Thinking Out Loud...Entering Lent
I’ve always liked Lent. It doesn’t have the sparkle and excitement of Christmas or the joyful “alleluias” of Easter morning or even the expectancy of Advent…but it’s a wonderful season all the same. Its quiet reflection, its still moments, its longing for oneness with the path of Christ. These are its simple gifts that lay themselves before us without pretense or embellishment. They do not force themselves upon us but wait for us to enter into their sanctuary. Perhaps more than any other time in the church year Lent reminds me that our God is an “offering God,” not a God of coercion. We may choose to turn away or choose to turn toward the life that God offers in Christ. This brief encounter shared by writer Janice Catron of two passengers on a plane perhaps captures it best:
“While I was travelling on a plane a few years ago, I sat next to a Jewish gentleman who observed kosher law. Through some mistake in the system, his meal was missing. As this was a long flight over lunchtime, I worried that he might be hungry, so I offered to share my meal – “If,” I said, “there is anything here you are allowed to eat.” His answer was a theological education all in itself. “I am free to eat anything,” he replied. “I choose to eat only that which declares my loyalty to God.”*
I re-read this little story a couple of times. How often do I choose that which “declares my loyalty to God” I wondered. Probably far less often than I might claim – overestimating my “righteousness” is a daily stumbling block. Mostly because I have no righteousness of my own, I am a beggar of this grace-given gift and yet I have the audacity to think myself quite loyal nonetheless. Yet what if I started out in the morning by asking myself this question: “Is how I choose to live today declaring my loyalty to God?” Use any verb…speak, act, write, interact with others, worship, shop…. and you soon realize it reframes the entire day, doesn’t it, when we ask ourselves: Do I live into and out of this covenant relationship that I am in with God? Does my life reflect this covenant in the choices I make that are visible to the world? That’s a lot to think about and yet this is the season of reflection, of turning toward God, of attempting to keep covenant promises. Now is the time to ask.
I know I will still make unfortunate choices and that I will stall out about half-way through and need to begin again. But that’s okay. We can begin again, that is the blessing, that is the covenant promise God has made to us…I will not leave you orphaned- I will be your God and you will be my people…we’re in this together. Not because God needs us, but because God loves us. I hope you will join me along this journey of Lent. We are all beggars beneath the table of the Lord and yet we are fed abundantly by his grace and love. Come, let us show our loyalty to God, in Christ, the one who is forever faithful in his promises to us! Welcome Lent!
Your companion for the journey,