Thursday, February 11, 2016

This Season Of Lent



We have entered the season of Lent and, like many, I am looking at what I will be giving up during this time that leads me to the celebration of Easter Sunday. Lent is a time to focus on simple living, prayer and fasting, and as a period to grow closer to God. It also provides us with a time to cultivate gratitude for not only what we have in our lives but for a Savior who will dismantle us completely with his love, his grace, his mercy, and his compassion in the raw, brutality that his love displayed on the cross. 

But Lent should not just be a time of giving up something (like sweets, meat, coffee, social media) but also a time of giving something of oneself. Serving others is a way of serving God.  

Just as Christ became vulnerable by becoming a man on earth, we should use this season as a time to do likewise. Once we see the things we thought of as disadvantages as advantages for the kingdom, our perspective will change. All of our hurts, our woundedness, our brokenness, and our vulnerability have real power in the kingdom of heaven. The world too often rejects those things as weakness, but Christ tells us, "No, that's where your strength lies." As 1st Corinthians 1:27 reminds us, "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong." 

Jesus reminds us that he wants those who are not chosen by the world: the forgotten, the widow, the orphan, the refugee, the sojourner, the poor, the outcast, the outsider, and those who count for the least in this power struggle our society has to build its own personal Towers of Babel. Christ said that if we truly want to find him, we only have to look among those at the bottom of society who go unnoticed and unloved by most of us despite our claims of following a Savior who identified himself with them. 

We can volunteer to help with organizations that work for the poor in our area.

We can also pray for them. One website that provides daily prayers you can use to pray for the refugees is: http://www.prayforrefugees.com/

There are also plenty of excellent books that you can read during the season. I'm currently reading Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter by various authors ( St. Augustine, Wendell Berry, G K Chesterton, Henri Nouwen among them) published by Plough Publishing House.


Another one that came recommended to me was Phyllis Trickle's Eastertide: Prayers for Lent Through Easter from the Divine Hours

There are also beautiful Cd's you can buy or download for the season, including Lent at Ephesus and Easter at Ephesus by the Benedictines of Mary Queen of Apostles. These can be purchased at either Amazon or iTunes. 


Often, during the season, I find that I have to move past words in either prayer or praise to silence and in that silence I find God. There is a substance to silence one cannot find in all of the noise of the world that so often overwhelms us.  Ultimately, we seek communion with God. Lent is a season where we can take the time to focus on our relationship with God through Christ. 

It's a time of fasting and repentance. Two words not all popular in either our secular and our church culture. But by doing so, we are doing as God told the prophet Jeremiah to tell Israel, "You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart." (29:13) By doing this, we will seek and understand that He is not an impersonal God, but a loving one who gave His only begotten Son. When we deserved wrath, He offered us mercy. 

As we seek God, focus on Christ, and reach out to those who are most in need, we can pray this beautiful Franciscan prayer: 

A FRANCISCAN BLESSING

May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships...so that we may live from deep within our hearts.
May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of God's creations...so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war...so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless us with just enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in the world...so that we can do what others claim cannot be done: To bring justice and kindness to all our children and all our neighbors who are poor.
Amen.

This Lent, may we all move in the rhythm of grace, mercy, tenderness and compassion as Christ did.

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