Monday, March 2, 2015

Forty Days of Tenderness

The short essay below was published online yesterday (Sunday, March 1) as part of the Intent series of daily Lenten meditations. (Copyright © 2015 LEM).

Intent is a joint project of the Lutheran Episcopal Ministry (LEM) at MIT, Episcopal BU (the Episcopal Chaplaincy at Boston University), the Lutheran Episcopal Campus Ministry at Northeastern University and the Episcopal Chaplaincy at Boston College, The Crossing, St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in Cambridge, and Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Boston.
Note: these congregations exploring together the possibility of becoming a mission hub or mission cluster with a focus on creating affordable housing opportunities in the form of intentional communities --hence the reference in the essay below.
You can sign up for Intent (it's free) here. Note that the daily meditations, which you can receive via e-mail, include not only written ones but visual and musical ones as well.

Dawn, Second Sunday in Lent
(c) Jane Redmont 2015

Forty Days of Tenderness

Two or three decades ago, my beloved mentor, Krister Stendahl, preached an Ash Wednesday sermon I will never forget. The cry of Ash Wednesday and Lent, he reminded us, is “Return to the Lord your God!” Return, he added, to God who is tender and merciful. Lent, he continued, is a time to remember the tenderness of God and therefore (here’s where he got me) to learn anew to be tender with ourselves.

Lent is the church’s annual retreat. It is a time of truth-seeking and truth-telling, of re-attuning our lives to live in justice and mercy, of renewal in prayer and practice. For many of us, this may involve additional time in solitude. But the self-examination of Lent is not for reflection on our self alone. It is not simply about “Jesus and me.” We are on this 40-day retreat together.

So we return to the unending tenderness of the Holy One of Blessing. We let this tenderness touch us and cradle us. We let it live with and within us. And we learn—again or for the first time—to live together, with our households and congregations, with the stranger on the street, with this new mission cluster, with our sisters and brothers who need housing, with those we love and those who are hard to love.

This takes time and care. It may feel slow and require some inner untangling and delicate steps in our community life. Lent is difficult. But it need not be harsh. How will we live these forty days of tenderness?

Jane Redmont is a theologian, spiritual director, and pastoral worker and is the author of two books including When in Doubt, Sing: Prayer in Daily Life.