This Year’s Lent
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I want to admit as I begin this week’s podcast that I am borrowing an idea that I have now heard several other faith-leaders write about. It is such a good idea, that I wanted to use it on my podcast this week.
It is a simple idea, and one that emerges within the context of what we in the United Church of Christ call our still-speaking reality. As we are wont to say, God is still speaking. As we were told when we began this venture into faith, remember there is yet and still more light and truth to break forth from God’s Holy Word.
Lent has always been a season of inward looking, of self-examination. It was a time for the faithful to imitate Jesus’ forty days of fasting in the wilderness. Over time, it added elements not just of self-examination and preparation for service to the gospel, but also of self-sacrifice. The question I was asked to face every Lent when I was growing up was: “What are you giving up?”
It had an obligatory edge to it. I didn’t want to do it – I had to do it. For the most part, I hated it. Over time, as I matured a bit, I came to see how the sacrifice could bring me face to face with my extravagances and question my commitments to live a simpler life. I could also embrace personal sacrifice as a pathway to spiritual fulfillment. Along with whatever I would give up, I would add disciplines like praying at a scheduled time each day or reading and reflecting on a chapter from scripture every day.
That’s all well and good.
But as many are pointing out, we are all suffering so much right now where is the spiritual integrity in asking people to sacrifice more during Lent?
I think that is right.
Whether this is a new thing that will evolve or just a temporary pause we don’t know. Is the church evolving into a new way of calling for spiritual awakening during Lent by shifting away from a sin and sacrifice modality and instead looking for pathways to new joy? Time will tell.
But that is what the new invitation is. What if this Lent we all promised to focus once a day on something that brings us joy? I am going to dedicate myself to discovering every day a piece of art or music or poetry or prayer or scripture that engenders healing, joy, or beauty. Will you join me?
My favorite passage has always been Luke 12:32, “Do not live in fear, little flock, it has pleased God to give you the kindom.”
This single verse invites followers of Jesus to orient towards joy, and away from fear. It does so by simply reminding us that it was God’s good pleasure to provide. Again, orientation shifts: from God as judge (the dominant theme of Lent when we focus on deprivation) to God as provider. While we orient away from fear to joy, God orients away from anger to pleasure.
So, enter this season of Lent with a call to joy and an orientation toward pleasure.
And may there be new things to celebrate for you each day on this, our Journey Into the Mystic.