Saturday, February 27, 2010

Seeing Through a Small Hole

The windshield on my car was hit by a rock or something about a year ago and you could see a small crack. When the cold weather hit, with ice, a few weeks ago, the small little crack grew all the way across the windshield. My insurance company sent someone to the church to replace it.

It’s been a while since I had this done or needed it done. But, it’s great to have a new windshield. The guy who put it in said: “Don’t wash it for 48 hours.” I thought, “I’ll try to resist the temptation.”

The new windshield is clean and clear. It feels like I have a whole new view of the world. The brightness of the sun seems brighter and everything is so clear.

This winter we’ve had a lot of ice and snow as have many parts of the country. During one icy event, I read a newspaper article that warned people not to drive unless the whole windshield is cleared of ice. Many people, like me, just carve out a small whole to see through and drive anyway.

It made me think about the way we live our lives. Most of us try to live with a small vision of ourselves and the world. If I can’t see it for myself, or understand what someone else is going through, or if I disagree with the handling of something, the temptation is to stay with my small way of looking at things. I can accuse others of seeing in a small way while all the time I’m seeing through my own small hole of vision.

I was at lunch with a church member who was living in the south after having grown up in New England. Our recent retreat leader was also at table. I listened at the New Englander charged that all southerners were myopic. No, said the retreat leader, no more than New Englanders. They went back and forth, each declaring the narrow-mindedness of the other.

A part of what it means to be a sinner (always a good subject during Lent) is to be bound by our own small-hole of vision. Taking ourselves so seriously, we cannot listen to another or think that maybe the other has something worth hearing to say.

Just as it’s dangerous (and I do it often) to drive a car with only a small hole in the ice on the windshield, it’s dangerous to live as if my small vision of reality is all there is. It’s wrong to see the sins of others and not my own. It’s wrong to see the wrongness of others and not my own self-righteousness.

If there is judgment, during the season of Lent, it begins with myself first. God help us to see beyond our own small-hole to the wideness of your mercy for all.

Dave Nichols

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday 2010 Sermon

Sometimes we give going away wishes to each other. In my younger years I remember when people would say to each other when they parted: “Work hard.” Then, it changed to: “Take it easy.” Some people were upset when it went from “work hard” to “take it easy”.

When two people parted it was a way to remind the other of what was important. What might it be today? As I watch you and me and the world around us, it might be: “hurry up.” Get going. That certainly seems to be the wish of our age- to move faster and faster. At break-neck speed we go toward our destination- whatever that is. We might not know where we are going or where we want to go; we just seem to want to get there faster.

It’s like we’re in a race- a race to work- a race to get home- a race to get wherever it is that we’re going- a race to grow up- to get out- to move forward.

So, the Church/God invites us to the Season of Lent. Today, Ash Wednesday, is the first day of the Lenten Season. And, the church invites us to a time of reflection saying: “Take your time…” What’s your hurry? Pay attention to the time, the time that you have, the time that God gives you…

The scripture is always that familiar text from Matthew 6. It’s the Sermon on the Mount. It’s a call to the practices of our faith. It’s about prayer and fasting and giving to the poor. Jesus warns us not to be hypocrites, living our lives for show, so that others will notice how good we are. When you pray, don’t say long prayers so that others will be impressed; go to your closet and talk to God. When you fast, keep it to yourself. When you give alms to the poor…

Just a few verses earlier, Jesus says: “Let your light shine so that others may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven…” If we live as Christ calls us to live our lives will shine like a light in a darkened world, just remember who you’re doing it for, and who the light really is.

In a moment, we will mark you with the traditional Ashes to mark our entrance into the Season of Lent, the Season of the Cross. Tonight we begin 40 days and nights of trying to put our lives under the shadow of the cross in the hope that it will dawn us all over again who it is that we’re doing this for…

So, take your time, look at the time you’ve been given. What are your priorities? Whom do you need to forgive? From whom do you need to ask forgiveness? Are you focused, not on your own actions, but on God? Consider all these things as we move closer to the cross. Take your time.

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