The One Thing

14 Feb

Kathryn Hauser’s Reflection for Ash Wednesday, 13 February 2013
[There was a delay in posting this Reflection until Thursday, February 14, 2013 at about 8 am due to access difficulties, limitations, and hardships.]
The One Thing
Hollywood sometimes does things right. Back in 1991 there was a movie called “City Slickers” starring Billy Crystal. He plays a city man (“Mitch”) who goes on a cattle drive in hopes of rediscovering himself. Jack Palance plays the lead cowboy named “Curly.” Listen in on their conversation:
Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
[holds up one finger]
Curly: This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean shit.
Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”
Curly: [smiles] That’s what *you* have to find out.
We all have to find our “One Thing.” It’s different for every person. Sure, worshipping God is our corporate and individual priority, our spiritual One Thing, but the Holy Spirit anoints/gives each person One Thing to contribute to the Greater Good for the benefit of the whole. That One Thing is our heart’s desire that gets us out of bed in the morning and gives our lives meaning and purpose when everyone around us says, “Where is your God?” (Joel 2:17) The Church-as-Institution cannot provide that One Thing because an institution is only there to provide structure. God provides the depth and the meaning and the Life Force Drive to do it. The One Thing contains depth, meaning, significance, purpose, and all those things that make Life rich and savory. The Institution may welcome and find your One Thing useful and beneficial to meet her own needs, but the One Thing will not come from the Institution to meet your need. I’m not saying that to be crass. It is the way of any Institution. Institutions are there to provide structure only. That’s their purpose. Any time any Institution goes outside their purpose, outside their One Thing, then there’s a wreck in the future. One does not have to be a prognosticator to “see” that.
The One Thing that drives your soul, that “blows your trumpet in Zion [your heart]” (Joel 2:15) is holy and set apart for you. It’s yours. The ministers of the Lord will weep. (v 17) Some may weep with joy and relief and gladness. Some may weep with jealousy and contempt. We all seem to cycle through both extremes on this journey as we get “crucified” by our own gifts. But it is consistently true that something “gets lost in translation” between the parking lot, the vestibule [church entryway], and the altar (v 17). The ministers of the Lord are not our “saviors;” they are shepherds.
Joel 2:15 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly;
2:16 gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy.
2:17 Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep. Let them say, “Spare your people, O LORD, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?'”
We really do rend our hearts and not our clothing as we return to the LORD our God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and He relents from “punishing,” [if that is the kind of Parent which God is seen as.] (v 13) I know within myself that I rend my own heart. I know that the Church and I really DO have a relationship even though we don’t talk about it. I must believe that we have a relationship. I asked God, “What is being laid on the altar of ashes of this relationship that goes unspoken and unacknowledged? Is there a One Thing in our relationship?” As I write this today [13 Feb 2013], my car is in the repair shop. The shop had my car-as-hermitage on the rack overnight as they waited for a new gas gauge to arrive so that it could be installed. I had had the same repair/replacement done 3 ½ years ago. There is a prophetic symmetry about this which I could not ignore or dismiss. My car—which I have used since 2007 to park and pray in—was on the rack on “Fat Tuesday” (and as it turned out also on Ash Wednesday.) I couldn’t celebrate much but was welcome at a friend’s house. (Isa 58:7) Since God works symbolically with me, I wondered what God was putting on the “rack.” How was He replacing the Church’s and my spiritual “gas gauge” since it was (as with the actual old one) sometimes working and other times pegged on empty out of the blue. The situation in the physical was reflecting a spiritual reality. I thanked God for my friends who showed me hospitality and did not “hide from their own kin.” (v 7) This has not been the same story with the Church-as-Institution. I brought to God my heart and asked, “Will You call this a fast, a day acceptable to You?” (v 5) Lord, You did say,
58:6 Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

58:7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Forgive us in the Church, Lord, for we really have hidden ourselves from our own kin. As a people we have become afraid to actually touch each other for fear of contracting physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological diseases. Heal us by the power of Your Blood. During this Lenten and Easter season teach us and show us the very real meaning of the Power of Your Blood, just as You showed Your power to the Israelites as the spirit of death passed over them in Egypt, when they applied blood to their doorposts and lintels when the spirit of death came to kill the first born in Egypt. (Ex 12:13) Help us to apply Your “blood” to the doorposts and lintels of our own hearts. By the power of Your Blood, Lord Jesus, cast out Satan from the Church. The Church is Your “first born.” Now IS the acceptable time.
2 Cor 6:2 For He says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!
6:3 We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry,
I pray salvation for the Church. (Mt 6:6) I take oil and symbolically pour it on your “head,” O Church (v 17), and as we fast this Lenten season and return our focus exclusively on You, Jesus; cleanse us by Your Blood, for it is Your shed blood that cleanses, heals, and restores us from the inside out. Jesus, we all share the same DNA with You. Your Blood is within us. Nothing can atone, nothing good that we have done; it’s all about You, Christ. It is all about Your righteousness. Turn our hearts right in You, so that You are our Treasure. (Mt 6:21) Draw us together as we do our “One Thing,” which You have laid on our hearts to benefit Your kingdom. Anoint the skills, talents, and callings You have given each one of us, so that all our needs in the parched places will be satisfied, our bones made strong, and we will be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail, as You continually guide us. (Is 58:11) Rebuild our “ancient ruins;” raise up the foundations of many generations; make us all to be called “repairers of the breach,” and restorers of streets to live in (v 12), as we anchor in the power of Your Blood and honor the One Thing that You did for us. Amen.

Ash Wednesday 13 February 2013 Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
2:1 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming, it is near-

2:2 a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness spread upon the mountains a great and powerful army comes; their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them in ages to come.

2:12 Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;

2:13 rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.

2:14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD, your God?

2:15 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly;

2:16 gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy.

2:17 Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep. Let them say, “Spare your people, O LORD, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?'”

Isaiah 58:1-12
58:1 Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.

58:2 Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.

58:3 “Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.

58:4 Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.

58:5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

58:6 Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

58:7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

58:8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

58:9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,

58:10 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.

58:11 The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.

58:12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

Psalm 51:1-17
1:1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

1:2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

1:3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

1:4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.

1:5 Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.

1:6 You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

1:7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

1:8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.

1:9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

1:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

1:11 Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.

1:12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

1:13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

1:14 Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.

1:15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.

1:16 For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.

1:17 The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
5:20b We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

6:1 As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain.

6:2 For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!

6:3 We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry,

6:4 but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities,

6:5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger;

6:6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love,

6:7 truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left;

6:8 in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true;

6:9 as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see–we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed;

6:10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
6:1 “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

6:2 “So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.

6:3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

6:4 so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

6:5 “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.

6:6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

6:16 “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.

6:17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,

6:18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal;

6:20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.

6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

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