Owls at 4. Geese at 6.

Mary Magdala Community

Owls at 4.  Geese at 6. ©

Thoughts on 3rd Sunday in Lent, March 4, 2018

by Rev. Jim Ryan,  jimryan6885@gmail.com

There is a time of year that the dog, the cat, and I walk out to the fields around the big shed.  We stand at the top of the hill overlooking the woods and listen for the rush of the creek below.  There is snow on the ground and on the trees.  At this time there is no wind, no sound of traffic from the road.  It is 4 o’clock and almost already dark.  In the quiet, from deep in the woods you can hear the owls hoot.  Their muffled, rhythmic sound can be missed if you’re not sure of what you’re listening for.  This is when you know you have arrived at the dead of winter.  It’s sign is unmistakable.

There is a time of year that the dog, the cat, and I take the same walk to the same location.  At this time of year the snow is sometimes almost gone and sometimes completely gone – though it’s not so late in the year that, this being Wisconsin, the snow could return.  At this time of the year there’s likely a southern wind with a hint of above freezing temperatures.  It is 6 o’clock and it is still partly dusk.  From out of the sky you first hear them coming and then you see the pointed, vector formation of the geese.  One group after another they come on their return north.  This is when you know you have arrived at the break of winter’s grip and can allow yourself to think of Spring.

Owls at 4.  Geese at 6.

Nature’s signs are unmistakable.  How reassuring it is to know such signs and their meaning.  Would that all life’s signs were so unmistakable and reliable.

Today’s Gospel passage ends with a curious observation on Jesus’ ability to know the motives of people. (John 2:25)  Apparently he knew the signs.  How we all wish for such knowledge.

It is a curious statement that comes at an unexpected place.  One would think that the lines in John’s Gospel just leading up to this statement were headed in another direction.  We’re told there that people were stepping forward and believing in Jesus.  One could expect that this would form the basis of a positive sign of growth among people who favored Jesus’ message.  We want to hear more.

Instead we get an almost suspicious tone when the Gospel speaks of motives and what is actually in people’s hearts.

The importance of reflecting on the place of motives that underlie people’s actions cannot be minimized.  A case in point involves the students – the teenagers and young adults – of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

On Ash Wednesday the students were violently, tragically catapulted into adulthood and now they’re dealing with a class of people whose specialty, for many of them at least, is to conceal their motives for practically everything they do.  These people are called politicians.

So, as the young leaders pursue their cause of sensible gun regulations in this country I have a concern and a prayer for them .  The concern is that they learn the lessons of how to deal with hidden motivations.  Just because someone says they are open to what you say does not mean they will support you.

The prayer is that they will stay engaged over the long haul.  This is certainly complicated by the fact that they have so much of the rest of their lives ahead of them.  There are SATs to take and technical skills to learn.  So prayers for their courage and conviction are a must for their effort.

Finally, let’s hope they come to love nonviolence.  May they somehow and in some way become familiar with the wisdom of the elders regardless of individual spiritual traditions.  Let’s hope their crash course in “This Is Life!” introduces them to people who value the life of each human being as well as the fragility of our common home – this earth.

I pray for the young adults and their ability to recognize the motives of those with whom they are now engaging.  May the signs of the groundedness of snowbound owls and the stamina of migrating geese inspire them for the road ahead.

Prayers of Absolution  (JR)

            Today we celebrated the absolution of each other by each other – a priestly people exercising God’s gifts and grace.  Here are our prayers for this ministry.

Brother Jesus, you chose to be called the friend of sinners.  By your saving death and resurrection free me from my sins and reconcile us to one another and to you.  May your peace take root in our hearts and bring forth a harvest of love, holiness, and truth.

All with one hand extended:

God of mercy.  Through your Son’s dying and rising everything is reconciled to you.  Through Your Abiding Spirit you forgive our sins.  Through the ministry of your People pardon and peace are given to us.  And so we, your people, forgive and absolve one another.  May your church flourish in your Name – Creator, Redeemer, and Peaceful Spirit.   Amen.




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