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 every year, and some folks 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 our choice determines where we’ll go.
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 it is that you’re invited, that depends. How shallow or how honestly we perceive ourselves determines Lent’s potential. Personal revitalization doesn’t occur automatically, but rather through introspection and an active willingness to close the gap between who you were 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 embrace the privilege to manage your choices.
Church holy days are stimulating reminders that we can leverage for realizing spiritual health. We’re invited to expect more than what comes of passively sitting through yet another cycle. Lent can even be harmful when reduced to a static, overly formal façade. Don’t let this happen to you! God’s Spirit energizes us for a spectacular journey surpassing the anesthetizing status quo. The power of the Most High transforms deep from within. Rather than focusing on deprivation, Lent invites us to achieve dramatic, lasting results. Lent is a catalyst that can advance new attitudes and actions. We can own and adapt Lent in this manner, choosing to immerse ourselves in love’s energy rather than withdrawing into a brooding silence (which doesn’t help anyone). Are you partnering with God on a light-filled spiritual journey? Lent is a great time to begin a joyous new life.
Lent need not have anything to do with dietary restrictions or eating fish on Fridays. No, that model of participation is disappearing and for good reasons. The mechanical rehearsing of church liturgical holidays and imposed institutional traditions doesn’t guarantee spiritual health. People realize that reflection and spirituality are more rightly lifestyles of consistent faith, surpassing mere church attendance and ritual observance. Whatever you think of Lent or any other church holiday, the challenge remains the same: adopt a continuous attitude of spiritual intimacy so that every day is holy, joyful and blessed.
And now for something different. A familiar theme returns in that Mark’s Gospel provides another version of Jesus’ baptism, the symbolism of which reminds us of another aspect of God’s transforming Spirit. John the Baptist didn’t invent baptism, which is a rite of initiation, cleansing and participation whose origins are lost in time. However, the way Jesus participated in baptism gives us a window into spiritual truth. Jesus wanted people to see that he, too, was willing to publically initiate himself. The water wasn’t the key, but it symbolized Jesus’ entry into the three years of intense ministry. What ministry is God helping you realize?
God was pleased with Jesus’ baptism because his heavenly voice proclaimed it with what are described as literal words. I wonder how many other people heard the voice or if it was only Jesus. Do you hear God’s voice? The other two times in the New Testament where God speaks directly are on the Mount of Transfiguration and in the Garden of Gethsemane. That God the Father rarely addresses people verbally is a separate, interesting topic. For now, back to the Jordan River with Jesus. No sooner had Jesus dried-off from the dip in the river than the Spirit began stirring. Jesus was assailed by temptation and he spent time in the desert wilds contemplating his mission. Then, Jesus leaped into his public life, preaching the good news of God’s love.
As we consider this grand sweep of events, we can make analogy to our lives. Initially, God can call any of us out of obscurity and we can wake up to our spiritual nature. Seldom do we hear with our ears words spoken from God. Yet, we need not feel disappointment because we have the sure voice of God’s Holy Spirit in our hearts. We may struggle inwardly as we weigh the cost of discipleship and discern what God wants. God’s Spirit communicates with us, but we must be ready and willing to listen. We must develop a sense of mindfulness wherein we are acutely aware of who and what we are in relation to divine promises and possibilities. If we expect to perceive God’s guidance then we must seek it and embrace awakening.
Like Jesus, we may feel assailed by temptation as we try to do God’s work. Have you felt hindered as you seek good for others? As we begin living an intentional spiritual life, we may, like Jesus, enter a scary wilderness. Armed with God’s Spirit, we endure and become stronger. We encounter and surpass whatever stands between us and our destiny.
During times of trial and tribulation we may wonder what God is up to. Rather than wait for an unlikely answer we can choose to live in the present despite persistent uncertainty. As we realize spiritual awakening we will fathom our life purpose of receiving and sharing God’s love and truth. Get ready for this restored vision of Lent. Join us as we travel together and cross into a new vision of God’s promised land. Come join us!
–Reverend Larry Hoxey