I’ve been thinking recently about the ways in which I find myself feeling cut off and cut into pieces: within myself, within my faith, within my relationships. For me, that sense of isolation is a particular result of my own life experiences, but to a certain degree, the struggle with feeling disconnected is universal to the human condition. We wrestle to feel close to God … we kick & shout & run away from God. We long to feel securely knitted within human community … we reject & cast out one another from that very community.
We want to belong … but we crave independence. We wave at the world in hopes of being recognized on our own merits … but we resent the world if it abandons us to face life by ourselves.
To state the human quandary another way, borrowing from sociologist Robert Bellah, we dream of being “the one who stands out from the crowd of ordinary folk … even though it contradicts another dream that we have — that of living in a society that would really be worth living in” (Habits of the Heart 285).
We are tempted to cut ourselves off as we aspire to be independent & glorious all on our own.
Yet we despair that we might be cut off, without God or friend, all on our own.
And so the First Sunday in Lent’s Revised Common Lectionary texts remind us of all God has done to restore us from being cut off:
+ in a rainbow to symbolize God’s covenant, that “never again shall all flesh be cut off” from God’s grace (Genesis 9:11), whether by floodwaters or death or things present or things to come (to borrow from Romans 8);
+ in the tearing open of heaven — reaching across the disconnect between eternity and humanity, kairos and chronos — just to say, “You are my Beloved” (Mark 1:10-11);
+ in the forgetfulness of “the sins of my youth or my transgressions (Psalm 25:7), “in order to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
We are not cut off from God, not because we are so brilliant in repentance but because God is so brilliant in mercy.
How are you tending to your own spirit’s attachments and separations as Lent gets underway? What good news of renewal & reconnection is needed in the pews where you will preach on this first Sunday in Lent? Where do you see signs within your faith community, among those you pastor, in your region & throughout the world, that people feel cut off from one another … and in some cases, that people are tangibly, critically, intentionally cut off from one another? How does God’s promise that we will never again be cut off from grace call us to radical love & justice?
As you prepare for this coming Sunday’s sermon and worship, share your brainstorms & questions & drafts here in the comments to encourage one another as Lent begins.
Rachel G. Hackenberg is a United Church of Christ minister, blogger, and soccer mom. Her upcoming book, Denial Is My Spiritual Practice (and Other Failures of Faith) with co-author Martha Spong, wrestles for God’s answers to the hard questions of life.
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