It was just last Sunday when we stood on top of the Mountain and saw the hope of the resurrection shine before us. It was only last Sunday, when, despite the weather, the sanctuary was full of joy as we gave thanks for two new lives among us. And it was only last Sunday, that a feeling of great joy pervaded this congregation.
But today is Wednesday, and like the disciples we too were unable to stay on top of the mountain. The celebration of Sunday has seemingly left the room and now we gather in somber silence as our spiritual journey now leads us towards Jerusalem and the cross.
I am not sure if the transition from Epiphany to Lent is ever an easy one. Even though we see the days growing longer, we know our lives are still gripped by winter and suddenly our spiritual lives and our physical realities have entered into one accord. as . . . . we come to terms with the knowledge that we aren’t there yet.
Spring weather has yet to break forth and neither has the reign of God, which we proclaimed with song and praise just a few months back. So as we do every year, we again find ourselves somewhere between winter and spring, cold and warmth, snow and flowers. We again find ourselves somewhere between the mountain and the cross, life and the tomb.
“You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” These are sobering words, intentionally designed to ground us in our own mortality.
We are dust, formed by God from the earth, and to the earth someday we will return. What we do with the time we are given between birth and death is up to us. God has a dream for us, and God has also given us the freedom to choose that dream or not. Now is the time to ask, “Am I living God’s dream, or something else? Only you know the answer to this question, you feel it deep down, when you wake at night surrounded by darkness, divorced from everything and everyone in the world and you feel the longing deep inside for something more, something fuller, something greater. And deep down you know you are not fully living the dream God has for you, but something else.
Welcome to the Season of Lent, it is our time to stop and explore what God’s dream for each of us may be.
On Sunday, we will again join Jesus in the desert. For forty days and nights, Jesus removed himself from the distractions of the world so he could focus on what God was asking him to do. Where is your deserted place, free of the technology that keeps us plugged into the world around us? Where is that quiet place, free of the technology that bombards you with sensory overload, which allows you to just spend time being with and listening for God?
Modern life is more about doing, than being. Doing is about getting things done. Being is about intentionally resting in the arms of God. Lent is about being, about resting in the arms of God by identifying what is unessential in our lives and letting it go for a while.
Many of my colleagues have decided that social media is an extra they can live without. For Lent, they are turning off their Facebook and twitter apps and using their free time to be more present to God, to their families and each other. What Is the time drain in your life? Could it be Facebook or Twitter or is it something else? Perhaps instead of social media, your time drain is twenty- four hour news, or endless talk radio or maybe the ongoing train wrecks of reality television. All have the same effect on our lives as Facebook and Twitter, they demand our attention in real time and hold it hostage until we find the courage to let go. The desert, or God’s loving arms may be as close by and as easily available to us as flipping the off switch on our televisions, computers and mobile devices.
Lent,however, is more than just finding the desert or quiet place within and without, or about resting in the arms of God. Lent is also about seeking and seeing God in all places, all people and all things. In January, Rabbi Joe Murray discussed how simply saying grace before a meal reminds us that all food, no matter how simple or lavish, is sacred . . . an act of God. Fasting tells us we are dependent on God, dependent on God’s generosity for the grain our bread is made from and our livestock is fed with. We are dependent on God for the rain that waters the earth and helps keep us fed.
All of creation is sacred and all of creation is part of the Almighty, the challenge we face is being able to recognize the Divine in all we see and making the Divine part of all we do.
In a few minutes time we will be invited into a Holy and Sacred Lent. The same invitation we hear every year and often respond to with acts of sacrifice and denial. This year, I invite you into a Holy Lent filled with sacrifice and denial. However I invite you into a season of sacrifice and denial, not for the sake of discipline, but for the opportunity to make yourself more open, more receptive to the movement of the Divine in your life. I invite you to do this by creating open, desert spaces in your daily life so God can lead you to the dream God has for your life.