The Gift of Lent

by Pastor Heath Howe, Family Ministries

This year, as I discern and pray about how I will honor the gift of the season of Lent, I find myself pondering, "How can I, and we, as Christians, spend the season of Lent so that are prepared for the life ahead of us come Easter morning?" I ask this because I have learned that Lent is not a time to prove ourselves to God, nor to earn God's love. It is not simply a convenient block of time to lose a few pounds or break a bad habit. It is a gift. A gift of time given to us by God so that we can clean up, build strength, or rest for what is next.

I have heard it said, "We are living in interesting times." True, there seems to be a sense of anxiety, fear, confusion, and anger that accompany us right now. I am curious how we as Christians can bring about the good news in a way that will be heard and understood. Will the power of the Easter message really be heard and celebrated at this time? Will we know how to show and tell people that nothing can separate us from the love of God, and as a result from one another, thanks to the events that happened that first Easter morning? Will folks, can folks, be brave enough to say "no" to ways of thinking and living that keep us in isolation, filled with fear, and even spiritually dead?

Yes, I believe we can be part of bringing about the true power of Easter.  We can make a difference and bring about love in a sin-filled world.  In fact, God is counting on us to do so. I remember hearing Archbishop Desmond Tutu say that at one point when South Africa seemed most divided and broken he prayed to God asking, "If you are so omnipotent, where are you right now? Why won't you do anything?" And he heard in return, "I am waiting for you."

So it is with us. For some reason that I can never completely understand, God has decided that we, God's Easter People, are just the companions God needs to bring about new life, a life that binds us together in love that is beyond feeling and words. It is a love that includes all, no matter their past or present condition, a love that heals, forgives, and believes in us.

To be a part of the Easter season to come we need to give thanks for this season of Lent and ask God how best we should use it. Some of us may need to slow down and allow God to heal, feed, or cleanse us from the duties, hurts, and wounds we have received.  In our quiet we may need to be still and remember that I AM is God and not us. We are not in control, and that is actually a relief if we are honest.  If you find yourself needing to slow down, perhaps learning and practicing Centering Prayer or joining the Thursday prayer group is in order. Maybe arriving early to worship on Sunday is the perfect practice to remind you to be still and go slow. Others of us may need to move into action. We need to spend Lent building up our spiritual strength, flexibility and endurance by engaging more. Perhaps reading and pondering a  book of the Bible or studying something by a theologian would help get you going and participating in your life more than usual. Perhaps joining others at the Reel Spirituality class this season would be fulfilling. Practices can help us get unstuck, less lazy, and back into community. Others may feel so busy they cannot find their center at all.  Many of us are distracted and anxious. If this is where you are, consider what you need to let go of during Lent. What is something you need to stop during this time? Constant emailing and texting? Multi-tasking instead of being fully present? What?

Lent is a gift to all of us. How will you spend it?  Pray about it. Ask God. Let me know. I would love to hear from you how God is calling you to get ready for this all-changing, love-building, hope-affirming life we are called to live and spread as Easter People. Glad we are in this together.