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March 18 Lenten Service

Due to COVID-19 we have had to cancel our lenten service for March 18. Please find a transcript of the service below.

READ THE FOLLOWING MEDITATION, “What’s in Your Dash?, based on Luke 13:1-9.

MEDITATION for March 18, 2020

What's in Your Dash?

Scripture: Luke 13:1-9

1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” 6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ 8 “ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ ”

The Word of God for the people of God.

Thanks be to God.

There are a series of texts known as the Mesopotamia Lament Genre that were written thousands of years ago. All of these works were written when that civilization was either overwhelmed by a natural disaster as in a flood, earthquake, hurricane, fire, etc., or when they were overrun by an invading army.

In the Old Testament, the book of Lamentations is believed to have been written as a response to the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians and in a group of works called the Pseudepigrapha. The Psalms of Solomon are a group of psalms believed to be written in response to the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans. What makes all of these works fascinating is the questions they raise. In all of these situations, whether the disasters were caused by humans or by natural causes, each of the civilizations asked their god(s), why? Why did God allow this to happen? What did the people do wrong to incur the wrath of the God or gods? Why was God angry at them?

Our Gospel lesson today hints at the same questions. What had the Galileans done to deserve death at the hand of Pilate? They must have done something wrong to deserve that kind of death, correct? Or the 18 who were killed in the accident when the tower of Siloam fell, how come the tower fell on them and not on someone else? What did they do to deserve that? Where was God in all of this? How come God allowed it to happen?

Recently we have watched as natural disasters have traumatized our earth: the tsunami that flooded southern Asia, Hurricane Katrina that swept through the United States, and the earthquake that rocked China among other places. In each of these there have been articles written asking the same age old questions, "Where was God? How could God allow this to happen?" particularly to the children attending school in China. What did the people who experienced the tragedy do wrong? Why would God allow one man to get so angry and depressed that he took a gun and killed Amish school children? How could this happen?

There is an interesting text in the Gospel of John, the ninth chapter, where a man is born blind and the cynics of Jesus' day ask him, "Who sinned, the blind man or one of his parents?" You see, the baby could not just be born blind. Someone had to do something wrong. Whose fault was this?

Jesus gives a fascinating response that it was no one's fault. This man was born blind to glorify God. Jesus gives a similar hard-to-grasp reply in this Gospel lesson. Accidents happen. They are no one's fault. The tower didn't fall on the 18 because they were worse sinners than anyone else. The tower just fell, but be aware that accidents do happen. Now is the time to make sure your walk is right with God. Now is the time to make sure that if you got hit by a bus on the way home tonight, or a mountain falls on top of you, or you slipped on a banana peel and cracked your skull open, now is the time to make sure you are right with God, before the accident happens.

Accidents happen, disasters happen, humans decide to do violent acts against other humans, and sometimes innocent people are in the wrong place at the wrong time. We didn't deserve any more than anyone else to have that pane of glass fall out of the window and onto our head, but are you ready if it does happen?

Jesus tells the parable of the fig tree that wasn't bearing any fruit. The man was ready to cut it down, but the gardener stopped him and said, "Give it one more year to produce, to get its act together, to take advantage of all it has. If it does not take advantage of the time it has, then you can cut it down." In this lesson Jesus is trying to tell his listeners to be ready for whatever life brings and to use their lives wisely. In a sense, to seize the moment while we have it.

There is a poem that often gets read at funerals that gives a little insight into the concept Jesus is teaching. It is called, The Dash by Linda Ellis.

I read of a man who stood to speak

At the funeral of a friend

He referred to the dates on her tombstone

From the beginning . . . to the end.

He noted that first came her date of birth

And spoke the following date with tears,

But he said what mattered most of all

Was the dash between those years (1934-1998).

For that dash represents all the time

That she spent alive on earth…

And now only those who loved her

Know what that little line is worth

For it matters not, how much we own;

The cars…the house…the cash,

What matters is how we live and love

And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard…

Are there things you'd like to change?

For you never know how much time is left,

That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough

To consider what's true and real,

And always try to understand

The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger,

And show appreciation more

And love the people in our lives

Like we've never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect,

And more often wear a smile,

Remembering that this special dash

Might only last a little while

So when your eulogy's being read

With your life's actions to rehash…

Would you be proud of the things they say

About how you spent your dash?

- From the website,

poem can be downloaded free and used as a visual at worship.

None of us knows how much time we have here on earth. Each moment we have is a gift God expects us to live fully and use to God's glory. How are you living your dash? If an accident should occur to you today as you head for home, are you ready? Amen.

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