“So God created humankind in God’s own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female he created them… God saw all that he had made, and it was very good!” Genesis 1:27, 31
It’s a joy to re-enter Lent with you! On Ash Wednesday I shared with a couple members how much I enjoy Lent. Now if you are thinking it seems a bit strange to read “joy” and “Lent” in the same sentence or to hear me say that I enjoy the season of Lent, please consider these words from Marjorie Thompson:
“For the early church, Lent was just the opposite of a dreary season of restriction and self torture. It was understood as an opportunity to return to normal human life – the life of natural communion with God…”, with our brothers and sisters, and with all of God’s creation. 1
The early church believed that this “normal” state existed prior to “the Fall” – the point at which humans refused to accept
“…the single abstinence required by God. [Abstaining from the fruit of one tree] was a way of recognizing that human beings are dependent on God for life. …In refusing to accept the natural bounds of their creaturehood, they reached for the very place of God.”1
Like the Garden’s subtle tempter, our over-productive/ busy / consumer-based culture can subtly seduce us into putting ourselves before God and surpassing the “natural bounds” of our creaturehood – natural limits that ensures “abundant life” for all (including ourselves)! Our culture would have us believe that we can have it all, that we are capable of doing it all, and that we deserve it all. And, as we make this enticing choice to have it all, we are actually often making the choice to give up what God knows is best for us.
“In the early church, Lent . . . represented a return to the ‘fast from the tree’ that Adam and Eve broke: a life in which God was once more center and source…”2
This is why ‘fasting’ or giving up something for Lent began as a tradition. Unfortunately we have, like Adam and Eve’s first ‘fast’ made even the act of fasting – the turning to God – about ourselves. What can ‘I’ give up for Lent so that I can ‘carry a cross like Christ’.
This is why this year rather than giving up something I encouraged us all to take up prayer. To turn our hearts, minds and bodies to God. What I love about Lent is that it helps me to remember how much I need God. Lent helps us to remember that God is and should be “center” of our lives and “source” of all grace. Lent also helps us to accept limits that are actually life-giving for ourselves and all of God’s creation.
May we all delight in this season as we live consciously, simply within God’s counter-cultural household of grace once again. Welcome to Lent and welcome home! May life centered on God bring you true joy. – Amen. – Pastor Dan
1 Marjorie J. Thompson, Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1995) p. 72.
2 Thompson p. 73.