Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Looking forward to Lent

I have been looking forward to Lent this year. Lent is such a strange and tumultuous time. Spring is trying to make its way into the world, while winter does its best to hold it back. Kids are trying to bust out of school, while the calendar reminds them that there is still more time to go before spring break. And, by this time of the year, we're all ready for some new life. And that's what I love about Lent.

Lent is the time that we get to stop and notice that everything has died. It is not spring yet. The trees are still dead. The grass is still dead. The flowers have not grown yet. The world is still dark and dead. Lent is our time to stop and notice that we are dead too. We live in a world that draws us away from God's love and tempts us to chase after all sorts of things that only lead to despair: wealth, power, beauty, celebrity, etc. The world wants us to believe that those things will bring us happiness, but in the end, they just leave us wanting more. They leave us exhausted in our quest to obtain them and unsatisfied at our inability to acquire as much of them as we think we should have. And so we look at our life and we take stock of all the ways that we are trying to create our own salvation - all the ways that we are trying to heal our own pain - and we realize that we can't do it. And that eventually we'll just die trying.

And then comes Easter. Easter comes and Jesus reminds us that we don't have to save ourselves, because He saves us. Jesus bursts out of the tomb on Easter morning and proclaims the love of God in our midst. Jesus brings us to life again. Out of our despair, while we sit in recognition that we've been chasing after the wrong things, Jesus says, "No worries. I'm here. God is merciful and abounds in steadfast love." And we get new life. And we get new joy.

So I invite you this year to step into Lent. Step out of your place of complacency and really take a look at your life. Take a look at God at work in your life. The following "Invitation to a Holy Lent" is found in the Book of Common Prayer. I invite you to take it seriously and experience how amazing Easter is when it comes at the end of time spent in intentional reflection.

Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This is season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.

1 comment:

Sam said...

On a superficial note, I'm giving up candy for Lent. In a more substantial way, though, I'm taking these days to prepare myself to re-enter a relationship with the church.

It's been a long, rocky road with a lot of disappointments, so I can't just jump right back in. Still, I feel it's the right thing for me and for my life. And as you quote, this is a time for reconciliation, understanding that it does take effort and space to come to that point.