Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Embarking on our Lenten Expedition

Our text for this evening's worship, a time of Ash Wednesday reflection, are Psalm 51 and 2 Corinthians 5:14-6:2, which can be read here.  As we turn towards this Sunday, our first Sunday in the season of Lent, our texts are Deuteronomy 26:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13, which can be read here.

“Each Sunday of Lent presents us with a special insight into the stages of the expedition that is the spiritual life."  -Joan Chittister

The above quote has been animating my reflection as we have moved towards this new season of Lent, which begins today.  The term "Lent" comes from the old English word "lenten", which has among its meanings "spring." This is a reference not only a reference to the physical season we see blooming around us in the weeks before Easter, but also an invitation to a springtime for the soul--a time of new growth, new life, new beginning.

So often, Lent has been construed as a season of darkness, of punishment, of self-flagellation--of listing all the ways we have fallen short and stripping things away for the sake of getting in touch with the suffering of Jesus.  I suppose there is some merit in this; but more than anything, I believe Lent is meant to be a season of growth--of recognizing that God is not finished with us yet.  It is a time to take account of where we have been, yes, but also to lift our eyes to where we are going on this ongoing journey of faith.

So often, I think we have sold the Christian life short:  we have bought into the myth that when we are baptized or confirmed, we can kind of graduate from Christianity like we graduate from school--we have learned all we have needed to learn, embraced God's forgiveness, the end.  I love, however, this reminder that I read from Barbara Brown Taylor this morning:  that "Forgiveness is a starting place, not a stopping place.  It is God’s gift to those who wish to begin again, but where we go with it is up to us."

Where have you been?  Where are you?  And where are you going?  These are the questions I hope you will ask yourself prayerfully as we embark on this Lenten expedition together.  Where are you amidst the "stages of the expedition that is the spiritual life"?  Where are you stagnating?  Where do you feel stuck?  Where do you need hope of things being different?  Where do you need to be transformed?  Where might you be called to let go of one thing and walk in a different direction?  What is the next place God is calling you to go towards, to grow towards?

We will be expanding on these ideas together throughout the Lenten season.  This Sunday, we will be beginning back at, well, the beginning--looking at Jesus' formative days in the wilderness and thinking about our own formation and the things in which we are rooted--the things we have learned to trust. As we begin this day, however--as we are marked with ashes tonight to remind us of both our fragility and our hope of new life not just in the life beyond, but in the life we now live--know I am glad that we are all companions with one another on this journey.  Though each of us walks our own unique path of discipleship, not one of us walks alone.  

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