Holy Week Schedule
April 9 Palm Sunday
Service 9 am
April 13 Maundy Thursday
Service 7 pm
April 14 Good Friday
Service 12 noon
April 16 Easter Sunday
Service 9 am
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For God, not man, is the first term of religion: and our first step in religion is the acknowledgement that He is. All else is the unfolding of those truths about His life and our life, which this fact of fact involves. I believe in one God. We begin there; not with our own needs desires, feelings or obligations. Were all these abolished, His independent splendor would remain, as the Truth which gives meaning to the world.
It is difficult for us to locate ourselves in a world where we are not the center, especially if we have a vibrant life that pulls us in many directions. There are the children or grandchildren, the demands of our work lives, friends and social engagements, all of which we acknowledge as gifts in our lives. It is easy to say to ourselves that our lives would be poorer without them, the more so because we see them often, but Underhill, the early twentieth-century English mystic, points out that the most difficult thing to do is simple profession of our belief in one God. It is because we are so adept at placing things in the space that God should occupy in our lives, simply “the acknowledgement that He is.” In an earlier age, we would be better at identifying the idols in our lives, the things we put in the place of God, but the crying of the baby, the report deadline, even the book club reading make re-prioritizing seem impossible. We make time for God instead of understanding that God is at the center of all our time.
The gift of Lent is that it provides a chance for us to recalibrate ourselves spiritually by offering the time, the habits, even the cravings that we lean on week-to-week, even moment-by moment, to the understanding that God occupies the center of us all, as individuals and a community. All that we know, outside of our absorptions with the details of our days, is that God is; in fact, that is God’s very name. if we feel we have a hole in our lives, it is because we try to fill it with whatever is available, without admitting that this hole is God-shaped and only God can fill it. We can see the results in our own disordered lives and affections, as St. Augustine would tell us; Lent provides us with a chance to adopt a new and more vital prayer discipline, to give-up our reliance on the things that devour our time and our selves with practices that place our reliance on the moment-by-moment presence of God as the source of all things. We need God like we need the air we breathe, and the “fact of fact” is that we simply cease to be, unrecognizable to God or ourselves, without that understanding.
To say, “I believe in one God” does not mean assent to a credible proposition; it means that we set our heart by the God at the center of our lives. It is not a sentimental yearning but an orientation of ourselves toward something we need in our lives that nothing else can satisfy. Lent provides that opportunity, because our idols can be so subtle. Who would tell us that attending to the baby is wrong, even that the television program we have waited for will do us harm? We need to acknowledge the “independent splendor” of God, existing outside all our pre-occupations, because all else is secondary to it. In fact, as we repeat in our Ash-Wednesday liturgies, all else is dust; we need to orient ourselves to something more than the ephemeral.
If you are like me, none of this is easy. It is simply a matter of perspective. I wish you all a holy Lent, not in a spirit of miserable self-denial but in the spiritual vistas that will open for all of us if we take the season seriously. Whether it is an invigorated prayer life or abstaining from something that devours our time, I can promise that this season offers us a soul-stirring experience, with A God that loves us too deeply to leave us with anything but Godself.