This is a reflection on Lent that I was asked to give this morning at our church’s Easter sunrise service, and it seemed like maybe I should share it here, too:
I didn’t give up anything for Lent this year and I didn’t adopt any practices to focus my attention. Honestly, the last year has afforded me plenty of faith-stretching and faith-testing experiences, and I really wasn’t in the mood.
At some point during Lent, I was drawn to reading through all of the lenten lectionary texts. If this was a conscious decision, I didn’t tell myself. I didn’t want to “decide” to do something and then fail; I’ve had enough of that, too.
The first reading of Psalm 51 on Ash Wednesday utterly captivated me “in your great tenderness wipe away my offences” (New Jerusalem Bible). Why should this be so surprising to a life-long, deeply devoted Christian? Somehow, in my imagination, I had construed Lent as a time of spiritual self-flagellation. Reading this Psalm, rather than tightening the chains of mortification, began a process of loosing those chains and setting me on a journey to a freedom I have never known before.
On and on, in text after text, the same life-giving refrain was repeated: where I expected judgment, there was mercy; where I expected criticism, there was loving kindness. And the more I read, the more I craved reading and experienced in fresh ways the great khesed, or loving kindness, of God.
Given that I spent seven years teaching Bible at a university, I find it sometimes ironic, sometimes sad, and sometimes comical how often I forget and find myself in need of reminding about these things. The witness of scripture can be especially powerful if one suffers from the same know-it-all syndrome that I do.
I am also reminded that Lent is a journey — an opportunity to create space for the presence of God, within oneself and within the world. And as it seems that I forget so easily, I’m glad that it is a journey that we have the opportunity to take every year – for Christ is risen!