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Alternate Reality

The season of Lent in the Christian Church has begun. Colleagues and I were talking today about how most in the
United Church make a bigger deal about pancakes than we do about Ash Wednesday . Face it, most of us don’t
fast, would be self-conscious about having ashes on our foreheads, and don’t ground our theology in language of
sin and death. A few of us may follow the Lenten tradition of giving something up for Lent, like alcohol or chocolate or dessert, but that might be as much about weight loss as Lenten discipline.
What meaning does Lent have for us then? Even if most of the ancient practices aren’t ones that engage us, we can look for ones that do. I still like the notion of Lent as a time for self-examination, though not in the traditional sense of reflecting on sin. At the point where New Year’s resolutions have fallen by the wayside, Lent invites us to renewal. However, because it’s a root-ed in faith, we have the resources of faith to guide us.
To me, Lent is an invitation to step back and to change things up. If you’re too busy, try making some time for meditation. Start with just 5 minutes. Set a timer. Counter-intuitively, meditation gives us more time as we become better both at focusing and at discerning what matters.
If you have too much time on your hands, maybe there’s no better to time to start volunteering. Don’t step-up just because someone is needed for something. Start with figuring out what matters to you. Then what you’re doing will have meaning and give you energy.
What use are you making of your precious life? There’s no better time than Lent to reflect on that question and to take a first little step toward change – which is the actual meaning of the Greek word, metanoia, that gets translated in the Bible as “repentance”. In fact those biblical passages, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near,” (Matthew 4: 17, for example) would be more accurately translated, “Change your heart, for the spiritual realm is readily available.” To me, that makes a lot more sense.
May Lent be for you a time of reflection, change, spiritual deepening, and renewal.