By: Dr. Michael Gardner
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, that you may know the will of God, what is good, acceptable and perfect.”
The Season of Lent will start about the time most of you will read this weekly column. Ash Wednesday starts our annual journey toward Easter. Lent is an ancient practice of keeping forty days of reflection for the good of our souls.
As we overlay our cultural calendar over the Lenten Season this year, Pastor Karen reminded us at a recent Church Council meeting, for the first time since 1945, Lent stretches from Valentine’s Day (on Ash Wednesday) to April Fool’s Day (on Easter Day.) For more than half our congregation, including your senior pastor, that means this has never happened in our lifetimes. This coincidence of calendar prompted a reminder to United Methodist clergy from our national office that the sacred calendar and schedule takes precedence over secular. But it really doesn’t work that way, does it? In real life all of us, clergy included, have one foot in the sacred and the other in the secular. There is no artificial separation, as if we stand somehow disconnected from the world as Christians. Paul reminds us that we are to be in the world even though we ought to not be defined by it. (Romans 12:2) And on reflection, the overlap often gives us an opportunity to see new dimensions to the Christian message. For example, what better example of love is there than the love God gave us in Jesus? As we share signs of love with others, maybe we could pause and be thankful for his ultimate expression of love on the cross.
And surely if Easter is about anything, it is the ultimate April Fool’s Day message. Life and joy came from where no one expected to find it, in an empty grave! So when evil, death, pain, suffering, grief or loss seems to have the upper hand – surprise, it doesn’t! Even surprise lilies echo the message of Easter joy! In a way, our Easter series is about an unconventional approach to Lent. Instead of long faces and sacrificial “giving up” of some small pleasure like chocolate, how about if we give up some of the stuff that this world throws at us?
Join me in taking a daily Lenten fast from “regret,” “comparisons,” or any of the other things that stick to our souls and weigh us down. If we decreased the secular things that keep us from the life God sent Jesus to give us – then we might really be ready for a true sacred moment at Easter!
Join me for “Less is More: 40 Days of Decrease,” from John’s Gospel, starting this Sunday at 8:30, 9:45 or 11am (or on Ash Wednesday if you get this early!)
If you would like to revisit a past "Beyond Believing" article, please refer to the archive.