Sunday Message for 21 February 2021: “Lent Renewal”
Posted On February 10, 2021
Welcome to Lent, a period of forty days historically celebrated as a time of examination and preparation leading up to Easter.
How should Lent be spent? Lent repeats ever year, and many people say that they look forward to this because Lent helps them focus on spirituality. Other folks report that nothing seems to change, and that Lent becomes just another rehearsed routine leading nowhere. Which outcome best reflects your experiences? What do you want different for 2021? As always, the power of your choice determines where you will go and how you may get there.
For all its importance, Lent isn’t magic. Whether your view of Lent is more positive or negative, whether you’re skeptical or believing in church holy days, Lent is an invitation. As to what you’re invited to, that depends. Do you want to mature spiritually and grow closer to God or is it enough to just go through the motions of another round of religious holidays? How you handle these and similar questions will 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 and where you are and where you’re headed. The critical crisis is the present, the now moment when you decide what attitudes and behaviors can make life better for you. If Lent helps you achieve this then that’s great. If, however, traditional ways of celebrating Lent aren’t meeting your goals then perhaps it is time to take a different view.
Church holy days such as Lent can become stimulating reminders that there’s more to life than just numbers on a calendar. God invites spiritually awakened followers 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 if it is reduced to a static, overly formal façade.
Don’t let the power of Lent escape you. God’s spirit energizes you for a spectacular journey from apathy to spiritual vitality. Take responsibility for your spiritual development. Spiritual health is your journey and you can’t ride piggy-back as if someone else can take you to the spiritual promised land. The power of God can transform you deep from within, helping you achieve a life of holistic wellbeing (health in body, mind & spirit). To achieve this requires your constant management.
Rather than focusing on Lent as an exercise in dietary and other deprivations consider it as an invitation to charge your spiritual batteries. Lent can be an energizing catalyst that can advance life-enhancing attitudes and actions. You can own and adapt Lent in this manner, choosing to immerse yourself in spiritual vitality rather than withdrawing into a brooding soul sleep. Are you partnering with God on your journey through life? Lent is a great time to initiate and empower a new you.
Lent need not have anything to do with peculiar practices such as eating fish on Fridays. Thankfully, that model of participation is waning and for good reasons. Consider “Claire,” a lifelong church member in a neighborhood near you. Claire had been indoctrinated and confirmed by a church wherein a priest and a paternalistic hierarchy presumed to have access to God above ordinary people. Claire was taught that she had to rely on these religious specialists who alone were privileged to engage a bizarre kabuki theater, swiping their hands and chanting ritual magic.
In the cathedral-like church Claire attended she was immersed into Lent in a manner that relegated it as something 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 go-through-the-motions activity. Claire now felt God’s intimate presence from the inside/out. Claire’s Lent now transcended a fleeting abstinence and deprivation and became for her a life-changing fulfilment through God’s spirit.
There are legions of people like Claire. The great news is that God invites all people who are unfulfilled to set aside impoverished religion and embrace personal transformation. The spirit of the Almighty can liberate anyone once they desire escape from a dreary, despairing life. Seek God. Break free. Resist spiritual slavery. Many people simply don’t know any better and remain stuck until they embrace that moment of insight.
Whatever you think of Lent or any other church holiday, pursue spiritual health every day. Live each moment as a holy, joyful and blessed encounter with the beauty of life and the embrace of the divine. Resist seduction by the mechanistic repetition of church holidays and institutional traditions, none of which are magical shortcuts. Your faith journey is a partnership between you and God, beyond what priests, holy days and rituals combined can accomplish.
Should you give up something during Lent? Sure, especially if it’s something standing in your way and holding you back. Consider giving up the fear of stepping outside weak expectations of who and what you are. Claim God’s promises and possibilities as you leverage God’s spirit. Own Lent; make it yours. 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.