Lent 101: Reflect, Reorient, Return

The journey of faith + doubt is just that: a continual, on-the-move sojourn toward God, toward Love, toward deeper understanding and truer relationship.

Around The Table we’ve always honored that relationship to God, self, others and creation is best when it is lived and practiced. It is not just about what you believe, but about how what you believe floods how you live and flourishes in how you behave. We talk a lot about our four commonly held practices that infuse much of our weekly and monthly rhythms: listening, hospitality, compassion & action.

In the Christian story, a particular season leading up to the celebration of Easter has been designated to reevaluate our lives and our practices. It is called “Lent”. It makes up the 47 days leading to Easter, beginning with Ash Wednesday (this year March 1st - April 16th). And if you're doing the math, you recognize that this 6 and a half weeks leading up to Easter includes 6 Sundays. On Sundays, the point is to follow God's command to rest.

Lent brings up a lot of religious words, some with baggage, others with technical definitions and theological importance. Words like sin, repentance, forgiveness, fasting, mortality and divinity. Lent has traditionally been practiced as a fast, a time to remove distractions in order to pay fuller attention to the things of God.

I like to think of Lent as a season of returning to center, reorientation and honest reflection. Lent is an Old English word for Spring also related to the Dutch word meaning “lengthening days.”

What if our struggles, questions, darkest hours and failures are the very place we encounter the truth of our story in the midst of God’s world-wide story?

Lent is a time
to reflect on the undertow in the world’s current
to reorient and reevaluate our relationships, our shared humanity
to return to our Center, our Source, our Light and Pathway through life

You may choose to practice lent in any sort of way that helps you put these actions (reflection, reorientation, returning) into practice. A simple way to think of it is in terms of addition or subtraction. What one thing can you add to your life right now that reorients your personhood and habits? What one thing can you subtract for your life right now that reevaluates your attitudes and reactions?

Maybe there is one thing you’d like to add into your practices over the next month or so:
- a time & space to practice centering prayer
- a habit of volunteering and serving
- keeping a daily gratitude journal of how you recognize God’s love in your daily world

Maybe there is one thing you’d like to subtract from your practices over the next month or so:
- your habit of too much screen time or media consumption
- your bad attitude toward your current situation at home, work, school, or the political climate
- your dependency on a “comfort item” like food, alcohol or nicotine.

One of my favorite images for encountering the Lenten season is that of the Old Testament prophet, Joel, who encourages us to tear upon our hearts before God (figuratively, of course). There was a cultural custom when fasting during Joel’s time in history that people would tare their clothes and heap themselves in ashes while mourning and fasting. Joel says: get the the heart of the matter. The Hebrew understanding of heart is associated with will and intelligence, not primarily emotions.

Lent allows us to get intentional about returning, reorienting and reflection.

“That is why the Lord says,
'Turn to me now, while there is time.
Give me your hearts.
Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
Don’t tear your clothing in your grief,
but tear your hearts instead.'
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He is eager to relent and not punish." (Joel 2:12-13, NLT)

There is a lot more to be said about this particular prophetic piece of scripture - and perhaps we’ll blog about it next week. But for now: let’s get started. Lend God your heart & your mind as you dig into a season set aside to return to center.

Its good to set aside some time to take stock. Whether you’re a doubter, disciple, somewhere in between or a little bit of both,
You are invited to join us through the season of Lent.

Returning Together,
Pastor Libby