Thus far, a fruitful Lent

Tuesday in Holy Week

I can only thank God for a challenging Lenten season in 2007. The faith I profess and confess has been tested in ways that I never knew about (or that I did know about but I chose to turn my eyes away from). After quite possibly a lot more examination of conscience than this Methodist-raised young man has ever been used to, there are still a lot of things that God will need to reshape in my life. Matters of the heart, mind & body which ultimately affect this soul of mine.

I’m still one helluva arrogant prick (to use colloquial language) quite often and there needs to be change in this aspect that I can’t wait for God to initiate because he’s pressing me to take the first step myself in faith that he will provide me with the grace to see me through this reshaping. He’s also used challenging music (not the happy-clappy Hillsong stuff) to wake me from my stupor. More sobering, reflective stuff with lyrics that have shocked me into examination of myself.

During this Lenten season, I haven’t heard Sufjan Stevens’ “O God Where Are You Now? (In Pickerel Lake? Pigeon? Marquette? Mackinaw?)” with as much longing for God as I have had ever. When listening to this, I end up being reminded of the Miserere mei, Deus of Psalm 50(51) as well as Deus, Deus meus of Psalm 62(63). Derek Webb’s “Wedding Dress” (one of the subjects of my last post) brings me to read the book of the prophet Hosea and the parable of the Prodigal Son as recorded in St. Luke’s Gospel (Lk 15:11-32) which was the Gospel reading in the lectionary for a couple of Sundays ago. I ponder whether I have been like a whore to others rather than be faithful to God (moreoften than not, I have been a whore) and that I do see a lot of myself in the prodigal son.

The same artist, Derek Webb, in “Crooked Deep Down”, “I Repent” and then “Saint and Sinner” reminded me of the words of Luther that I did blog about on Xanga quite a long long time ago that I am simul iustus et peccator (both justified and a sinner). Prior to this, I don’t think I’ve ever taken confession as seriously as I have had now. Before, it was usually a general confession (usually the words of confession in the Mass or the Confession Prayer in the BCP) with a few seconds of silent reflection on the day just past at the beginning of compline. The mystery of confession to Almighty God and then absolution of me has never been more present in my mind than this year’s Lent. To a certain extent, I am envious of those ecclesiastical communions (Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran and Anglican) where confession (otherwise known as penance or the ‘sacrament of reconciliation’) to another (i.e. a priest, minister or spiritual guide) still has a sacramental component to it (if it not be considered a sacrament in and of itself).

I’m not interested in medication anymore (i.e. a shallow faith raised on a diet of crass p&w music, self-help feel-good sermons/messages and one where sin is relegated to a minor place). This Lent (and henceforth) I desire liberation that can only come from Christ alone; the One who is found in the Scriptures, the sacraments (irrespective of whether you believe there are two or seven), the Church, in all the saints (canonized or not, living or dead), in the icons and finally (but most importantly), on the Cross crucified and thereafter resurrected. I believe that it was the preacher, the Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon that once said in respect of sin and Christ that “If your sin is small then your Savior will be small also, but if your sin is great, then your Savior is great.” And this Savior of ours is great.

While I still am a Methodist by membership, I’ve found myself this Lent reflecting more on this faith I profess & confess and find myself wondering about Protestantism in general. And in how the Reformation was supposed to be a return to the “New Testament” church. I’m finding it hard to reconcile this unless by the “New Testament Church” you mean that the tens of thousands of denominations/sects in today’s Protestantism is like the wide diversity of the early Christian church (heretics, heterodox and orthodox all included). I’m finding myself being led (after prayerful consideration) by the Holy Spirit back to a more “traditional” setting: I find myself more at home and utterly naked and exposed in a celebration of the Liturgy of the Word & the Eucharist than I do anywhere else. Scripture, the Early Church Fathers, those from a few hundred years ago and modern monastic writers are increasingly finding space in my “fun” reading time rather than a lot of stuff currently on sale at Word or Koorong. I do wonder where the Lord is leading me towards from all this.

I’ve written too much now. I’m definitely looking forward to reading, very slowly and very early during Good Friday vigils, St. John Chrysostom’s Paschal/Easter homily:

Are there any who are devout lovers of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Are there any who are grateful servants? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Only two more days before the Paschal Triduum begins with vespers on Holy Thursday (First Vespers for Good Friday) and Pascha itself on Sunday.

Pax en Christo +
bf 2202hrs

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