March 7, 2020

SOS: A Lenten Devotional for Edenton Street UMC

Scripture: Psalm 121

Invocation: Come Holy Spirit. Open our hearts and minds to hear a word from You today. Silence all other voices in us and tune our hearts to you. Come Holy Spirit. Amen.

On game days, there is a little man who stands at the corner at the corner of Wolf Village Drive and Varsity Drive – on the way to Doak Field from the parking deck for spring baseball at NC State.  He holds a sign that reads: “Howl if you need help.” I expect he means help finding the stadium or help finding parking. I have not yet seen anybody stopping to ask him for help.  Everybody just walks by.  As one who frequently almost but not quite knows where she is going, I know why this young man does not get many takers. We’ve got this. It’s just a walk to a baseball field. All by ourselves, we’ve got this.

That mindset: We’ve got it  - and I include myself in this – is a stumbling block, because a lot of us are can do, self directed, self made, do it yourself, type A, highly motivated, performance driven, success oriented people who are doing fine. Just ask us. Since Norman Vincent Peale wrote The Power of Positive Thinking in 1952, the self help industry in America has grown at a rate of 5 % a year that will reach $13.2 billion dollars by 2022. I’ve had a library full of these books. – Zig Zigler, Napolian Hill, Og Mandino Malcolm Gladwell. They are great. I have found my cheese, I am younger every year, I am eating and staying slim for life, I have leaned my ladder against the wall of success, I am thinking and growing rich. And I tell myself everyday that if it’s going to be, it’s up to me. And that all works for a while… until one day it simply doesn’t.

One day the rug is pulled out from under us. One phone call can change things; An unexpected diagnosis comes. An accident happens. Financial ruin looms. We stumble; We slump over. We sink in choppy water. We wander around lost – for hours. The truth is in the now and in the always, we can only help ourselves so much. We need God… we need God in Spirit to gather us and wrap us up with assurance that our nights will not loom long, lonely and dark. And we need God with skin on to help us when we need a ride to our chemo appointments, when we need a strong arm to break the window glass and call 911, when we need a young boy in a small skiff to pluck us out of the river.

The Psalmist’s question prompts our Lenten examination. And the Psalmist’s answer stokes our faith. For the Psalmist knows our help comes from the Lord. And Jesus knows that we need God in flesh, Incarnate – one with the Father, One with us. The Christ in you meeting the Christ in me. This is the “from whence our help comes.” God’s help comes in the peace and assurance that holds us in the fears of the night. God’s help comes in the hands and feet and compassion and caring of those in whom Christ lives.

Last Wednesday we were marked with ashes… marked as dust in a time to remember our mortality and the human condition. We have 40 days and forty nights to name our broken places, 40 days to howl for help and name our hurts and pain and disappointment, fears, failures and losses to God and to acknowledge our fatigue in trying to keep all the balls in the air all by ourselves. This is a season of opening our hearts, swallowing our pride, laying our lives bare in vulnerability, and as a columnist in the Washington Post last week said “engaging in an uncomfortable confrontation and a hard correction.” This is the season for our da di da dit SOS. May Day. May Day. 

Where can we go but to the Lord? Lent gives us time to remember our dependence on God, and time even as we begin, to remember that at the end is Resurrection. May your Lent be a time of becoming and trusting and leaning into the One who guards your going out and coming in. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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People of the Creed
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