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Meditation at Evensong - The Third Sunday in Lent March 19, 2016 - The Rev. Janet Campbell
The Third Sunday in Lent
Christ Episcopal Church
Tacoma, Washington
March 19, 2017
The Rev. Janet Campbell
the season of “bright sadness”
Orthodox priest Alexander Schmemann
calls it.
The days are gradually lengthening,
trees and bushes budding,
green shoots rising through the soil,
birdsong filling the air . . .
There is even,
on occasion,
a little sun.
In the northern hemisphere
          it is the bright springtime of the earth,
and all around the world,
          it is the bright springtime of the church.

This bright springtime for us
is also a season of some sadness . . .
for it is our time
of self-examination and repentance . . .
of coming again to radical honesty
with ourselves and with God,
          so that
new growth,
new life,
can flourish
in newly unburdened hearts.
And so we began
our Lenten Evensong
with the Confession of Sin,
in which we admitted
that we
(the human race)
are the source of
most of our problems and unhappiness . . .
We have denied the goodness of God
in each other,
in ourselves,
and in God’s creation.

We can’t blame these problems
on God,
on people
with whom we disagree,
or think of as “our enemies.”
After all,
our enemies
and people with whom we disagree
are human beings as we are,
and perhaps,
          in their eyes,
          we are to blame for the problems.
We sin as individuals,
we sin as communities,
we sin as nations . . .
We are all the problem,
says Lent,
inviting us all to look within,
to own our part of it:
to turn from
our stubbornness,
our self-absorption,
our mean-spiritedness,
our ignorance,
our folly . . .

. . . to turn from all those things
we lamented
in Ash Wednesday’s Litany of Penitence . . .
the one that always gets me is
“the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives . . .”
[I am NOT impatient!]
We are invited to turn away
          from all those things
and turn once more toward God,
who desires nothing more
than to set us free
          of all those things
          that stunt our growth
so that we may have life,
          and have it abundantly.
Lent is the season
of daring . . .
in the words
of British theologian Dorothy Sayers,
daring “to take our hearts
and look them in face,
however difficult it may be.”
However difficult it may be . . .
to look into our hearts so deeply,
however distressing it may be . . .
to see what may be in there,

however sad it may make us  . . .
to realize that once again
our besetting sins have gotten
          the better of us
and we have gone astray
          from the bright path
                   we had intended to walk.
How is it
we can be that daring?
we proclaim,
as we have
throughout this liturgy,
that God,
the one who created us for love,
remains faithful to us in love
          even in our faithlessness,
calling us to return from our wanderings
          and come home.
“I am convinced,”
wrote the apostle Paul to the church in Rome,
“that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor rulers,
nor things present, nor things to come,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us
from the love of God
in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Not even our own
foolish and wandering hearts.
As often as we stumble and fall
          into darkness and exhaustion,
as often as we cry out to God
          as we lie face down in the dust,
God lifts us up and will lift us up
to walk again in Easter joy
with all the bright company
          of the forgiven . . .
          our fellow pilgrims in Christ.
So let us be glad for the gift
of Lent’s bright sadness,
when, if we will just be quiet,
          and still,
we may, like the author
of the hymn we will sing
          at the end of our liturgy,
hear the voice
of the one who shepherds us along the way
and gently leads us home:

1 I heard the voice of Jesus say,
   “Come unto me and rest;
   and in your weariness lay down
   your head upon my breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was,
   so weary, worn, and sad;
   I found in him a resting place,
   and he has made me glad.
2 I heard the voice of Jesus say,
   “Behold, I freely give
   the living water; thirsty one,
   stoop down and drink, and live.”
I came to Jesus, and I drank
   of that life-giving stream;
   my thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
   and now I live in him.
3 I heard the voice of Jesus say,
   “I am this dark world’s light;
   look unto me, your morn shall rise,
   and all your day be bright.”
I looked to Jesus, and I found
   in him my Star, my Sun;
   and in that light of life I’ll walk
          till pilgrim days are done.

Words: Horatius Bonar (1808-1889), alt.
Music: The Third Tune, Thomas Tallis (1505?-1585?); ed. John Wilson (1905-1992)
Meter: CMD