(My March Article for our church Newsletter, the Courant)
The church year continues its journey as we move, in just a few short days, from the Ordinary time after Epiphany into the season of Lent. For many Lent is seen as little more than a time of darkness and sacrifice. Indeed, I’ve occasionally had people admit that they wonder if it’s really nothing more than the church’s attempt to break up the monotony of winter’s last weeks and guilt people back into the pews before Easter. Guilt, of course, is an entirely ineffective method for bringing about lasting change (and, if Jesus’ ministry is any kind of an example, not one that the church has any business using). Lent, on the other hand, has proven itself to be exceptionally effective at kick-starting our discipleship – at least when approached thoughtfully and intentionally.
Originally, the word “lent” came into the church from the English word “lencten” which referred to the impending season of spring, but I’d like to suggest that the Italian word lento is even more appropriate for contemporary Christians:
adverb & adj.
In a slow tempo. Very Slowly.
Many of us are looking forward to spring and summer; we’re planning our vacations, imagining picnics, anticipating hikes and bike rides, and dreaming of late nights, hot weather and gorgeous sunsets. February, March and the earliest days of April often seem like they’re “getting in the way” of the rest of our lives. Few of us look forward to the last dark days of winter; instead, we pray for its quick death and hope for an early spring.
The same is true for Easter. Everyone loves Easter. We love the joy and celebration – the big hymns and the familiar excitement of Christ’s resurrection. Like winter, Lent often becomes a season of drawn-out misery as we await Easter. You may be surprised to know that I actually like the season of Lent. Seriously: I enjoy it. Why? Because Lent is an entire season set aside in the Church’s calendar calling us to (re)dedication and (re)commitment. God has done so much for us; Lent asks whether we have responded appropriately.
• Simple Fact #1: (Re)dedication and (re)commitment are impossible without self-evaluation
• Simple Fact #2: Self-evolution takes time
• Simple Fact #3: Many of us live such busy lives that we cannot (or more honestly do not) take the time to honestly evaluate the state of our faith, and because of that, we do not (and can not) seriously (re)dedicate or lives to Christ’s lordship and (re)commit ourselves to faithful living
So, if I can offer one bit of advice for the upcoming season of Lent, it is this: modify it with the adjective lento. Slow down. Take it slooowwwly.
The practice of “giving something up” for Lent is a wonderful way to inject holy slowness into your life. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize that unholy levels of busyness are a simple result of doing too much stuff. It isn’t usually bad stuff or evil stuff. It is merely unnecessary stuff, and getting rid of it for a season (or longer!) is the perfect way to free up the necessary time and space needed to foster a healthy spiritual life.
• What is standing between you and holiness?
• What busyness is preventing you from living faithfully?
• When you take the time to look deeply into your life (your priorities, your use of time, resources, gifts and skills) what could use a little revision?
Lent asks us to imagine where God wants us to be and honestly evaluate where we are. Then, when we see the difference between the two, to (re)dedicate ourselves to holy living and (re)commit ourselves to whatever will help shrink that gap.
Have a blessed and lento season of Lent, and of course, do not hesitate to give me a call or drop me an e-mail if you’d like to discuss this further and more personally.
Grace and Peace,