Lent Traps

Dear People of Grace,
Blessings on you, this Lent.
Lent is one of the seasons of the church year, the forty days before Easter.  In church history, it used to be time that people would pray and study to prepare themselves for their baptisms.  Over time, it grew into forty days that we use to devote to prayer, abstain from things that distract us, and increase our giving to the poor.  We pray that the Holy Spirit will use these practices to turn us from focusing on ourselves towards focusing on Jesus, so that we are ready to hear the Easter message of Life!
I think of these disciplines, and the more somber, reflective worship style of Lent, as time for us to let our walk with God be deepened.  I think it is during this time that God takes us from being the crowds who seek healing and food from Jesus, and brings us further in: into disciples that follow Jesus, and carry his message to the world.  This takes time, and it isn’t our doing: it’s God’s!
Here’s a true confession: it’s much easier for me to think about deepening discipleship than about some of the other stuff we talk about during Lent: sin and death.  The two sermons I preached on Ash Wednesday were some of the hardest sermons I’ve preached all year, and maybe not the best, because the readings for the day were all about sin and death.  I don’t like to preach about those things, and they aren’t fun!  Besides, I think of those two things as very different: death is part of human life, and although I don’t like it, I think of it as natural, not shameful.  Sin I think of as all the ways that we fall short of what God expects of us, and I don’t accept it as a natural part of human life: it is something I am sorry for.  I’m not always comfortable with all the ways the church has connected to two of those things into one.  And yet Lent invites us to contemplate them together, in order to draw us deeper into our need for God.
The other reason I sometimes have mixed feelings about focusing on sin and death is because I think that sometimes they turn us towards ourselves- our own sin and death.  And I hope that ultimately, in the end, we are turned towards God more than towards ourselves.  I want what we get out of Lent to be a focus on God.  As C.S. Lewis says “Humility isn’t thinking less of ourselves, it is thinking of ourselves less.”
Yet the church has long held that thinking about our own sin, thinking about our own death, they both drive us to God, they both turn us towards God.  They help us put our own trust less in ourselves, and more in God. Is that true for you?
Whether it’s thinking about sin and death, or adopting some of the spiritual practices of Lent (Daily Prayer on the phone with us, Wends Evening Prayers, giving something up personally, etc) I pray and trust the Holy Spirit is turning your hearts towards God this Lent.  Because the Easter message we’re about to hear is absolutely wonderful!
Pastor Lura

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