It’s Lent. And I don’t feel very Lenten.
I received ashes last Wednesday during our Ash Wednesday service. I even wore the smudge on my forehead to the grocery store after worship (which might count, in Jesus’ words, as “parading your piety before men”). On the first Sunday in Lent I preached the obligatory sermon on the story of Jesus’ temptations. I even noted the purple fabric thoughtfully draped and wrapped throughout the sanctuary.
So, I’m trying hard to get into the spirit of the season – I really am – but it’s not happening. And I’m probably not alone.
One guess is that I’m missing those long, Midwestern winters. There’s nothing like a long, unforgiving winter to get you ready for Easter. (My favorite storyteller Garrison Keillor likes to say that March in Minnesota is for people who don’t drink – to show them what a hangover feels like.)
But the truth is, I don’t really miss the kind of winter that stretches well into March (and April). I kind of like daytime temperatures in the 70s which is what you have if you live in south Florida.
Another guess is that I haven’t given up anything this year. I know other people who are giving up chocolate, beer, or ice cream for the season. Frankly, I’ve never been much of a “give something up” kind of person (or much of a chocolate and beer kind of person either). I’ve always found that “taking something on” works better for me.
But not this year. My Lenten disciplines of reading and prayer are nice, but I’m not on the road to Jerusalem just yet.
My best guess is that the routines of church life are keeping me from the spiritual experience I really want. Ironic, isn’t it? I’m so busy doing all the things people expect of me at this time of year, and all those things are turning out to be a distraction from the one thing that really matters, the one thing I really want.
How did things ever get this way? How did our activities and programs and meetings take on such importance that they now leave little room for … God?
My friend and neighbor Father Sherod Mallow, rector at All Saints Church, tells me that his church decided to give up meetings for Lent one year. They called it a “meet-less Lent.” I was intrigued. But he said it was a disaster. Apparently you can’t stop meeting during Florida’s peak season, the time of year when everyone is around (I can’t believe how many Canadian license plates I see on the road).
I wonder what that leaves.
This is an important season to me. Not that I like feeling penitent all the time, but I do like the feeling of preparation – the idea that Easter is coming and that I need to get ready. More than anything I want to make the journey to Jerusalem with Jesus, trusting that he knows what he’s doing, trusting that he can see what I can’t see, trusting that Easter will surprise and dazzle and bring new life.
Excuse me while I set aside a few minutes to reflect on that.