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Archive for February 17th, 2012

Hungry for Change

Dear Kindred in the Spirit,

[Reprinted from the ELUMC February Newsletter]

Lent, with its mysterious Ash Wednesday rituals, its haunting Maundy Thursday service and its quiet prayer vigil is a favorite season for many.  But for others, it’s a season of obligation to be endured, followed not by lasting change but by over-indulgence in whatever was given up for 40 days. 

Historically, Lent was developed as a time of preparation for baptism in the early church. Spiritual disciplines were ramped up for those preparing to “die and rise with Christ” (as baptism is sometimes described). The penitential aspect of Lent didn’t become dominant until the late 5th century when most baptisms were of infants, not adults in need of preparation. As a result, the rituals of Lent became focused on renewing our identity as followers of Christ by shedding those things that keep us from that journey.

But as these disciplines became fixed in tradition, they became less about freeing ourselves to focus on the things that really matter the most, and more about giving things up as a punishment or as a matter of course to appease a religious duty. Neither seem to serve us well.

What would feel different about Lent if we reclaimed that ancient focus—if we focused once again on preparation to renew our baptismal vows?  To move away from ‘business-as-usual’ and use this time for spiritual discovery?  To once again remember that we are called to live our lives as if death will never have the final say?  To learn (or re-learn) how to live as a resurrected people?

So let’s start again and ask: “What do we hunger for this Lent?” And let the answer not come from obligation or ease or thoughtlessness, saying: chocolate, sweets, salty snacks, red meat.

What if we chose a fast that has the potential to change us?

Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works.  For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes but bite and devour our brothers?  – St. John Chrysostem

Perhaps we may want to fast from food prepared by strangers and only eat what we cook or what is made by family and friends.  Or we might fast from mindless eating, choosing instead to savor our food and chew with gratitude.  We could fast from not knowing where our food is from or how it’s produced. Or maybe the fast you choose won’t have anything to do with food. Rather you will find yourself hungry for justice, choosing to fast from products that exploit, or mindsets that ignore the issues of equality. Perhaps your hunger for peace will lead you to fast from anger or from desires for revenge. 

Or perhaps you will find some other creative fast: like the ecumenical fast from carbon, or a fast from electronics, or a fast from speaking.

This Lent, may we come to know our longing to connect with the Holy. May we seek what our souls most deeply desire and let go of the lesser expectations and smaller wants that have kidnapped us again and again. May Lent be a season of discovery—of the change we are hungry for, of the modifications possible in our communities, of the alterations in our spiritual journey that are desirable. 

Shalom,  Pastor Kelly

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