There is a story about a group of pastors meeting together at St. Arbucks. One glances out the window and sees Jesus descending in the clouds. He quickly pulled out his briefcase and began rifling through important papers. “Jesus is coming” he whispered, “Look busy!”
I was talking to one of my Up Town friends yesterday and he asked me about Lent. He heard of it that day at a chapel service at the Salvation Army (Everybody is getting liturgical lately. Have you noticed?). He wanted some advice on what he could give up. He thought about giving up bread but he realised that was half his diet and besides it would be rude to be picky about food given to him. He thought about giving up Coffee but it was the substance that warmed him on cold nights and much of his social interactions revolved around having coffee with friends. He was stumped! He does love God and now that he knew about Lent he wanted to honour God this Lent but how? I opened the scripture to show him that God desires obedience rather than sacrifice. I asked if there was an area of his life that he felt was out of step with God’s will for him. He mentioned his relationship with his sister which had grown quite tense. I invited him to spend this Lent being especially gracious to his sister. He knows it will be difficult but he also believes God can help him. He suggested that if God could help him love his sister for 40 days that God could help him to change the relationship entirely! He left determined and hopeful and much lighter than when we started the conversation.
I believe that many Lenten rituals can be mere religion and of little or no importance. I knew an Anglican priest who used to give up smoking every Lent. You knew it was Easter by the black smoke that began to billow from the church porch. It always reminded me of the election of a Pope. His giving something up merely made him crabby for 40 days! I don’t think that honours God. My friend has the right idea though; Lent is a time to change the world! I am thinking about how I can best join my friend in this endeavour.
I promised I would keep you updated about my poem. I did not win the poetry contest. I got an incomprehensible report back with a grade of 68 out of a possible 80. I guess that’s good; at least that is what I have decided to believe.