March: Crossing over into Lent
Dear friends and members of RLC,
In the calendar of the church year, we have crossed over into Lent. It is a 40-day season preceding Easter: a season for Christians across the world to intentionally focus on Jesus and follow him in ever deeper ways.
The traditional practices of Lent have included repentance, fasting, prayer, and works of love. These practices have not been aimed at making Christians “good enough” to receive God's salvation, but aware enough of how good the God is who freely offers salvation.
It seems to me that so much of what we have been taught about God over the years has to be “unlearned” as we live this life. I, for one, was taught that God was all-powerful: in control of all that happened. Over the years, as life has presented one unfair situation after another, this belief has been challenged. Does God really cause or allow all the horrible things that happen? Could God stop them if that was God's desire?
Or do some things happen on this earth that break God's heart?
I know some things happen that break my heart. And I know that when they do, it is the strength and presence of God that gets me through.
It is the example of Jesus—the way he lived and loved and forgave and trusted—that gives me direction. I am inspired to follow him—but more than that, I am transformed over and over, bit by bit, more and more into his image.
It seems to me that this is the heart of the mystery which is the Christian faith. We living people together make up his living body in the world-now. And it isn't that we escape the unfairness and pain of the world, or understand it, but rather—with Christ—bear it and are not overcome.
How do we bear the unbearable? With Christ.
He is the one who hung on a cross dying and prayed for God to forgive the very ones who put him there.
He is the one who died and three days later was raised from the dead.
He is the one who promises that just as we are united with him in death, so too we will be united with him in never-ending life.
How did he bear the unbearable? Through intentional, transforming love.
He chose love instead of hate. He chose forgiveness instead of revenge. He chose hope instead of defeat.
Perhaps this Lent, as we struggle to bear what is unbearable in our own lives or in the life of this world, we can do so, following the example of Jesus. Choosing intentional, transforming love. And in the process, we may find that we are the ones transformed. We may discover joy where we only saw sorrow. We may find hope where we thought it was lost for good. We may discover life even in the ashes of death.
As a spiritual discipline this Lent—for the sake of experiencing the presence and goodness of God—I invite you to do acts of intentional kindness for others or for yourself. Do them to remember or honor or transform your losses and pain. Allow something beautiful to come to be through what was only dark and ugly.
There is an international program called the Kindness Project that was begun in the 1990's as a mother's way to remember and honor her baby who had died. And to transform what seemed like a meaningless death into something beautiful. The program has flourished and millions of acts of random kindness have been done in service of the transformation of the doers. And the blessed memory of those who have died.
The feedback that the Kindness Project has received has been overwhelming. Those who have participated, as well as those who have received the acts of kindness, have reported astonishing healing and joy.
This year, at Resurrection, we have cards available for you that say: This Random Act of Kindness was done in memory of, or in honor of, or in celebration of.... We invite you to take them, fill them in as you are led, give them anonymously to others as you offer them acts of kindness. Our website address is on the back of the cards and we hope to have an ongoing conversation during these days of Lent about the transformative nature of love, as it is given and received.
As this happens, the living presence of the resurrected Christ is made visible. Together we embody the miracle of life even in the presence of death.
Here's to the journey through the valley of the shadow of death into the place of sunshine and life!
The Rev. Dr. Mary Ubuntu is the spiritual leader of Resurrection Lutheran Church and has served in that capacity since 2003. More on Pastor Mary can be found HERE.