Since Lent is a period of turning, let us make a radical turn this year!
For most of our conscious religious lives, Lent has been understood as “giving up”. I was challenged by a colleague during lunch this week with, “What are you giving up for Lent? From how you are eating, there surely is no fasting in your plan for Lent!”
My facetious response was, “I’ll be feasting this Lent in celebration of the Feast that awaits me at Easter!”
After thinking about that response, I realized that ironically, Lent is open to an understanding that it is a time for embracing deep gratitude for Christ’s mercies. Grateful, rejoicing can surely lead us into thankful feasting, rather than leading us to fasting and meditations that highlight our shortcomings, or worse, our penitential piety, or our traditional religiosity. We could consider a return home during these 40 days as a journey of festive celebrations! No! Let us consider it.
We all know that Lent is 40 days of preparation to ready us to share in the Passion of Christ----Holy Week, His Death and His Resurrection. Through disciplines of prayer, self-examination, self-denial, repentance, and almsgiving (mercy gifts) we prepare to turn from our self-centered life to one that is centered upon The Other (God) and others.
In short, this is a period to turn toward Home. Lent is a time for us to turn toward our true self. Lent is the moment when we are called to lift our head and eyes beyond our self centered, broken promises, and our self fabricated broken dreams. We are called to look toward forgiveness, and healing, and reunion with Love that transcends all understanding. It is not only Thomas Wolf that calls angles to look homeward. Jesus calls us to look homeward as His angels, and brothers, and sisters.
Think I’m going home! Think I’m going back to the place where I belong! No more thinking “about” going home; I’m going home this Lent.
It is not in sadness that you and I face going home. I remember when I was “let loose” from class; and I headed home after school that it was with a sense of excitement and joy. I remember that the closer that I got to home that I began to skip, and then at the last, I would begin to run to Mom’s kitchen where she was ready to embrace me, and where gingerbread and milk began the feast.
Going home became a time for growing gladness and joyful expectation of homecoming’s loving embrace. Going home gave no space or time for guilt or shame or self-incriminations. As I walked, skipped, ran, all these fell away along the trek to my mother’s open heart.
I do believe that during our Lenten’s meditations, and ruminations of the “place and condition” of our lives that rather than turning inward to self, because that is where we are obsessively trapped already; let us turn outward toward God the Father and reflect upon going home!
Lily Chang, our rector, has called for our congregation to read and study Henri J. M. Nouwen’s book, “The Return of the Prodigal Son”. As I have been meditating on Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, I see that it is a wonderful framework or foundation upon which to consider a new posture for Lent. It is a posture of turning toward home. It is a movement to begin to walk, then skip, then run home to Our Heavenly Father. The skipping, the rejoicing, Yes, and feasting along the way home is in character with the anticipation of the feast that our welcoming Father is readying for us.
With this posture of running home toward love and grace, I believe that Lent’s journey homeward is not framed in self denial, but is rapped in affirmation of belonging to a loving Father who awaits my home coming. That stance can truly prepare us to walk with Jesus, His Son, toward Heaven’s resurrection’s gate to ever lasting life in union with the Father, with the Son, and with the Holy Spirit.
No longer ask yourself, or others, “What am I, or you, giving up for Lent?” Declare instead, I am dropping everything, letting go of everything, letting loose of everything! I’m heading home!
Turn for home this Lent! Amen.