The early church used the 40 days of Lent, which we have now begun, to prepare new converts for baptism, to prepare them for their new lives as followers of Christ. Today, we often use this sacred time to work on our spiritual lives, to prepare ourselves for the new and renewed life in Christ that we celebrate at Easter, which marks the end of Lent. There is a Rumi poem that invites us to “be empty of worrying” and “move outside the tangle of fear-thinking” as we “flow down and down in always widening rings of being.” I think this idea of ever-widening rings of being makes a lovely image for Lent as we take time for spiritual preparation and turning to God.
The common Lenten act of giving something up is one way we practice emptying ourselves of things that get in the way of a full life so we can make room for Christ’s new life. Once we’ve quit letting little things like chocolate and coffee rule our lives, perhaps we’ll have the confidence to put our complete trust in God and move on to bigger things such as giving up the the chronic worrying that Rumi talks about. Or instead of, or in addition to, giving something up maybe we’ll try this Lenten season to go beyond fearful thinking and begin a new spiritual practice or maybe volunteer in some way that benefits the marginalized of the world.
Both of these ideas, emptying ourselves and moving past fear-thinking, are ways of opening our hearts to let the love within us continually encompass more and more until we come to understand how interwoven we are with each other and with the wider world. This is so important right now when the predominant messages of our current governmental leaders tell us to close ranks and think only of ourselves. Policies being talked about and implemented regarding health care, immigration, etc. are all about being self-centered and not worrying about anyone but yourself. They’re about treating everyone else as an enemy when Jesus tells us that God’s way is about creating a Kin-dom where loving our neighbor is the foundational rule of law.
The transfiguration of Jesus, where he is seen on a mountain top with Moses and Elijah (Luke 9:27-36), tells us that the glory of God is found in the ministry of Jesus, the work of healing and justice. When God’s voice is heard on that mountain, it is to tell us to “listen to him.” Coming in the middle of the gospel story, the transfiguration represents the bridge between Jesus’ birth as the incarnation of God’s love and the promise of new life found in his resurrection. That bridge is the Kin-dom of God, it’s the glue that holds the Good News of God together. God’s love born into this world and the promise of new life only matter if they affect this world here and now through the building of the Kin-dom, which requires us not only to realize our inter-connectedness but build relationships of hope, peace, and justice in ever-widening rings of being. In this season, how can we practice opening our hearts so that our love will continue to expand into a world that desperately needs healing?
(I originally wrote this short reflection for my church’s newsletter. It was inspired by my sermon from Sunday, February 26, 2017. The church’s website is http://www.phoenixchurch.org)