As I write this it is Ash Wednesday, the first of forty days of Lent. For many years I believed that Lent was about giving up certain foods or activities for forty days. My view of Lent is shifting. It is becoming a time to plant spiritual seeds that will begin to take root and grow. As I plant these seeds I anticipate the coming fulfillment during Easter and Pentecost. These forty days are connected to something much bigger than a bar of chocolate postponed until Easter. My deepest longings reach towards a greater purpose and lasting fulfillment.
Our Lenten invitation is to open ourselves to fulfillment within ourselves and beyond ourselves. Lent is a time for a deepened covenant connection with the Creator. One way to approach this is to reframe the spiritual practice of prayer. Rather than just a duty on our Lenten list, prayer can be seen as a movement to and with. The story of Jesus during this season describes the deepening relationships between Jesus and his followers. It is a movement to shared vulnerability and a movement with the holy complexity that colors all relationships that dare to go beyond the surface.
People question Jesus and Jesus questions them. The relationships Jesus engages are not easy. They are marked by grief, disappointment, misunderstanding, and impatience. Yet surprise, vulnerability, faithfulness and shared mission also emerge. For those willing to risk, the twist and turns and stops and starts ultimately lead to fulfilling relationships and fulfilled purpose.
Transformation happens through relationships. In our scripture this Sunday from Mark 1:9-15 we see the formational role that John holds in his relationship with Jesus. John baptizes Jesus, opening the way for Jesus to see the heavens open and to hear a voice of transforming affirmation: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness (Mark 1:11; Common English Bible).
We also see the formational role of the Spirit in the life and ministry of Jesus. This is a difficult relationship as the Spirit forces Jesus to a difficult place: the wilderness. Jesus struggles there for forty days, yet in that struggle finds his voice: “Now is the time! Here Comes God’s community! Change your hearts and live, and trust this good news! (Mark 1:15, CEB).
On the First Sunday of Lent at 9:00am and 11:00am we will look at how Jesus invites us into relationships of transformation that lead us to deeper fulfillment. See you Sunday!