Lenten Meditation — Week Five

Lenten Meditation, Week Five
offered at Montecito Covenant Church
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
by Diana R.G. Trautwein

Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 126, Philippians 3:4b-14, John 12:1-8


This is the last of our Wednesday night gatherings for this year, and, to tell you the truth, I have rather mixed feelings about that. I’m relieved not to be going out at night any more (except, of course, for next Thursday and Friday!), I’m glad to not have the weekly deadline, I’m glad that Easter is within view.

But I will miss these small spaces of quiet, of soft music, of scripture read aloud, and communion shared. The older I get, the more liturgical I feel and Lent just slides right into that whole aging process!

As we move through week five, readying ourselves for the events of Holy Week, the scriptures themselves give hints of both the darkness and the light to come. Isaiah speaks of a ‘new thing,’ a ‘way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.’ The psalmist sings about, ‘mouths filled with laughter’ and ‘tongues singing songs of joy.’ Paul writes such beautiful, earnest words to his friends at Philippi. He writes of wanting to gain Christ above all things, about knowing Christ — both Christ’s sufferings and Christ’s resurrection, about becoming like Christ and taking hold, and forgetting what lies behind and straining toward what is ahead. Paul writes about pressing on.

And that’s just about the perfect verb for tonight, it seems to me: We press on toward the hope of the resurrection, that’s what we do. We put one foot in front of the other, and we press on. But the small gospel story reminds us that we don’t do that alone, do we? We do it with Jesus — and we do it with one another, too. Mary’s gift, her loving, scandalous gift, united her to the heart of Jesus in a way that little else could. As we reflected together on Sunday, Mary was a true friend, an honest disciple, a woman who paid attention and who then reached out toward the Lord. The Lord, who was about to enter into those last, hard days.

We’ll look at the palms parade on Sunday, and Pastor Jon is asking some excellent, tough questions about that event and our response to it. And we’ll share a meal together in our Family Life Center on Thursday night, like the early disciples did on that long-ago Thursday. Then we’ll ‘sing a hymn’ and wander over here to the sanctuary afterwards, to finish the evening with water, with bread and cup. On Friday, we’ll walk through that last, long day with a service of increasing darkness, of special music, and reflection on the last words Jesus spoke as he was dying on that stick on the hill outside the city gates.

We’ll take this journey, like we do every year, and we will remember. We’ll be reflective and we’ll be confessional and we’ll be somber. And properly so, too. It’s a serious season, this Lent, this Holy Week.

But just like the changing seasons within which Lent falls — the movement from winter to spring — there are signs of life all along the darkening way. There are sprigs of hope, there are words of promise, there are pinpoints of light. And tonight, we are looking for that light.

It’s been a bit of a tough week for me. How about for you? Backed my car into a visitor’s truck — in my own driveway yesterday. Sigh. My mom is experiencing ever-worsening confusion and forgetfulness. My uncle, her younger brother, died this morning, bringing deep sadness, not just to my mom and her sister, but to me and my brother and our cousins. It’s not that we don’t expect a 90-year-old with cancer to die. It’s not even that we aren’t relieved and grateful that he is now free of pain and in a better place. It’s that we see the end of an era roaring at us. And we see our own end in theirs.

My mother has one remaining sibling out of three. And when they’re all gone, there will be no more ‘older generation’ in my family. When Dick’s mom dies, that will be the end in his family.

It will just be us. WE are the elders now.

And I surely don’t feel terribly wise, or even all that old, to tell you the truth. The clock on the wall and the calendar in my purse tell me otherwise, as do my joints and the color of my hair. But somehow, I don’t believe it.

I keep looking for God to do a new thing, I guess. And that’s not all bad, either. Because it takes looking sometimes to see it, don’t you think?

It takes a prophetic imagination, it takes a psalmist’s musical meanderings, it takes a traveling evangelist’s insights, it takes the bold and generous giving of a woman willing to take a risk to remind us that even in the midst of suffering, aging and death, God is doing a new thing.

“Now it springs up. Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Even so, come Lord Jesus!


Joining this small piece with Emily and Bonnie and Jennifer, too:

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  1. Oh my, so sorry to hear about your car, and your mother. It has been a difficult week for me as well. I pray that you will find peace and calm as we enter in to the end of Lent.

    I’d love it if you’d like to join our Wednesday Wanderings link party:


  2. Do we ever feel wise enough? I love that God is doing a new thing but you’re right that it does take some prophetic imagination to see it some times.

    • No, Kath, I don’t think we ever do. Thank God! And yeah, the prophetic imagination thing is huge. Thanks for coming by.

  3. i love this more than i can say. we might be years apart, Diana – generations, even – but there is something immortal about the way God speaks through your words. they still me. they talk to the depths.
    especially this: “we see our own end in theirs.” ah, yes.
    thank you for the modesty by which you share, friend. yours is a heart that knows great treasure.

    • Kelli – your words touch me in a deep place. Thank you. And I find that years are not often what separate people at all — if hearts are open, connections can be made. Thanks for connecting.

  4. I agree, years are not often what separate people – neither are miles. Amazing new thing that has happened and has connected us, heart to heart, this cyber tie. It does take intention to perceive the next new thing, but what a blessing for those of us who might be in dreary ruts – or in the later chapters. I have long believed anticipation to be the true fountain of youth. Wonderful meditation, Diana! Thank you!

    • Yes, indeed, Sue – amazing. And I am with you on that anticipation thing – it is indeed youth-giving/bringing/reminding! Thanks for coming by, friend.

  5. As I read your meditation about the signs of spring being signs of hope, I was reminded of a different sign of hope which Jesus’ believers were given, prior to his death: the resurrection of Lazarus. When Jesus died, I wonder if any one of them had this flicker of a thought: “If Lazarus could come out of the tomb after four days, is it possible that Jesus could do the same?” Did they remember that, when Jesus delayed his visit to Bethany, he said, “I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe” (John 11:14).

    We hold on to hope for spring, hope for a new thing, hope for eternal life. I want to be watchful and mindful of the signs.

    • Well, according to John’s gospel, the Jewish leaders were pretty terrified at this deed and never allowed themselves to move past that to the idea that Jesus himself might be resurrected. In John’s chronology, the raising of Lazarus is the last straw that begins the dreadful snowball of events that we now celebrate as Holy Week. My guess is that the disciples began to put the pieces together after the Ascension and even after Pentecost. I can just imagine them saying repeatedly, “Aha! Remember when ______ happened? NOW it makes sense!” Hindsight is a gift! But foresight is, too, and that’s why I’m grateful for signs of spring, signs of hope still to come. Thanks for stopping by, Nancy, and leaving such a thought-provoking comment.

  6. Good heavens, Diana! This is producing goosebumps all around. The Isaiah passage about streams in the wilderness is a very personal one to me, and important. I’m also mindful of your comment elsewhere on these internets about praying for clergy during this Holy Week.

    But I’m also sitting here thinking God is repeating himself to me again–you know, just to make sure I’ve heard him. I was reading a book by David Dark, someone I’d heard speak at Laity Lodge two years ago. He quoted Shakespeare’s closing line from Romeo and Juliet, about having more talk of these sad things. And this is what I read today:

    Like Shakespeare’s words, I take this to be a call to ethical remembrance, to bring the difficult past into the space of the talkaboutable, and at the same time a summons to remember that today’s reigning dysfunction is not inevitable. In Patočka’s case, he would not live to see the culmination of his activist work in the Velvet Revolution of 1989, but his definition of history, as I understand it, is based in a determined liveliness that insists, again and again, that the way things are is not the way things have to be. Redemption draws nigh.

    Dark, David (2009-03-24). The Sacredness of Questioning Everything (Kindle Locations 2652-2654). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

    Redemption draws nigh. Indeed.

    • Oh, thank you for that quote, Nancy! Amen and again, amen. Hanging onto hope, looking for green sprigs for both of us, dear friend. Thanks for reading and thanks so much for this wonderful comment.

  7. Thank you for this holy meditation, Diana. I’m so looking forward to hugging you in a couple of weeks 🙂