by Rev. David Rommereim
When we think of seasons we do not think about church or schedules for special mid-week services. We think about the sun, clouds, snow, or the wind that brings good waves on to the shores of Coney Island or along Shore Road. Lately we understand more about "global warming" and our responsibility to curb our fossil fuel consumption because of the violent changes in weather.
Yet, the season of Lent is one of the great opportunities for Christians; it is an opportunity to focus on yourself, your faith, and your commitment with God and neighbors in the process of changing a disheveled society. Worship with your neighbors, friends, and strangers will give you health.
Twenty to fifty years ago, the tradition of Lent had something to do with giving up something. That is, you had to give up smoking, drinking, chocolate, jellybeans, or whatever during the five weeks of Lent. This process was to prove your piety and work on your discipline to increase your faith.
The discipline did work. You are a stronger Christian because of it; giving something up was probably good for your health and, thereby, good for your soul.
When I gave up something, I thought I had a chance to "get right with God." That is what Lent meant for me. However, behind 'getting right with God' there was a subtler agenda. I wanted and needed to control my world; I wanted to control the politics and social engagement; I knew who was right and who was wrong. Moreover, I was usually right. Each of us thinks of ourselves as "right." Lent asks us to evaluate those assumptions.
What I learned, however, through my 61 Lent experiences, was that "getting right with God" never produced certainty; it only produced faith. Even though I wanted to be certain about the church I chose, the religion I was committed to, and the theology I was called to herald, Lent asked me to question basic assumptions. What I actually received was a better understanding of following, looking, listening, and moving with God as a partner rather than an antagonist.
The best Lent I ever had came when I learned how to lose myself and discover that there is more to life than my little world. I learned that the world I know is more than I think; I learned that the God of my ancestors is as distant as the stars and as intimate as each breath; The 61 years of practicing Lent taught me to broaden my perspective and the way I perceive the world as I practice the Christian Way in these times.
The French writer, Helene Cixous, in Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing, said "We don't know we are alive as long as we haven't encountered death...and it (the encounter with death) is an act of grace." Perhaps that is why we begin Lent by placing the Ashes on the foreheads to remember that "we are dust and unto dust we shall return". It is normal to remember that we are mortal. This Ash Wednesday, I remembered that it was one year to the moment my father died. Lent is a completely new arena when your Dad dies on the first of its 50 days. It is almost liberating.
The longer I live in the city, the urban concrete landscape, I am led to remember that you and I borrow the earth for our brief stay here (four score and ten+ years), even if the earth does look rather stilted in concrete. Yet, ashes are only the beginning of our pilgrimage.
Each week this Lent we will open a door to the "Prophet Jesus." We will look at this amazing epoch of a new way of understanding God. We will look at the teachings of Jesus and his amazing truth telling wisdom. I invite you to these events each Wednesday during Lent for a NY Pizza at 6:30 pm. Then at 7:00, we will discuss the teachings and ministry of the Jesus who has a prophetic calling to the well-being of God's earth.
There are no requirements for Lent. In fact, the purpose of this Lent pilgrimage is to receive a blessing ~ the renewal of our soul and the satisfaction of living gratefully - a most amazing challenge for North Americans.