I have heard more than once from friends who want to get under my skin that they are giving up church for Lent. I usually shake my head and roll my eyes and say, “ I think you have missed the point of Lent.” The purpose of Lent is to do something, be it scripture study, regular prayer, meditation, deep breathing or just day long mindfulness to appreciate life and our relationship with God who gives that life. It isn’t easy to do that meditative something so there are lots of resources and technology to help.
I stumbled across this site from the Catholic church for daily 3 minute retreats that can be emailed to your computer (3 Minute Retreats hold down the Ctrl key and click on the coloured text to link immediately). A friend showed me an app on her phone that reminds her to daily take time for a 10 minute break for relaxation and meditation. So much technology out there to help us care for ourselves. The interesting thing for me is that the secular world has awakened to the reality that our bodies and minds need quiet time – time when we are not rushing nor asleep but we are giving as a gift to our bodies. Yoga is another way to give this gift.
Lent as a part of our Christian tradition is an opportunity for spiritual and bodily refreshment. The church has known how important this refreshment time is to help us as humans be grounded in the face of the ever changing realities of life. The thing the church wants us to give up is the notion that we are too busy to give ourselves that time. Chocolate is a great thing to give up for 40 days because, well, less sugar is better for our bodies but that sacrifice does our soul and our human-being no good. Unless that is, when we crave the chocolate, we stop what we are doing and try to ask ourselves if it’s truly chocolate or something else we crave. Maybe we really need affirmations, maybe we really need a sense of control or maybe, we hunger for physical connection and chocolate is a cheap substitute. So, stopping what we are doing to ask, ”What am I really hungry for?” might be life changing. This is the essence of Lent. To take time for life examination.
In a recent sermon I quoted Carl Jung, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Lent gives us the space to drag the unconscious motivations that control us out of the shadows and into the light of day where we can consciously decide if that is who we want to be and how we want to be in the world. It takes our future out of the hands of ‘fate’ and consciously puts it in our hands. Strangely enough, I think Annual Meetings give us a Lenten chance to do the same thing for our congregation. What are the unconscious assumptions and expectations that control how we are in this community and who will pay for those expectations? Everyone of us comes through the doors of the church with an unconscious list of what we expect from the congregation. This isn’t a bad thing. Annual Meetings give us a chance to make that unconscious list, conscious – to consider not just the past year but what do we want to see happen in the year ahead and how do imagine it being paid for.
This past week we had our Forest Hill United Church Annual Meeting. Together, we took time to consciously decide what is our budget for 2018 and therefore, what programs would be financed. I hope you made the meeting because we are going to be asking everyone, including our user groups, to give a little more to finance the now conscious congregational hopes and needs. What we do in Lent, be it 3 minutes at a time or at our AGM, changes our lives for the whole year ahead.