Temporary from the Latin temporārius and tempus, tempor meaning time, describes something that is fleeting. Our lives are temporary, although we don’t view them that way until we are staring into the abyss of our own mortality. This past month we have been starkly reminded of just how temporary life is. It can be gone in the blink of an eye either through sudden illness, horrific accidents, or unbelievably while worshipping in a sacred space on a Sunday morning.
I can’t make sense of what happened in Sutherland Springs, Texas; I don’t think any of us can unless we’ve lived through a massacre like that. What I can do is pray for that community and all involved as well as for our country and our lawmakers deciding what to do in the aftermath of this horror.
I happen to work at a religiously affiliated university. In my case, it is affiliated with the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. As such, Lent is a very important time in the life of the university community. Since I am not Catholic, I am always a bit caught off-guard by the “giving up” of things (usually forbidden food) during Lent. As a Moravian, that is not really part of my religious tradition.
It has made me think, though, about sacrifice, which is the whole point of the exercise in the first place. Personally, I don’t think God cares whether or not we give anything up during Lent. I think God cares more about our relationships than about individual sacrifice for the exercise of sacrifice. That said, I did decide to give something up for Lent and it wasn’t food. It was negativity.
This year, perhaps more than any other year in recent history, has caused me to reflect on those relationships I mentioned earlier. We are deeply divided in this country. Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, letting go of the negativity is soul-freeing. It allows you to listen to another’s perspective without rancor. After all, someone else’s opinion is just that; it’s their opinion and they are entitled to that as I am entitled to mine and you are entitled to yours. So, the next time you are outraged by what has been posted, stop and ask yourself if the negativity you are feeling is worth it. Maybe letting go and instead walk outside, find another path, and free yourself.
Every year our church participates in the Moravian tradition of pulling watchwords. If you don’t know what a watchword is, it is a motto or slogan (in our case a Bible verse) that is supposed to lead you throughout the year. Sometimes, it seems to make no sense at all what you pull out of the basket until much later when it has prescient significance. Sometimes it is comforting, sometimes it is seemingly reproachful, sometimes it can be downright puzzling and even a bit scary. I’m always amazed at how the watchwords seem to fit the individual who pulls them in some way or at least has meaning to that individual. It’s probably one of my favorite services of the entire church year and one of the unique things our church as a denomination does. By the way, there are daily watchwords also known as the Moravian Daily Texts and you can subscribe to receive them free via email or purchase a variety of print versions from the Moravian web site. My friend Mike Riess produces them for the Moravian Church in North America in his role as head of communications.
Here’s what I drew for this year:
You, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.