Dear Friends of Second Church,
Believe it or not, it’s only one week until the beginning of Lent—the weeks leading up to Easter, reserved by the Church as a special season of preparation and self-examination before the great festival of resurrection and new life.
For those who grew up “giving things up” for Lent, the Church preached a deliberate practice of self-denial to these coming weeks, and for some, that can be a bitter memory. Recently, I read an article quoting someone who left church at eighteen and has never looked back, saying, “Lent is everything I hated about church. All the ‘thou shalt not,’ all the cult of suffering, all the guilt.”
So often, when people walk away from their faith, it’s because they have begun to understand the basic attributes of a God they can’t believe in—but for any number of reasons, it doesn’t register with them that other faithful people would not and could not believe in that kind of God, either. There’s nobody around who urges them to figure out what it is they do believe, what it is they feel should be most important, or where it is in life that they see the outline of things of genuinely transcendent value.
Sad to say, there are many faith communities it seems easy enough to walk away from. Or even the morally superior move. But the idea that it might actually be God prompting our conscience in the departure is a new thought for some.
That’s why Lent is a good idea for us.
Not that we should all be packing our spiritual bags and starting to look for new homes….but because it’s important for us to take stock of when and where and how we encounter the Holy in our particular lives. Instead of nodding dutifully and seeking to follow a God we’re “supposed to believe in,” according to…somebody….we should be seeking the God who speaks to us within our own circumstances, who points to what’s important from where we stand, who delights and instructs us in ways that others may scarcely even see.
Lent is a time to look for that God–the God of our unique understanding, the God who is for us in the most personal ways.
In the days after Easter, we begin to tell the story of the disciples after the resurrection, when the “Jesus movement” slowly discovered it was called to become the Church. It’s then that we begin to engage how this God, who appears so dramatically and personally and differently to each person, can be the God who calls us all to common life and common service in his name.
That’s a central part of the story, and we will get to that, believe me. But let it keep for now. In these next few weeks, take time to seek the God you feel called to believe in. Who is that God? How is that God looking to be in relationship with you? What difference should it make, and does it?
This year, let’s use Lent to give up, not chocolate or soda or cigarettes, but what is false about our faith. Let’s trust God to be big enough to hold all our differences, and all the unique ways we encounter Him, in the palm of His hand.
Let’s learn how it is He has chosen to love us. And give up everything else.
See you in church,