I greet you on this Ash Wednesday as we begin the Holy Season of Lent with these words from Psalm 139: “For you yourself created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will thank you because I am marvelously made; your works are wonderful, and I know it well.” I was invited to reflect on these words this morning while reading Brother Geoffrey Tristram’s offering in the “Brother, Give Us A Word” series from the brothers at The Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE).
If you are not familiar with this and the other on line offerings from SSJE, I encourage you to visit their website
The SSJE word for the day is Prayer, an appropriate word for Ash Wednesday to be sure. Brother Geoffrey’s reflection is actually the sermon he preached on September 6, 2011, the day the brothers and many others gathered for the first Tuesday Eucharist following the completion of the extensive renovations to the Monastery in Cambridge. The title of the Sermon is “Called to Life.”
On this Ash Wednesday, his words remind me that this is indeed the heart of God’s call to us. The serious soul searching to which the Ash Wednesday liturgy invites us, indeed the pattern of self reflection and examination that is central to the season of Lent, is all directed toward a deeper understanding and appreciation of what it means to be marvelously made and to live life in the fullness to which God invites us. Brother Geoffrey reminds me that I am not called to be someone other than the ‘Thomas’ God has brought into being, but rather that I am called to be more fully who I was created to be and through the living of my life to reflect God’s glory in the world. This is such an awesome calling to which the church’s ancient Lenten disciplines of self-examination and repentance; prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and reading and meditating on God’s holy Word serve to help us deepen our understanding and practice of living such a life.
In his sermon, Brother Geoffrey recalled a favorite story about the Russian rabbi Zusia to illustrate his point. I repeat it here because it stirred my heart and my imagination. “One day some students were talking with him and the first said, “Rabbi Zusia, I am afraid that when I appear before the Holy One he will ask me, ’Why did you not have the faith of Abraham?’ A second student said, ‘I am afraid that when I am before the Holy One he will ask me, ‘Why did you not have the patience of Job?’ Then a third student said, ‘Rabbi I am afraid that when I stand before the Holy One he will ask me, ‘Why did you not have the courage of Moses?’ Then they all asked Rabbi Zusia, ‘Rabbi, when you appear before the Holy One which question do you most fear?’ Rabbi Zusia answered, ‘When I appear before the Holy One I ‘m afraid he’ll ask me, ‘Zusia, why were you not Zusia?’”
As we walk the Lenten journey of faith toward the promise and hope of Easter, I am going to spend time each day thinking and praying about what it means to be “marvelously made” and what it means to live deeply into that identity and vocation known as “Thomas.”
Thank you Brother Geoffrey for stirring my heart and my imagination in this direction!