”No one can serve two masters.”
Lent is here. All across the world, Christians of many denominations are observing this season of preparation for Passion week. Many Christians will have given up something, or made a contribution for the poor or made an effort to pray more. If you engage in any of these Lenten practices, one thing they may show you is the extent to which you are subject to one or more masters other than God.
I know an Episcopal priest who has two children. One year he suggested to his son that he might give up television for the season.
The son responded, “NO WAY!”
He advised his daughter that they might skip McDonald’s for Lent.
In return she asked, “How long is Lent?”
“40 days,” he replied.
She countered, “How about three days”
Children, like adults, learn a lot about the masters they serve if they practice a Lenten discipline. We all resist the sorts of disciplines involved but covet spiritual blessings. If one tries really hard to follow the commitments of this season, one may indeed find a curse rather than a blessing.
What do I learn about myself this season? I learn I have chores at home, responsibilities to my extended family, commitments at church, books to enjoy. And these are only the good things. I also have a lot of undesirable commitments, too, like the many physician appointments I schedule. How is Lent going to help me? I find it unwelcome news when people bid me discard something or take on something. How can the season prove a blessing rather than a curse to me?
Lent is not another inconvenient chore to discard or a good practices to take on. Above all, it means a time when I can relax and recognize that to be truly whole and complete I need to remember I am a loved child of God. Those churches that have long pursued Lenten discipline tell me that the Lord’s Day, the Sabbath, is not part of the forty days. The forty days are weekdays, not Sabbath days or Sundays. The Sabbaths are extra days, days when I can break my fast or stop doing my good deed for twenty-four hours. It is the day to rest from my labors, even from good Lenten labor, and rest in God.
Jesus himself said that the Sabbath was made for us. So, too, I believe, is Lent. The word Lent comes from an ancient English root meaning “Spring.” Choosing to engage the season can be like an introduction to Spring. Recall all those wonderful things you enjoyed when winter rain and foul weather gave way to the warm breezes of Springtime. Lent, too, can be a time for you to enjoy God’s world and the good life God made for you.
This year commit yourself to the warmth of God and Spring. Give up your winter worry and stress. Remember, God is all about you. He is beside you and before you. He is ahead of you and over you. He is under you and forever blessing you. In this season he whispers to you. “The curse has been removed. You are fully loved.”