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Second Sunday in Lent - March 13, 2022

Good morning, St Andrews!

I’m pretty sure most of you are somewhat familiar with the Daughters of the King. We are an order of women between the ages of 7 and 107. Yes, it’s an order, not an organization. The Daughters of the King have chosen to be strengthened by the discipline of a Rule of Life that includes intercessory prayer, study, and most scary of all: evangelism. Not to worry though, in true Episcopal fashion, our brand of evangelism borrows heavily from St Francis who said: “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.” Thank you, Francis! One of the ways the Daughters reach out is through so called Quiet Days. All Daughters and members of the congregation are invited to spend a few hours in guided contemplation and meditation. Just recently we had our Lenten Quiet Day. This time we engaged in something called lectio divina or divine reading. This is an ancient form of reading scriptures in a prayerful manner, seeking communion with God. Scripture isn’t studied here, but rather inwardly absorbed in silence until we discern God’s words to us. Part of lectio divina is of course to read a pericope, a passage from scripture, and to read it several times, maybe even different translations of it. While doing so, we focus on what word or theme sticks out, which one grabs our attention? Or as one Daughter put it: listen with the ears of your heart. Those are the words to contemplate, to meditate on. The word that grabbed the ears of my heart that day was the word Oasis. As is befitting for Lent, our scripture was about the wilderness. The scripture vividly described the desolate wilderness, but it also painted a picture of the Oasis our God provides for us in the wilderness. A place overflowing with life and goodness in the middle of a stark wasteland.

This beautiful word, oasis, came to mind again when reading our psalm today. Psalm 27 is a psalm of praise, then lamentation, and back to praise. You know, the stuff of life, we praise, we cry, we praise. Repeat. It’s existential. That’s why I like the psalms, they are relatable. They make me feel less conscious or guilty about my own lamentations and cries, small and big, imagined and real.

In the initial praise the psalmist describes how even “though war should rise up against me, yet I will put my trust in him.” Nothing can hold fear with God by our side. Not even war. So the praise goes. But soon human reality sets in, and the psalmist is hit with uncertainty. The feeling of safety is gone, and instead the psalmist recognizes that protection is needed. “For in the day of trouble he shall keep me safe in his shelter” says verse 7. Shelter. Shelter from war is like an oasis in the wilderness. As the psalm continues its lament, it is clear that this shelter, this oasis, is indeed sorely needed. The situation described is so desperate, the psalmist is even forsaken by their own mother and father. We all instinctively trust our parents, being abandoned by them is unbearable. The psalms lamentations intentionally paint a picture so stark and desperate, so filled with darkness that the reader might wonder: has God abandoned them as well? The seeming absence of God can make us fearful of abandonment. And it’s just so easy to lose sight of God’s presence. We all experience the wilderness at times. A time in our life that like the barren wilderness is a struggle to survive. During those times, searching for God can feel like trying to find the light switch in a dark room you’ve never been in before. After a while, you might even wonder if there even is a light switch? That darkness, that wilderness, that seeming absence of God, that fear, it can overwhelm us into worrying that God has abandoned us. And the reality is, that life without the wilderness, without that fear is simply impossible. Whether it is a personal crisis, a community plight, or a global upheaval, fear is part of our lives. Therefore, we need shelter, we need an oasis to get us through those times in our lives. But how can we find it when we are blinded with fear? Are we even looking for shelter then?