We are in the season of Epiphany, which is a time to look at how God’s love is revealed to the entire world through the birth of Jesus. As the “Wise Ones” from distant lands brought gifts to the infant Christ, we too come from many places and circumstances to bring our lives to Christ. One of the great strengths of the church is its diversity. Each culture and ethnicity brings differing depths of understanding and offers us new ways of interpreting God’s love and grace for our lives. Epiphany is a season which for us northern hemisphere Christians in the depth of winter and yet it surrounds us with warmth.
Already the days are getting longer and we begin to see signs of constant movement of the life cycle. So even though we are still in the liturgical season of Epiphany I am thinking about Lent, and moving forward to the time of personal evaluation that it always brings to me.
In the Methodist tradition, John Wesley spoke of “going on to perfection” This was a way of speaking of the changes that take place in our lives as we practice our faith and find that our desire to do the work of God grows in us.
I recently read a meditation by Kathleen Norris in her book, “40 – Day Journey” that had me thinking a lot about what it means to be seeking perfection. I would like to share a little of it here. Norris writes:
“ Perfectionism is one of the scariest words I know. It is a marked
characteristic of contemporary American culture, a serious psychological
affliction that makes people too timid to take necessary risks and causes
them to suffer when, although they’ve done the best they can, their
efforts fall short of some imaginary and usually unattainable standard…
The word that has been translated as “perfect” does not mean to set
forth an impossible goal, or the perfectionism that would have me
strive for it at any cost. It is taken from a Latin word meaning complete,
entire, full- grown. To those who originally heard it, the word would
convey “mature” rather than what we mean today by ‘perfect.’
In those words I hear a lot of hope which in turn fosters joy in me. I do not have to be afraid of failure in my faith journey, because God has already given me forgiveness and hope. God has already loved me beyond what I am, into what I hope to be. Maturity in faith is not a product of age, but a product of active participation with God in what I am doing. There are many layers here to consider, but primary for me, is that God lifts guilt from me and only asks that I keep a deep awareness of God in my daily life. Doing this means that I will mature in the decision I make and the actions I take. None of us is perfect so if we impose that on ourselves or others, we will surely fail and feel inadequate and angry.
I am looking forward to Lent this year and exploring ways of living my faith that show I am on a journey to mature my faith, and on this journey I will hope to encourage others too.
It is still a month until we begin Lent, but lets covenant together to gift one another with a Christian love that supports and affirms gifts and does not demand that we are perfect in all ways, only that we are growing more mature in faith each day.
Winter Blessings to all. My husband and I will be on vacation for the month of February, and I pray that each of you will be well and know the love of this congregation supporting you. See you the first of March as we begin our Lenten journey together.