As we move further into Lent this weekend, I want to check in with you about how it’s going. How are you keeping a “holy Lent,” to quote the invitation from Ash Wednesday? What disciplines have you chosen to help you grow closer to God? There are so many great ideas out there, and I’ve written in past Friday meditations about simple yet sacred things you can do in Lent. It really doesn’t have to be complicated to be good, though I don’t want to suggest it should feel easy. If it’s easy, then it’s probably not a discipline. Just like all the other times when we are training our bodies or minds, at first it is not easy or comfortable. But if our goal is worthwhile and good, then we work through that difficulty with confidence that we will be better and stronger on the other side. So it is with Lent.
If you haven’t yet taken up a discipline in Lent, you are not too late! Today can be the day when you enter into your calendar the 20 minutes you’re going to sit quietly and pray the Examen or read Forward Day by Day. Today can be the day when you decide to start a fast, whether it’s from something you eat or drink, or some behavior you know you should do without. Today can be the day when you say no to the compulsion to open Facebook and play Lent Madness instead. Today can be the day when you resist an unnecessary indulgence (afternoon Starbucks run!) and give that money away as alms. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t start your Lenten observance perfectly on Ash Wednesday. What matters is what you do now, and how your heart and your life show your commitment to getting closer to Jesus.
Speaking of Jesus, in our weekend Eucharists in Lent, Fr. Michael, Mtr. Erin and I are preaching about the prayer he taught his disciples when they asked him to teach them how to pray. Last weekend I preached about the prayer’s opening line: “Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” There is so much happening in those eight words that teach us about this God we worship and obey, and they pave the way for all the subsequent lines. This weekend Erin will explore “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven”. They are revolutionary words, when you stop to think about it. When we pray this we’re saying we expect the world we live in here and now to resemble more and more all the time the perfect reality of heaven. We’re saying we know that what God wants is not for everyone to die and come join him in some cloudy paradise in the sky, but for us to wake up and realize that God wants us to know and experience heaven right now on the good earth he created and put into our care. Yes, these are audacious and hopeful words, and we should pray them with fear and trepidation, for God expects us to do our part to make earth look more like heaven than it does today.
I am praying the prayer of Jesus today, and I’m praying for you, too. Grace and peace be with you, dear friends. See you this weekend.