Church of the Incarnation
Lent Begins: The humility of recognizing your limits
As we begin our journey to the cross this year, reflecting the ways in which we fall short of the glory God desires for us, let us remember the mercy given to us through Jesus’s resurrection. Our psalmist proclaims: Lord restore to me the joy of your salvation and sustain in me a willing spirit. When I struggle to remember your mercy and grace for me, for my neighbour, for those who frustrate or enrage me, whom I cannot help but see as an enemy, let me approach them with a clean heart, O God, please put a new and right spirit within me that allows me to act out of mercy and love rather than impatience, frustration and anger.
This my friends, is the point of Lent: to bring forth to God the ways we act and the things we say and think that fall short of his command that we love him with everything that we are so that he might transform us to become pointers or witnesses to him. A clean heart grows not out of our effort to be good or right or just. We’re incapable of the perfection God requires. Instead, we’re asked to humble ourselves recognizing our imperfections, but not getting stuck there. Instead, bring these imperfections, this brokenness, the deepest of your fears, and anger, the things you loathe, the things that confuse and frustrate you, the things that cause you to turn away from God, the deepest of doubts about God’s very existence. Do not hold back from God those things you think remain hidden in you. Because I can assure you that doing so will only cause them to fester, to infect how you judge other people and situations and so how you act and respond to them.
This Lent, don’t make a big fuss about what you’re doing, don’t proclaim that you’re doing some special ‘giving up’ of this or that thing, coffee, chocolate, or social media. Instead, set some time aside, confess all that deeply hidden stuff that distracts you or keeps you from knowing God more deeply, or ask him back into your life if you feel his absence. And then wait. Don’t try for something. Just wait on God. Allow him to be God with you. Ask for the courage to give up those things that prevent a closer relationship or to take on something that will draw you closer to him and his mission of gathering others to him.
Do this not out of duty, out of the law, or out of desire to get it right; do this so that you might experience anew the joy of the transfigured Christ in whose body you have already received life. For its here, in a world wearied by endless news of war, violence, destruction, natural disaster, death and decay, that we might be sustained by the hope of Christ’s resurrection already being manifest in tiny, mundane moments of our relationships with others. Ask for the humility to see these moments for what they are: God’s grace, hope, joy, rest, and peace. Let these little moments guide you through a Lenten season of confessing to God, of letting go and giving up the things of our old lives so that we can put on Jesus’s own cloak of new life. AMEN