening. We become clear-headed from detoxification, having given up soda, coffee, chocolate, junk food and smoking. Idealism springs forth. Committees are formed, outreach is planned, projects start, and the Church blossoms into spring, fertile through the white days of Easter. These are wild and dangerous times for Lutherans. Some of us forgo Coffee Hour and get downright skinny and happy. So much for remembering our deaths. We begin again.
The gospel text for this week is from Luke, the famous story of the prodigal son who returns home after squandering his fortune, and receives a hero’s welcome he does not deserve. His father orders the servants of the house to prepare the finest robe, sandals, a ring for his finger, and the fatted calf for a celebration, “…for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” (Luke 15:24). What this loving father does would be derided on today’s social media and in the comments section of parenting blogs as enabling and codependent, an example of how not to raise a child. Perhaps the boy was coddled all of his privileged life, and this is why he behaved the way he did. Should a father glorify such a son? No. But in this parable, Jesus offers us a parallel to our own experiences with God’s grace. We may spend all or some of our days squandering our precious inheritance of time on earth by doing the very things we fast from during Lent: binge-watching television, consuming bad food, drinking too much, slandering our co-workers, falling prey to negative or doubtful thoughts, or failing to care for those in need. When this happens, every single day to every one of us, we have the opportunity to choose to come home to God, to have God see us from a distance walking up the road, and to be filled with the anticipation of embracing the creator. To be robed in love by communing with God in prayer. To be fed with silence and contemplation. To return to our own breath. And in this way, we are alive again. We begin the celebration.