Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday and Hope for the world







Ash Wednesday began early for me with Bekah reminding me, as Amelia began her daily routine of calling for us first in a quiet voice and then eventually quite a loud one, that today is our daughter's first birthday. I knew this of course, but those of you that know me, know that I am not very smart in the mornings so I got up sang happy birthday...and went back to sleep for a few more minutes.

I was up late last night, recording an acoustic version of the overdubs songs "disappointed" and watching Hope +, a short doc film about 4 different people living with HIV/AIDS. It was very moving without being overly cliche and dramatic. Still, I have many unanswered questions about the lives of those living with the disease that are probably not going to be addressed in a 30 minute video.

It seems that God is speaking to our whole community, both the specific faith community at Northpark and extending to the entire city about the problem of HIV/AIDS and what we can do about it. It's an enormous problem that is going to take more than Bill Gates and Bono and Kay Warren and George Clooney working to solve it. But I believe that we can beat this disease and I believe we will.

During Lent this year, I am going to be participating in the 40 Days Toward Justice readings that World Vision's Acting on AIDS are putting out. They summarize the relationship between Justice and the Lent season much better than I can.

"Lent is a 40-day period of spiritual cleansing and preparation that culminates in the celebration of the resurrection of Christ at Easter. Many choose to fast from something to help engage the spiritual cleansing. It is important, however, to remember that Lent is not a time of depravation but of enhancement. We make room in our lives for a deeper relationship to God.

This Lent season, Acting on AIDS is launching 40 Days Toward Justice. This is a time for you and your fellow Acting on AIDS leaders to focus on the justice of God and the role he invites each of us to play. We invite you to use this resource to enhance your observation of Lent. If you've never before observed Lent, consider doing so this year.

40 Days Toward Justice will include a series of scripture readings and a variety of writings from experts at World Vision, InterVarsity, Sojourners and Saddleback Church. We hope this is a resource that will help you and your Acting on AIDS community to enhance your understanding of God's heart for justice and empower you to respond."

Now, very few people have likely made a connection between quiet Lenten reflection and old school punk rock ... but this morning as I began to reflect on the scripture reading I did in Meet The Bible I was listening to a couple of new Counting Crows songs and then the politically charged and openly Christian punk band Crashdog came on. I found the mixture of social concern, righteous anger and active compassion to be more inspiring than any worship anthem I've heard in a long time. The song "My God" in particular has been inspiring to me since I was in the 9th grade. However, in the context of today's election results, in the midst of what sometimes seems like a worldwide genocide, and considering the consistent, systematic oppression of the poor, the song literally brought tears to my eyes.

Sinking in the cold like a falling star
Looking in to where you are
Trying hard to keep it all together
Isolated I'm the modern leper
Drop your eyes at the sight of me
Cuz I been labeled H.I.V
All you wanna know is "How did he get it?"
Justify it, then forget it
Do you really think you're any better?
Cuz your blood don't bear three scarlet letters
When we meet again it'll be in heaven
I hope the shock won't be too sudden

My God doesn't hand out disease as a punishment
My God doesn't look with joy on your torment
My God doesn't draw back His hand from any child
My God lives to touch and heal and reconcile

Here you come with a gun in your hand
Gonna stop abortion at your command
Could ya really see Jesus pull that trigger?
What makes you tick? How do you figure that?
Your murder is some holy thing?
A misguided killer the same as them
Some fight this fire, you fan the flame
Thanks to the press we bear your shame
A full circle we're almost there
Another death, you'll get the chair
We've always refused to understand
Revenge does not belong to any man

My God doesn't need your guns to bring His will
My God doesn't call His people to judge and kill
My God doesn't upon some doctor's grave
My God screams "Vengeance is mine I will repay"

In the corner looking right at her
She's just an object in your world
Your greed exists, so do your intentions
But her interest is your own invention
Woman aren't yours to dominate
We're equal halves of something great
Male and female He created
Eternally linked and integrated

My God doesn't hold man over woman
My God's image lives and breathes in every human
My God doesn't hold man over woman
My God's image lives and breathes in every human

download "My God" by Crashdog
purchase Crashdog at GRR Records, or on iTunes or Emusic

It's incredible to me, how fragile life is. All of our progress couldn't stop nature from taking over 60 lives in the midwest last night. Today, rescue crews sort through the rubble in the hope that people are still alive, though trapped. My daughter reminds me how frail life is in its most basic form. She didn't even exist two years ago, and now separated from care, she couldn't survive.

For me, Jesus is the hope of the world. Though we have been trapped, though we are fragile, though we lost ... through him, we can turn things around. For ourselves yes, individual change is a part of it, but the Gospel teaches that salvation is for others and if we don't share hope than we aren't really following God at all. If we don't reach out to the poor, the outcast, the marginalized and the HIV-infected, we are not even Christian.

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