We have taken our first few steps into the Lenten season, traditionally a time of fasting, prayer, and reflection, leading up to the solemn events of Passion Week. During our Ash Wednesday service last week, I noted that we were moving from a time of self-indulgence, of stuffing ourselves with Phil’s delicious pancakes, (Shrove Tuesday on Wednesday) into Lent, a season of self-denial. We think of Lent as a time to give something up, that is, making some personal sacrifice in order to better understand the immense sacrifice made by Jesus on the cross.
During Lent we also take a good long look at our lives and the way we live them. We try to assess how we are navigating our way through life. Lent is a time when we think about our sinfulness. No one is perfect; as St. Paul says, all have sinned. What is it that keeps us from a closer walk with our creator? Is there anything that stands between us and more loving relationships with others? Lent is very much about turning back to God, and making room in our lives for God.
Michael Brown has written: “Think of your soul as a shelf. It has only so much room. You can place whatever things you wish on the shelf, but only at the expense of other things for which there is not room. Too often the shelf is stocked with hatred, prejudice, revenge, envy, lust, selfishness, etc. But when those things take up our shelf space, no room is left for God and God’s will and love and purposes for
us.” Lent then, can be a time for soul-searching and for “shelf-cleaning.”
The late Peter Gomes has written that Lent is a time for “silence, study, and service.” The world is a noisy place; silence is a rare and precious thing. For us, silence can be the place in which we both seek and experience the presence of God. “Be still and know that I am God,” says the scriptures. Dr. Gomes suggests at least a fifteen minute period of silence each day.
He writes of study. An ambitious course of study and regular reading and ordered reflection helps us to make good use of the 40 days of Lent. And he writes of service. He notes that Lent is not private or personal. So, lest we become too private and self-absorbed in Lent, we should search for ways in which we might give time to some work or kindness which is not only for ourselves. Where can we do some good? Who needs our help? What can we do for others that will make a difference?
Good suggestions all. Simply put, Lent provides the means for us to slow down, quiet down, reflect on our lives, and attend to those parts of our lives we often neglect. I would also encourage us to attend worship each Sunday during the Lenten season, and to attend the special services of Holy Week: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday. During those holy days, we will recall the depth of love Jesus has, and how far love was willing to go and why. I am convicted that sharing these moments of worship together will make our Easter celebration all the more meaningful and joyful. Come and worship!
Rev. Dr. Doris Barron-Shell