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Fear of Sacrifice

  • Posted on Apr 1, 2011

For I solemnly warned your ancestors when I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, warning them persistently, even to this day, saying, Obey my voice. Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of an evil will. Jeremiah 11 

In the Daily Lectionary, we are solidly in the early chapters of the prophet Jeremiah. As those who were at Evening Prayer on Tuesday know, Jeremiah is prophesying directly and forcefully to the wayward people of Israel. This Friday and Saturday, I am facilitating a Vestry retreat for another parish in the Diocese of Maryland. We will be talking about goals moving forward. In order to do that work, we need to talk about what we are willing to change in order to allow forward movement to happen. Often the fear of change leads to sin. We fear sacrificing well-known and comfortable ways of living. Our comfortable ways become our weaknesses. And when we rely on our comfortable weaknesses, we often sin against self and others. In his book Keep Going: The Art of Perserverance, Joseph Marshall tells another story from his grandfather Old Hawk. This time on new ways and change: Old Hawk gestured up at the tall, old cottonwood tree towering above them. Its girth was so large that a grown man could not put his arms around it. Old Hawk’s father had planted it as a sapling in 1896, the same year he had received an allotment of land from the government. “This tree,” he said, “has stood guard over our family all its life. Strength is what I feel each time I look at it. Yet, there have been moments when its great strength was also its weakness.” “That is hard to believe,” said his grandson. “It’s the biggest tree for miles around.” Old Hawk pointed at a thicket of chokecherry shrubs in a dry creek not far away. “Look there,” he said, “those chokecherry trees are small and weak in comparison to this cottonwood. But when you were a child, they survived a tornado without losing a branch. This old cottonwood, on the other hand, lost several branches. Do you know why?” “No,” said his grandson. “Because, in that instance, the cottonwood’s great strength became its greatest weakness. It stood up, but it could not bend with the wind the way the chokeberry trees could.” “Sometimes we give into our weaknesses.” 

Lent is about recognizing our weakness and choosing to bend with the winds of change that usher in our future life. I know we all have lost some branches in life’s storms from refusing to bend just a bit.