Calendar, Meaning, Ministry

Lent

lent-candle

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

”Take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For those who have will be given more, and they will have an abundance. As for those who do not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

(Matthew 25:19-30, TNIV)

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  The season of Lent comes around every year.  It should not be a surprise.  For centuries, the church has moved in the same rhythm:  Advent – Christmas – Epiphany….Lent.  The season preceding Easter.  Like Advent, Lent is a darker and more somber season in the church calendar.  It is forty days of Good Friday, slowly and mournfully leading us to Resurrection Sunday.

But every year it catches me off guard.

What have I been doing the past year?  Why don’t I feel like a new person this year?  Didn’t I intend to make great strides in my spiritual life the last time this happened?  How did I come back to this place?

The beauty of the church calendar is that it is oriented and founded upon grace.  It is a grace-infusing loop that we are cycled through each year.

I fell behind this year; we all fall far behind – in our earnest desire to change the way we live our life, in our devotion to spending time learning to love God more, in our passion to help and love others.  Last year we set the bar high for ourselves but now looking back, it is hard to see much improvement over the last twelve months.  Old habits die hard and new ones just die quickly.

But Lent is not a one time thing.  Each year, we are given a new chance.  A new opportunity to reflect on our lives: How do I spend my time?  How do I spend my money?  What is the condition of my mind?  And my heart?  What things, through the power of the Easter event, can change in my life?

While I know that next year I will likely have similar thoughts as Lent begins and as the Easter celebration approaches, this year I want to try in small and humble ways to be more faithful with what I have been given.  Rather than making enormous changes in my life for forty days, I want to make small decisions and small replacements that help me to re-orient my life toward Easter, toward Resurrection and Life.  I would like to take my tiny little fleck of gold and see how I can be more faithful this year than I was the last.

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