The Devil Made Me Do It!

Now I understand that biblical readings aren’t everyone’s favorite literature – it’s easy to turn them off – not see any relevance for our lives because we’ve been beat over the head so often by thundering preachers. However, for those of us who follow the liturgical calendar, today was the last Sunday of the Year. In liturgical parlance, it’s called “Christ the King” and in cycles B and C (we’re just finishing a C cycle) the gospel readings have scenes from the crucifixion. Today’s reading had Jesus being taunted, and even tempted, to save himself if he’s the King of the Jews as the sign above his head reads.

Temptation. Nah. Not for us. Don’t want to hear about being tempted. Too much like going to hell and all that stuff none of which any of us want to hear again, thank you.

However, what’s interesting about this temptation, for Jesus to save himself, is that’s it mirrors a temptation from the early part of his ministry when Satan takes him to a high place and tempts Jesus to make himself the ruler of the world. If Jesus turned down that chance to have it all, if he turned down the chance to save himself, how is it we now call him savior and king?

I guess king of what might be the question. King of the Jews? The Jews of that time were a pretty down-trodden people, ruled by Rome. The broken came to Jesus, ones who needed healing, ones who needed hope. His subjects were the poor and displaced. What kind of a kingdom is that? Jesus was kind, but a king? And if he’s a king for us, why do we all suffer so much?  What are we “saved” from?

Perhaps we need to be saved from ourselves.

How many times have you beat up on yourself because of a mistake you made? How often have you found fault with another because of a mistake that person made? Are we tempted into un-kindness, for ourselves and others? Aren’t we tempted to judge, find fault, slide into anger, cut someone off in traffic, on a daily basis?

The end of the church year is another ending/beginning, another time to take stock. The best use of a church year calendar is to see how we’ve progressed in our spiritual lives from year to year. Where have we stumbled? Where have we grown?

Whether you follow the liturgical calendar or not, next week, we begin Advent, the Coming: the world is turning, the cycles change.

What part of your unkindness do you want to leave behind this year? What have you outgrown? What are you ready to move into? This might be a good week to write down what you want to leave behind as the year turns, put the choice you’ve made on a piece of paper, and put it in a place you’ll see each day. Practice the change. Forgive yourself when the old comes back to taunt you.

Along with what you want to put down, what spiritual idea or practice do you want to incorporate in your life. Keep it simple enough to practice every day. Write that on a pice of paper (I love Post-It notes!) and put it next to what you want to leave behind. Practice replacing the old with the new.

Every day we are ending and beginning. And every day the temptation to ignore the promptings of our spirit-self pulls at us.

Interesting, isn’t it, how easy it is to get distracted!

End Time

Here’s the weather report: last week’s rain knocked the remaining leaves off the willow and filled the streets with crushed acorns. Days have turned chillier although blue skies have returned. I’m wearing my fleece vest as an everyday occurrence. One of the gifts of living in this middle of the country is that the seasons of the year are so utterly obvious and final. The year is winding down.

The church year is winding down too. Only one Sunday remains on the church calendar for this year and the readings are filled with end-time. Yesterday, Cliff reminded us that each season/day/moment has it’s own end: the end-time repeats itself over and over.

Over the past fifteen years or so, we’ve heard a lot of talk about end-times: remember the hubbub over Y2K and the coming of the new millennium? Now the talk that will crest and roar over the next two years centers on December 21, 2012. The end is coming.

Well, it is.

In fact, in the short time you’ve been reading this, several moments, one by one, have ended in your life.  The nice thing about ends, however, is that they also create new beginnings.

The new beginning created by the end of the church year brings us Advent – adventus – meaning “coming.” The four weeks of the Advent season begin the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

So right now, before the fact sinks in too deeply and you go into panic mode over everything that will need doing, stop. Take a moment for yourself and look back at your year’s spiritual progress and see what you’ve accomplished. We have reached the end-time of one spiritual cycle and we’ll begin another.

What are the recollections you need to make? What questions do you need to ask yourself? Where have you grown in your ability to give or receive love? Have you become more patient? Have you learned to release anger or fear? Have you practiced judging less? What are the spiritual disciplines you’ve set for yourself this year and how much have you accomplished?

It’s very easy to be hard on ourselves and condemn ourselves for not having “done it all” or become “perfect” in a misguided search. Take, instead, this time to consider your growth and where you have succeeded rather than how you have failed. Make your list simple –

Maybe you want to leave your list out over the next week or so and allow your thoughts to wander over the spiritual steps you have taken. We all grow in some way. We all change. What do you see consciously in your growth or suddenly recognize unconsciously that you’ve changed? It’s important to give ourselves credit for the changes we’ve made whether anyone else does so or not.

When you’ve completed your list, take some time to create a new one – write down the ways you want to grow or change spiritually over the next year. Remember, Advent means “coming.” What new way of being wants to come into your life in the next church year?

Take some time and listen to the voice of the season: watch a leaf release its hold; listen to the acorns fall. We are turning a corner into a new birthing. Allow yourself joy in the process.