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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Joel 2:13, 15-16
Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate.

Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people.

I come into this world alone, and I die alone. When I lie down, in my sleep I am alone again. I do not get away from myself for long. And God knows me like this, my own self, my private individual self, the one he made. It is to me that he calls out, "Rend your heart!"

And ... too ... God does not intend for me to be alone. Even in the first dawn of life he made wo-man to be with man. And man, of course, to be with wo-man. So forever after we are entwined with each other. As God is entangled with me, we are entangled with each other. It is to us together that he cries, "Declare a holy fast! Call a sacred assembly!"

I imagine opening the top of my head so that God can pour in his love, so then there is plenty inside me to give to the people within arm's reach. And then I imagine all of us in the sacred assembly doing the same thing. Wow!

God describes a holy fast in Isaiah 58: " ... to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke ... to share your food with the hungry ... to clothe the naked ... and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood ..." I can't do this alone. At every turn I am involved with You. Or as Martin Buber said, involved with "Thou."

So whatever I give up, for Lent or whenever, God insists that I give it up ... to you. How do I practice injustice and tie you up with strings and stones? How and when do I withhold my food, my clothes, my Stuff from you? Who are you? Just who is my flesh and blood anyway? Ash Wednesday is a great time to ask and begin to answer questions like these.

Oh, boy, this is not the way of the world. We don't even pick up hitchhikers anymore! But God insists that I give away my individual strength and gifts and talents. He pours in, and I pour out. Nothing simpler or more natural. And nothing to fear but fear itself.

We are all in this together, Lord. It is only You who gives and only You who takes away. I have nothing to fear or revere in my brother and sister. We are flesh and blood, and you are the father of us all.

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