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Sunday Message for 10 March 2019 (1st Sunday of Lent): “Lent Renewal”

Welcome to Lent, a period of forty days historically celebrated as a time of examination and preparation leading up to Easter.

Lent is sent, but how is it spent? Lent repeats ever year, and many people say that they look forward to this journey because it helps them focus on spiritual themes. Other folks report that nothing seems to change, and that Lent becomes just another routine leading nowhere. Which outcome do you expect? As always, the power of your choice determines where you will go and how you may get there.

Lent isn’t magic. Whether your view of Lent is more positive or negative, whether you’re skeptical or believing, Lent is an invitation. As to what you’re invited to, that depends. How you perceive your role in forging your spiritual health may determine Lent’s potential. Personal revitalization doesn’t occur automatically, but rather through introspection and then by making choices to close the gap between who you are and what you’re becoming. The critical crisis is the present, the now moment when you decide who and what you are and how you perceive and embrace your choices.

Church holy days such as Lent can become stimulating reminders that there’s more to life than just numbers on a calendar. God invites the spiritually awakened to expect more than passively sitting through yet another day, another month, another year. As with much of religion, Lent can be sapped of its potential power if it is reduced to a static, overly formal façade. Don’t let this happen to you! God’s spirit energizes you for a spectacular journey from apathy to spiritual vitality. The power of God transforms deep from within and can help you achieve a life of holistic wellbeing (health in body, mind & spirit).

Rather than focusing on Lent as an exercise in deprivation perceive it as an invitation to enrich your spiritual bank account. Lent is a catalyst that can advance new life-enhancing attitudes and actions. You can own and adapt Lent in this manner, choosing to immerse yourself in love’s energy rather than withdrawing into a brooding silence or soul sleep. Are you partnering with God on a vibrant spiritual journey? Lent is a great time to initiate and supercharge a new you.

Lent need not have anything to do with dietary restrictions such as eating fish on Fridays. No, that model of participation is disappearing and for good reasons. Consider “Claire,” a lifelong church member in a neighborhood near you. Claire had been indoctrinated and confirmed by a church structure wherein a priest and a paternalistic hierarchy presumed to be privileged above ordinary people, able to perform spiritual work by swiping their hands and chanting ritual magic.  Claire was raised in a family that followed all the strict church guidelines, many of which encouraged a formal, outward religiosity. All of this diminished the role of individuals’ managing their own spirituality.

Claire was taught about Lent in a way that relegated it akin to a temporary prison sentence, a confining structure within which all people were supposed to fit as they contemplated their sins in the wake of Christ’s distant holiness. After decades of vague but persistent dissatisfaction with the Church as Big Brother, Claire broke from the herd and risked social alienation. Claire had decided to seek the truth. In her new spiritual life, Lent became more than just another round of rehearsing repentance or some cattle-call rite.  Claire now felt God’s intimate presence. Claire’s Lent transcended a fleeting abstinence and deprivation and became for her a life-changing fulfilment through God’s spirit.

There are legions of other Claires, perhaps some whom you know and love. As with Claire, God invites people who are unfulfilled to set aside bad religion and embrace a life transformation. The spirit of the Almighty can liberate anyone once they desire escape from whatever is holding them back. Seek God. Break free. Resist spiritual slavery. Some people simply don’t know any better and remain stuck until they embrace that pivotal moment of change.

Whatever you think of Lent or any other church holiday, pursue spiritual health so that every day is a holy, joyful and blessed encounter with the divine. The mechanistic repetition of church holidays and institutional traditions does not guarantee spiritual health and may even detract from it. Consider that a vibrant spiritual life is no accident. Rather, a blossoming spirituality emerges from managing all aspects of your life beyond what priests, holy days and ritual observance can accomplish.

Give up something during Lent? Along with surrendering whatever stand in your way, also consider giving up the fear of stepping outside weak expectations of who and what you are. Claim God’s promises and possibilities as you indulge the bounty of God’s spirit during Lent. Own Lent; make it yours. Sure, learn from others and consider their advice, but realize that God calls you to make Lent your unique journey with the Almighty. Emerge from Lent stronger than ever knowing that God is your faith-building partner every step of the way.

–Reverend Hoxey

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