16 Mar A Pause to Feed our Souls
I love snow days, like the one we got earlier this week. I love the beauty of snow-laden tree branches. I love the stillness. I love the soft blanket that wraps the world in pure white. I love that I got to be home an extra day, stretched out on the living room sofa to read N.T. Wright in the morning before writing a sermon at my dining room table in the afternoon. Between those two work-related tasks, I shoveled snow. I actually enjoy shoveling snow, but my lower back does not. It is unhappy with me today, barking its displeasure at my extracurricular activities. If the Ibuprofen doesn’t kick in soon, I see a heating pad in my not-too-distant future. (My mother quips that “growing old is not for sissies,” and she is sure right about that!)
I think one reason I enjoy a snow day so much is that it changes my normal rhythms, and that change creates a “pause” in my everyday schedule. In that pause I choose to slow down. In that pause I am aware—again—of the beauty and power of nature and of how unimpressed nature is with my urgent “to do” list. In that pause I interacted with a neighbor I seldom see. I had time to read something that fed my soul, something that rarely happens within the four walls of my office. That pause was a gift, a grace, and I am exceedingly grateful for it.
Lent is a very similar kind of pause in the church year. It is a season that encourages us to slow down, to feed our souls, to pay attention in new ways. It focuses us on activities that often get crowded out of our normal schedule, activities such as meditation or prayer, repentance, and listening. Like a snow day, Lent is also a gift, a grace. I am grateful that the church offers this season to remind us to pause, to breathe, to notice—especially to notice how God is at work in our lives and in our world.
At Calvary we are spending our Lenten Sundays tracing what Jesus went through during the last 24 hours of his life. This past Sunday that meant we walked with Jesus and the disciples from the upper room where they observed the Passover Seder to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus wanted a place to pray, and as he had so often done throughout his ministry, he headed to Gethsemane. The disciples were full from their big feast and it was late. They had good intentions—they wanted to stay awake and pray with Jesus—but sleep got the better of them.
Jesus, on the other hand, was in too much anguish to sleep. This was the moment of decision, the moment when he would resist and reject the call to complete his vocation with all the suffering that entailed, or when he would put himself in his Father’s hands, submit his will to God’s and yield to all that was coming. As it usually does, it all came down to a matter of trust. He chose to believe in God’s love, but it was not without a struggle.
Jesus’ passion invites us to jump into his story with both feet, to imagine ourselves in the garden that night with him, to feel the heaviness of our eyelids as we fight within ourselves to remain faithful and watchful for our dear friend, yet finally succumb to fatigue. The story invites us to remember our own “dark night of the soul,” to humbly and honestly confess our fears, particularly our fear of pain and suffering and how afraid we are to give up those things to which we are most attached. It invites us to sit quietly with the truth that Jesus voluntarily chose to take on the sin and suffering of the world. That truth is a mystery of such epic proportions that it takes a “pause,” like Lent (or a snow day) to focus on what love actually looks like when it takes on human flesh and walks around.
Yours for the Kingdom,
Click HERE for Calvary’s Lenten and Holy Week Schedule