12 February 2013

From dust/to dust: a reminder

Why celebrate a Lenten season? 

We humans tend to forget things. We especially tend to forget things we don't particularly like. If it were up to us, we'd probably just have Christmas and Easter. And Christmas and Easter again.
And Christmas and Easter are great - they are both celebrations of hallelujahs, of wonderfulness, of Christ, of Grace.

And grace is good. It's not just good, it's it. It is the story. The climax. The point.

But guess how Grace doesn't make sense?


It's like Cinderella meeting Prince Charming without our having seen her scrubbing the floor.

It's like a wedding day without the courtship (angst).

And, here in America, Protestant land, we have done just that. We have gone with grace alone - with Christmas and Easter only, and if you look around, we seem to have forgotten the evil stepmother.

The hours on our knees.

The altar, the sacrifices, the law.

And it shows in the lives we lead. We are overgraced and underhumbled.

What does this have to do with the Church calendar? We forget the things we want to forget and remember the things we want to remember; we don't like the altars or the law. But they're necessary. And something that helps us remember is Lent.

Lent is the season in the church calendar that reminds us of the story behind the Grace. Of the law. Of our humanness and of our need for Christ.

And, frankly, I need reminding. I'm a seasonal gal, and an absent minded professor on top of that. I operate seasonally - I drink red wine in the winter and white in the summer; I get so excited for red beans and rice and heavy stews as soon as the leaves start to change; in May, it's all I can do not to make pitchers and pitchers of pina coladas and sit on the back deck dreaming of the gardens I have not planted.

I am not the only one. We are seasonal creatures. We were created for the seasons and the seasons were created for us.

[This is what's wrong with all the folks in Southern California;  seasonlessness leads to insanity.] 

Anyway, I need the seasons as reminders, or my life would be all out of whack. The same with my spiritual life. I need Advent and Epiphany and Pentecost and most definitely Lent.

So, what do we do with Lent? Well, it has been traditionally a time for fasting.
Find a major form of spirituality that is not all tied up with food, and you will have found something noteworthy. And we Christians are no different. Paul (again, apostle, not husband) preached about food; one of our very few sacraments is the Eucharist, the Great Thanksgiving, the Lord's Supper.

What do we do to commune - to sign and seal our common relationship with Christ?

We don't shake hands or hug or kiss or make love or visit.
We eat together. Bread and Wine.

So, during Lent, when we remember our separation from the Lord and our great need for his Redemption, we fast. And it needs to be from food. 

But, Lent is a fast with a purpose (and it's not to look better in our bathing suits, like one darling little fluttery girl once told me). It's a fast to have us contemplate; to have us pray and meditate on our sin and our need for Christ. It is there to get us ready for Easter; to make us know what the resurrection means.

We must also pray and reorient ourselves to a more contemplative season in life.  It should be quieter and calmer.  (It's always frustrating that the St. Patrick's Day celebrations and my middle child's birthday are mid-lent.  But, we are not legalists. We take the day off).

So, we confess and we pray, and we avoid some of the things that take us away from these pursuits.  For me, social media and empty comedic television are always a temptation, and so I usually shut all of that down during Lent.  But, it's different for every person.  Find what it is for you, and move away from it. 

Regardless, I cannot recommend this enough:  Consider, no matter your faith tradition, adopting an intentional Lent.  It is not a biblical command, but when done correctly and without too much self-seriousness, it can help to bring us to a fuller understanding of the Greatest Story Ever Told.

Wishing you all a Happy Lent! 

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