Psalms (70), 71; Jer.4: 9-10, 19-28; Rom. 2: 12-24; John 5: 19-29
“For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.
As I prepare to write this Lenten Meditation I open my heart to the strength and light that is ours from Jesus Christ.
In particular, the LIGHT that flows into us as we read the Bible and the passages that are mentioned above. Light is expressed in our eyes, in the words we utter, in the hope that is in our hearts. “For I am with you and will rescue you, declares the Lord”.
As a child born at the height of the Great Depression, I was aware of a great sadness around me, a loss of hope for many, a difficulty that was all around me, even though I did not have a name for it and certainly did not understand it. But I believe there developed in me an intuitive thinking about the problems of others, an over-sensitivity. When I first started painting at the age of eleven, I was very observant of just about everything. I looked. I listened. I read. I learned the Beatitudes, the Nicene Creed, the books of the Bible and regularly attended church, Sunday school, camp, choirs -- all of which nourished me.
After a few years of painting lessons I started to paint portraits. There is so much to paint in a face -- I can spend hours, even now, painting an eye, or a lip, the curve of the cheek. But then, I painted the sadness in everyone’s expression. I could not get away from it - perhaps because I was sad as well.
I had to make a conscious effort to see into the subjects and paint their happiness.
Sometimes we have to “dig” about a bit to see what is inside of a person, but it really is the thing to do. One of my first “portraits” was of a classmate, a beautiful teenager with pure white blond hair, and big blue eyes. What I did not paint were her eyes (I didn’t know how) and when I brought it home to my mother, she asked me about that. It was a big canvas. Harriet died at a very young age. Do you suppose I could have seen that?
God’s hand guides me as I paint. A very famous artist in our current day is known as the “Painter of Light.” I hope to be known as the “Painter of INNER Light”, and I know that God’s hand will continue to guide me. I am grateful for the gift He has given me.
Barbara A. McEwen
Barbara and her husband Bill and have been members at St. Margaret’s for about eleven years. She sings in the Adult Choir at St. Margaret’s and facilitates the painting class on Mondays.
Psalm 72; Jeremiah 3:6-18; Romans 1:28 – 2:11; John 5:1-18
“Thine is the day, thine also is the night; thou hast established the luminaries and the sun. Thou hast fixed all the bounds of the earth; thou has made summer and winter.” Psalm 74: 16-17.
On a clear night the immensity of the universe is indescribable. The Milky Way sweeps across the sky, constellations engage our imagination, and the stars continue in space forever. The moon is our constant companion. During the day our sun provides comfort and warmth; its light allows us to delight in the uniqueness of our world.
The extent of the universe is unfathomable and so, like the man that counted stars in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince, we divert our thoughts and fill our lives with things that seem to be “matters of consequence.” Diversions such as golf, entertainment, and social functions draw us in and events such as the Super Bowl, Oscar Night, and the World Series vie for our attention. These activities give us a sense that we are living a full and interesting life, but they are not “matters of consequence.” They fade with time. The wonders of God’s creations are forever.
Hovak Najarian has been a member of St. Margaret’s for more than forty years. During that time he has been a lay reader, has served on the Vestry, and has been a member of the choir; he serves currently as a Lay Eucharistic Minister. As a participant in Fr. Dan Rondeau’s Sunday Morning Forum, he also writes weekly commentaries on art selected to illustrate lectionary readings.
Psalms 61, 62; Jer. 2:1-13; Rom. 1: 16-25; John 4: 43-54
As a youngster I would kneel beside my bed every night and say a prayer: “Now I lay me down to sleep….” At the end of the prayer would come the “please blesses.” These “please blesses” would include all of my family, near and far, any pets past and present, and oftentimes friends and neighbors.
I can’t remember exactly when I quit saying prayers nightly or when I quit saying them at all. Yes, there was a time when prayers were not part of my life. Fortunately that is not the case now. One of my college professors termed that prayerless period as sophomore atheism, an apt description. Perhaps some of you have been there, done that.
At some point I began to believe again, to think about prayer, to develop a prayer life: a prayer practice, as it were.
In today’s reading, Psalm 61 begins:
Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I call to you, when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.
Let me abide in your tent forever, find refuge under the shelter of your wings.
It is through prayer that I seek to develop a relationship with God, a rapport with God, a fellowship with God. Prayer calms my mind, centers my heart, helps me focus on the parts of my life that are most important to me: family, friends, and the joys of these relationships, health, our four-legged friends, grace. Ah, grace – this I pray for each day, the courteous good will of us all and the free, unmerited favor of God.
Kay has attended St. Margaret’s, snowbird style, for the past 7 years. She serves as a Lector, Eucharistic Minister, Verger and member of the Worship Commission.
Psalms 56, 57, (58); Jeremiah 1:11-19; Romans1: 1-15; John 4: 27-42
God keeps count of “my tossings,” the Psalmist writes in Psalm 56, and “put my tears in your bottle.” I am reflecting upon the stresses of life that underlie my own reactions during times of trial. I see that through trial I am forced to recognize the positive creative force that surrounds me. I am taught through harsh experiences and sometimes through painful regret to turn to the Unseen which Paul names “the evidence of faith” (Heb. 11:1). This is a hard road to recognition, but I think many find their way by it. I certainly cannot speak for anyone but myself.
Drawing from my Methodist roots, I learn that Experience along with Tradition and Reason are the ways in which scripture needs to be interpreted. One might say that each individual creates their own culture, a culture bounded by the limitations imposed by life over which they have no control, by their inherent physical traits, and their will. I’ve heard it said that a person has two things to overcome by their will: their heredity and their environment. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” said Paul (Phil. 2:12). However long we must be battered about by living before we start to do this is up to us. God knows us better than we know ourselves, but we also need to examine our inner being. “Seek and ye shall find,” we are prompted in Matt. 7:7. We can seek without and within.
We are engaged in destructive cycles of thought or action. We can choose to draw from the power of faith to fuel our will and try new patterns of living. Are we afraid to fail? Failure really teaches us the ways in which we should NOT proceed in the future; it informs us about what to avoid. Will failures be repeated? We flawed humans do not always learn in one lesson, but the many passages in scripture about forgiveness assure us we are forgiven whenever we truly repent of our mistakes. God “heals our backslidings” (Jer. 3:22). The Creator helps us along our journey and has provided us with a record of the highest perceptions of the witnesses of the life of Jesus. Let us all experience being healed and guided by this record.
Julie Hirsch has been attending St. Margaret’s since 1965. She has continually participated in Adult Education classes and worked as a volunteer in Outreach.
Psalms 24, 29; Jer. 1: 1-10; 1 Cor. 3: 11-23; Mark 3: 31-4: 9
Who is our foundation (From the Psalms and Corinthian verses)?
To whom do we listen (From the verses in Mark)?
For whom are we a spokesperson (From Jeremiah)?
It is an exciting time to be in the field of education because we are learning so much about “how we learn” from emerging neuroscience or brain research on development. Scientists have come to understand that what fills our mind is what we see, what we hear, what we taste, touch and smell. And then, we reflect upon, we mull over, what is already there in our thoughts. Our sensory experience is the stuff that our mind is made of!
In the Gospel verses, Mark calls us to see that what we sow, the fertile soil in which we spend our time and our thoughts, is what we will become (Mk. 4: 9). Thereby, what we sow will shape our will and in turn, our actions (Mk 3: 35).
I’m privileged to spend Sunday mornings with children in our church whose parents are conscientiously sowing seeds of God’s love in their minds and hearts. The result is children who, on a day-to-day basis are kind, respectful, compassionate, and simply a delight to be around! These parents have cultivated a fertile field in which to create a foundation of God. We can support them by making sure that their experiences at St. Margaret’s are consistently grounded in love of one another.
But, always a challenge for parents is the letting go—knowing children will go out to sow on their own --- will they continue to sow in God’s fertile ground? Science has come to understand the brain is malleable: We used to think that what happened to children in the very young years was unchangeable. From a negative perspective, if they had a childhood of toxic stress, they would struggle throughout their lives. Instead, research has shown us that children’s brains can change and with diligence, a difficult early experience can be reshaped by love and consistency. Unfortunately, the converse is also true: A strong childhood foundation of love can be broken down by years of adversity, anxiety and attack.
That is where these verses draw us in as adults. We must continue to listen to God’s word, to touch God’s love, to experience the sweet aroma of His presence in our lives so that our will to do good is strengthened and persists.
Wendy Hinrichs Sanders has taught early childhood education at College of the Desert for eight years and is now, to her great joy, facilitating Kid’s Word on Sunday mornings with an amazing group of St. Margaret’s children! Her husband, Pete, has finally retired and they are so enjoying living all the time in the same house again!
Psalm 55; Deut. 11: 18-28; Heb. 5: 1-10; John 4: 1-26
Lent is special to me, because it’s a time to renew friendships and to reflect on the time I’ve given to family and friends, those in need, the church, and the community – and to ask myself whether I have done enough in “the living years” to express my love and appreciation, to praise and thank God that those people are all a part of my life.
There are certain times in our lives when the words “I love you” are the most important words one can express. Growing up, we were an affectionate family, but not in a verbal sense. Neither one of my parents was brought up using “I love you” as a daily expression of affection. My experience as a child led me to be quite the opposite with my own family, sharing love, affection, and devotion.
One evening just before my father died, I had a very strong urge to call him. My parents were living in Limerick, Pennsylvania, and I lived in Southern California at the time. When he came to the phone, his voice was very weak. He told me he was having pain, so I tried to comfort him and felt such a deep love for him that I blurted out, “I love you, Daddy!” Somehow I knew it would be the last time I would speak to him. I waited for his reply, hoping he would respond in the same way. He said, “Same here, Janet,” which at the time was comforting, and helped so much in my sorrow when we learned that he was in a coma. My sister and I arrived at the hospital the next day, but he never regained consciousness. I thank God I had the opportunity to tell him I loved him, but I always felt sad because he couldn’t bring himself to say those three very important words, “I love you,” that we all need to hear in “the living years.”
While talking to Father Lane after church a few months after his arrival, I had the opportunity to give him a bit of constructive advice. He thanked me and as I walked away, I said, “I love you, Fr. Lane.” Without hesitation he replied, “I love you, too!” Needless to say, I hope he realizes how much his reply meant to me then and always will.
1 John 4:7 – “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth Him.”
Jan Leigh has been a member of St Margaret’s for several years, and an active member for three years. She belongs to the Wednesday Morning Prayer Group, volunteers at Maggie’s Corner, and attends most of the classes offered at St. Margaret’s, especially those given by Fathers Dan and Troy.
Psalms 40, 54; Deut. 10: 12-22; Heb. 4: 11-16; John 3: 22-36
This meditation is based on some reflections from Deuteronomy 10:12-22. The writer repeats the question/commandment given to (the children of) Israel: “What does the Lord your God require of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I command you this day for your good.”
In our country in recent decades, religious literalists have made much turbulence in their desire to use the Ten Commandments in public spaces, as if we Christians still lived solely under the Ten Commandments and the Law of Moses.
A retired priest at St Margaret’s recently shared with me that the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic Law are subsumed in the so-called “Beatitudes” and the subsequent elaborations in the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5. Most of us are familiar with the beginning of the Holy Eucharist Rite 1 in the BCP p.324, where there is a choice between saying the words of the Ten Commandments or the Summary of the Law: “Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Elaborated in the Sermon on the Mount, we see more is expected of Christians. One is blessed when one finds oneself “poor in spirit,” mourning, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, being merciful, having a pure heart, acting the peacemaker---in all of these difficult situations we face on a daily basis, God promises to show up.
None of us wants to be poor in spirit or discouraged, none of us wants to find ourselves in mourning, or in the midst of unrighteousness hungering and thirsting for the opposite, or in the position of having to be merciful when a tough judgment initially appears to be the more just decision, or having to broker a peace in the midst of hostility on both sides, be it international or in one’s own neighborhood, but we are regularly blessed when we face any or all of these unhappy situations---because we trust the Spirit to assist us in obeying the Ten Commandments, in living closer to the Spirit, depending on the guidance of God’s grace.
John Poynter has been a member of St. Margaret’s since 2009. He is a Lay Eucharistic Minister and an Altar Guild member.
Psalm 50; Deut. 9:23 – 10:5; Heb. 4: 1 – 10; John 3: 16 – 21
In Psalm 50, God specifically tells us in verse 12 that the world is His and all that is in it. So this tells me God has no need of our tithes and offerings, except to honor Him. Do your tithes and offerings honor God? A Bible Study acquaintance of years ago claimed that she as a Christian was obligated to give no money to the Church. She said that God wanted her to be happy, and to be happy she needed a lot of nice things. Therefore it was okay to give no money to the Church. My grandmother felt much the same way. She told me that if there was any money left after you bought what you needed and wanted, the rest went in the collection plate. Neither woman took the Biblical perspective with their giving. It is wise to read the Bible as it relates to our gifts and pray about our decisions.
Then there is the matter of following His instructions listed in the Ten Commandments. A co-worker once told me that he had broken every one of them and yet claimed to be a Christian. When I studied the matter more closely, I realized I would have to say the same thing. Many of my sins were thought-centered, where he said his were action-centered. Nevertheless, thoughts can lead to actions, so it is unwise to fantasize breaking a commandment: e.g., for those who are married to consider relationships outside of marriage, even if they never intend to act upon their lustful thoughts. Satan can always put even more temptation in our way in all matters. Collectors putting an item that would add to their collection before supporting their Church would also be a violation, as they are not loving the Lord first and foremost. Telling “white lies” is another practice we tell ourselves hurts no one. We can pray and think through the Ten Commandments during this Lenten season, and evaluate our status as it pertains to each one. As a priest once told me, our conscience may produce a feeling of guilt when we commit a particular sin the first time – but sin becomes easier with practice.
Of course, we know that we are all sinners. But have we considered that part of the reason may be the one presented in Hebrews 4? Here we read that we have heard the Gospel preached, but the message was of no value. According to the Word, this is what happens when we do not combine the Gospel message with Faith. Studying the Word, praying for wisdom and honoring God may be a way of life for us. If it isn’t, we can repent and start in the direction of a stronger faith. We know we have God’s forgiveness. Why? The person of Faith, the believer, rests in a perfect work of redemption through the sacrifice of God’s Son on the cross. On the other hand, the non-believer stands condemned. But for the believer, John 3:16 says it all. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Sandra Mohney
Sandra Mohney was baptized in the Episcopal Church as an infant and has been a member of St. Margaret’s for 5 years. She served in Maggie’s Corner for 4 years and has recently become a member of Daughters of the King, St. Margaret in the Desert Chapter.
Psalm 119: 49-72; Deut. 9: 13-21; Heb. 3: 12-19; John 2: 23-3:15
“If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” These words, spoken by Jesus to Nicodemus, leapt off the page for me when I read the readings assigned for today. I had finished reading the scriptures from Psalms, Deuteronomy and Hebrews, and I had plenty of questions about them. Like Nicodemus, I wanted to know how these things can be taken literally and applied to my own life. Should I really be seized with “hot indignation” when wicked people forsake God’s law, as it says in the Psalm? And which law is that – the endless restrictions in Leviticus or just the Ten Commandments? Would God really intend to destroy people for what I would consider a character flaw (“I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stubborn people; let me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven…”)? And where is the line between questioning and being rebellious, an action that the author of Hebrews suggests will keep me from the living God?
We all know that there is room for differences of interpretation, particularly when it comes to God’s law. I’m pretty tired of hearing people using their understanding of God’s law to control the lives and actions of other people. Maybe Jesus is telling Nicodemus that he’s missing the point, that he is focusing too much on the literal. And maybe Lent is a time for all of us to set aside our own interpretation of the rules and listen harder for what God is telling us to do about our own lives and our own faith. I intend to try.
Becky Hensley is the wife of Lane Hensley, the Rector of St. Margaret’s, and the mother of the church’s two tallest acolytes. She sings with the Adult Choir and the Chamber Singers and is one of the organizers of the Outreach Bonus Bags program.
Psalm 45; Gen. 37: 12-24; 1 Cor. 1: 20-31; Mark 1: 14-28
“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” 1 Cor 27
So clear – so Christian – so difficult to live into.
Religious historian Elaine Pagels in her latest book, Revelations, explores the purpose, context and subsequent use of The Book of Revelation by some who, forgetting Paul, appear to have seen themselves as “wise” and “strong.” Pagels concluding remarks:
But we have seen that the story of this book moves beyond its own pages to include the church leaders who made it the final book in the New Testament canon, which they then declared closed, and scriptural revelation complete. After Athanasius sought to censor all other "revelations" and to silence all whose views differed from the orthodox consensus, his successors worked hard to make sure that Christians could not read "any books except the common catholic books.”
Orthodox Christians acknowledge that some revelation may occur even now, but since most accept as genuine only what agrees with the traditional consensus, those who speak for minority—or original—views are often excluded.
Left out are the visions that lift their hearers beyond apocalyptic polarities to see the human race as a whole—and, for that matter, to see each one of us as a whole, having the capacity for both cruelty and compassion. Those who championed John's Revelation finally succeeded in obliterating visions associated with Origen, the "father of the church" posthumously condemned as a heretic some three hundred years after his death, who envisioned animals, stars, and stones, as well as humans, demons, and angels, sharing a common origin and destiny. Writings not directly connected with Origen, like The Secret Revelation of John, the Gospel of Truth, and Thunder, Perfect Mind, also speak of the kinship of all beings with one another and with God. Living in an increasingly interconnected world, we need such universal visions more than ever. Recovering such lost and silenced voices, even when we don't accept everything they say, reminds us that even our clearest insights are more like glimpses "seen through a glass darkly" than maps of complete and indelible truth.
Many of these secret writings, as we've seen, picture "the living Jesus" inviting questions, inquiry, and discussions about meaning—unlike Tertullian when he complains that "questions make people heretics” and demands that his hearers stop asking questions and accept the “rule of faith.” And unlike those who insist that they already have all the answers they’ll ever need, these sources invite us to recognize our own truths, to find our own voice, and to seek revelation not only past, but ongoing.
Elaine H. Pagels, Revelations: visions, prophecy, & politics in the Book of Revelation, 2012 Viking Penguin, pp 175-177
In their quest of orthodoxy for all Christianity, these “wise” and “strong” might have overreached and a touch of “shame” is in order. Could we do better? Perhaps, perhaps not. We just have to try.
Stanley Hirsch is a member of St. Margaret’s, interested in adult religious education and response to the Gospel through charitable outreach.