About twenty years ago, I wrote a love letter to a dying friend.
I thanked her for being so good to me for so many years in so many ways, and assured
her of the promise of resurrection.
I gained so much from our weekly visits, learning from her wisdom and from her mistakes.
Her name was Valley Lutheran Church.
She was there for me when I was born, baptized, confirmed, considering suicide, and ordained. She was not there, however, for other people who moved into the neighborhood around her; the language and culture barriers were too many and scary for her to overcome, and she closed her creaking doors.
Thanks to you, I walked through them again a few months ago.
I had a meeting there at Lutheran Social Services, which actively helps the very community that Valley could not or would not reach with food, clothing, transportation assistance, thrift store goods, toys at Christmas, connections, counseling—many and various, tangible pieces of hope and new possibility.
Jan Maseda asked if I would be interested in touring the property with no idea what she was
It was a walking tour of resurrection: a twenty year old promise come true.
Old rooms held new treasures, including brand new faces.
The kitchen my dead grandmother once commandeered with her joyless German willpower
bustled with life.The library with all those nourishing books was now filled with food for hungry bodies.
But enough unused corners remained as dusty time capsules to assure me that this really was the same place I grew up.
I stood upstairs in the cry room with the stained glass shepherd who watched over me as a wailing infant and cried again.
I felt the weight and promise of Ash Wednesday: Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Choices have consequences, Eve and Adam and the serpent and Valley Lutheran learned.
Disobedience, deception, finger-pointing, and self-protection poison the world wit inequality, power imbalance, and other forms of pain, and due to God's terrifying mercy, we will all die.
We will not continue like this forever, trying to be more and failing to be as much as we are.
We are made of the same stuff as the stars, no better, no worse than the rest of the wondrous and orderly, limited and beloved creation around us.
We are dust, and to dust we shall return.
God insists that even despite our formidable resistance, we will be who we truly are.
With this weighty promise in mind, let's spend this Lent looking back and looking forward to
remember who we are, who God fashioned and pledged us to be.
This year's Lenten theme will be "Why Church?"
Why do we bother being and doing church at all?
What's the point?
Who, and Whose, are we really, and why does it matter?
For the next five Wednesdays, February 24 through March 24, will explore the basics of our shared DNA as church.
We'll gather for virtual soup suppers at 6pm on Zoom, then worship and reflect together starting at 6:30.
The idea is near to the heart of Lent: the forty day journey deeper into true identity, fasting from surface distractions to face both the demonic and the divine, marching toward the cross where the hearts of God and humanity ultimately collide.
In that haunting chapter, humanity strips God naked, punishing God's choices.
In the larger story, however, God clothes humanity.
Adam and Eve, who tried sewing leaves together, are wrapped in garments of skins.
The church, which doesn't fare any better on its own, is clothed in baptism with Christ and given a new life, another tomorrow.
We are more humble and more glorious than we ever imagined, so much less than we fantasize we are and so much more than we can fathom.
We are dust, and to dust we shall return, just like that untouched sanctuary closet at Lutheran Social Services.
We will return home, diminished and elevated to helplessness in the hands of God, a miracle just waiting to happen, an empty shell for hope and new possibility.
We will all die, just like Jesus and Valley Luthearn Church and Eve, the mother of all the living.
All of them have been clothed with new life.
Remember that we shall be too.
Remember that God who made us will keep remaking us, reclothing us, saving us.
Remember that eventually we will come home to where we come from: the dirty, creative,
punctured, wise, tender hands of God.
Remember that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.