A Lenten Message
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Matthew; Invitation to a Holy Lent
The formal language of the invitation to the observance of a Holy Lent is a bit intimidating. It creates in many a kind of heaviness, a season to be endured until the joy of Easter. Our minds turn to giving up chocolate or alcohol or taking on new disciplines of prayer and devotional reading, and we almost give up before we start.
So, I’d like to reframe the season a bit, and invite you to think about Lent as a time of refreshment rather than a burden. Lent, in my view, is a time to reset our relationship with God and one another. It is a time to take stock, to ask where we are in our relationship, and to think about how that relationship might be better.
It begins with a review. What’s going on in our lives? What part does God play in our lives? What’s going well and what is not? Is there a disconnect between what we’re doing and what God is asking us to do? Have we dropped the ball? Have we stopped thinking about God altogether?
Based on our review and what we’ve come to understand, we might try to reset our relationship with God. The church word for that is “repent” which has come to mean “feeling guilty about bad things we’ve done,” but actually means “turning.” Turning toward God. Reorienting ourselves in relationship with God. Turning away from the habits that pull us from God and turning toward a manner of life that brings us closer to God.
So first, review. Then, reset. And finally, refresh. The whole point of Lent is to get a fresh start, to begin again, to open ourselves to God’s loving presence in the world. We can spend our time lamenting how bad things have gotten – and there is plenty of room for lament – or we can dig into those things that might make a difference for ourselves and the people around us. We can ask to be refreshed.
I have a friend who says that she hasn’t got the energy to think about changing the world. She doesn’t see herself called to transform social structures or to correct injustices. Her focus in life, and her sense of call, is to the intimate circle of family and friends. I suspect many of us might feel the same.
Yet even in that arena, there is room for review, resetting, and refreshment. What is the status of our intimate relationships? How are we doing with family and friends? Have we allowed disagreements to hurt those relationships? Is there mending to do?
Would it help to bring God into the conversation, to reframe our relationships within the love of God? Are there ways we can treat our friends under the rubric of love that would make a difference? Do we need to try a different approach?
Finally, can God help us find the courage to have those difficult conversations, to say the things that need to be said, to reach out, to apologize, and to recommit? Can we refresh our relationships with God’s help?
The conviction of the church is that by reviewing, resetting and refreshing, the world is made new. Lent invites us to be part of that process and to join with God in the work of transformation. God will take what we do and use it for the benefit of all. May we find a way to join in during this Lent.