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Lent One

By Rev. Rhonda Pigott-Thorndale


Genesis 9:8-17


Prayer:

Holy One,

show us the way.

Light our path.

Lead us through this Lenten desert

to Easter with you

beyond the pain of loss and fear.

Lead us in new ways of trusting service.

~Kate Mcllhagg


Here we are, the first Sunday of Lent. Quite the contrast between the first Sunday of Advent.  Again, we are on a journey, a struggling journey, a soul-searching journey. I am wondering how many of you feel the same way. Each year at approximately this time we come back to look at something we already know but hopefully we can gain some new insight. Did this Jesus really die so that we can see that life is more important than systems and money? That there is something more essential than the mundane? Or is it in the mundane that we find life.


So, what exactly is Lent. It is part of the pre-Easter period, commemorating the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert being tempted by Satan according to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, before he started his public ministry.


A bit of history…

To understand Lent and it’s 40 day period, I think we need to wander back and forth between the historical evolution of the church and how it gradually developed a purpose. It wasn’t until the year 330 that the 40 days of Lent was recognized in the early church. Like Lent, Christmas and Advent celebrations were not recognized for a few centuries. Traditionally Christmas revolves around gift giving and indulgence, and Lent became a time of sacrifice.


Although Lent was introduced in 313, it was only given religious tolerance. The earliest of celebration was the Paschal meal, or as we know it Holy Communion or Eucharist. Every Sunday for centuries Communion recognized the mandate found in Luke 22:19. Do this in remembrance of me. This was a living and vibrant command for those early Christians.


Lent is not a ritual. But a time to think seriously about who this Jesus is for us – and a time of renewal, from the inside out. It is a time to contemplate; Come and See. 

As a child in elementary school, I remember singing O Canada, God Save the Queen, and listening to a scripture reading each day. I remember that shortly after Valentines Day, my teacher put a large box of chocolates on the corner of her desk and then pinned pictures of starving children all around our classroom. This is Lent she explained, a time when we as children should give up our candy and put money in a box for missions. At the time, as children, we didn’t even think that this teacher had imposed her self-induced restrictions on us.


Were we being given a lesson on self sacrifice? I still think of this occasionally around this time of the year, along with phrases from my mom such as, “Eat everything on your plate, as there are children in Africa who are starving”. As we grew older, we slowly began to understand that we had to give up things in order to take care of others.

I remember too, at this time, all the brightly coloured banners were removed, and a stark darkness fell over our Sunday School room and in the church. So, what was this all about?  Everything was serious now. It wasn’t about getting things but giving things. As a child or even an adult, Lent can be a perplexing time. If life is not about permanent or continual self satisfaction, what is it and why? My thought is it’s about achieving more life – another kind of life.


When I chose the Genesis story, I thought of an excerpt from “Feasting on the Word” which identifies with our Genesis Scripture.

A young mom and her son were walking and saw a rainbow. The little boy asked if they could take it home and put it in their house. This inspired the mom to write a poem called a “Rainbow in our House” She took the little boy’s question literally, visioning what that could be like. It would be on walls, going through windows and doors and even coming out the chimney. Then she began to wonder what Christ’s body would look like in the light of a rainbow. What would it mean to put a rainbow in everyone’s house. Something to think about…


This rainbow is said to be the sign of the first covenant between God and humankind and all creation. It is a change between destructive anger, the flood, and then the turning to forgiveness, with patience, and love for all creation. In our world of so much conflict, sadness, and violence, can we take this rainbow home to hang in our house?

These Scriptures for this first Sunday of Lent, the story of the temptations of Jesus in the desert, are included in all three lectionaries. It reminds us not to be surprised at our own struggles. This is our wilderness, and it can be all around us. When we hear of someone going on retreat, it often conjures up mental images of relaxation and leaving the busyness of this world behind or a getting away to just enjoy being by ourselves.

But Jesus’ retreat or wilderness experience was very different… it was to challenge him to question and understand. For him it was far from serene. Instead, he was challenged by easy lure and seductive promises to snare him.


It is important in all our spiritual journeys to take time out from our everyday busyness to become aware of God’s urging in the deepest part of our being. For many people, spending time away at some place like a retreat centre, or a special place in your home is a way of quieting our minds and being receptive to that still small voice within. The purpose is not to separate us from the world around us but to receive from the sacred a new way of seeing. Like Jesus, we slowly start to see the world as it is and respond to it. For example, we can stop taking our food for granted. Maybe we should ask where did it come from? Who produced it? Were the employees paid fairly? Should we consider making different choices?


I remember one of the churches I served at, the people decided to use only fair-trade coffee. Yes, it was a little more expensive, but it did make a difference to those growers, who also made choices of growing their beans organically and honouring the earth, A simple example of justice, but really, it’s the little things that count.


So how do we include taking care of creation, being at peace with all our neighbours, and all the issues we face today. These are all part of the kin-dom.  Lots of questions today, but part of the Lenten journey we are starting.


In closing, I’d like to share a poem I’ve adapted from Ruth Burgess:

We are called to be a people

On the move

Travelling light, dying to live

Ready to lose ourselves for the sake of the world.

 

We are called to be a people

With a purpose

Travelling without a map,

Travelling to where we are led

Sustain by your Spirit

Committed to the Gospel to the hope of the world.

 

We are called to be the church

We are a church with problems:

Too strong for the weak

To staid for the young

To respectable for the poor

To divided for mission

To obsessed with our own lives and to think of the lives of others

To unsure of our message to speak to the world

 

We want to move on our journey

From where we are to where the Spirit wants us to go.

Open our eyes on the way

To the people of different cultures, continents and countries

Who can bring colour to our lives

 

We want our journey

To be from where we are to where God wants us to be;

So that we become a community

Where all are welcomed and no one is excluded

All are valued, and no one is made to feel inadequate

All are forgiven and no one is ashamed to belong

All are encouraged and no one too hurt to come among us.

Let this be part of our Lenten journey

 

 

 

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