27 March 2011

Lent and Living in the moment with God

Sunday 20 March 2011
Lent and Living in the moment with God
John 3 1-17; Psalm 121

Lent can be a difficult time – I know that I have said that before, because I feel the same way every year.

I remember reading something recently about the importance of living in the moment – of not being so caught up with our worries and concerns that we miss out on the life we are living right now.

I can’t remember precisely where I read that, but it obviously made an impression on me. I remembered it the other day as I was walking into town and saw some children playing on the slide in the playground.

Even before I saw them, I could hear them! One little boy was enjoying himself so much that he let out a long, loud, uncontrollable belly-laugh – it was lovely to hear!

That little boy was living in the moment.
He was relishing the joy of playing with his friends, experiencing the physical pleasure of speeding down the slide. He wasn’t worrying about what he was going to have for lunch – or even about how rough his landing might be!

Well, of course, that’s how it is when you’re little.

• Mum or Dad will provide lunch, and you probably haven’t realised yet that life has its share of rough landings.

• You certainly don’t watch the news and take in the horrors of what’s happening in Japan, or Libya, or so many other places.

• You haven’t yet formed the difficult questions in your mind, let alone got round to asking God about them.

Our readings tell us that following God, understanding him and his world, is not easy or straightforward.

Nicodemus was no fool, but he couldn’t grasp what Jesus was talking about. All of us hear the words of Psalm 121, and we wonder.

“The LORD will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.” (Ps 121 7,8)

The evidence for that promise around the world isn’t very strong at the moment.

The liturgy we used on Ash Wednesday gave us some suggestions as to how and why we might keep Lent.

• It spoke of repentance and the assurance of God’s forgiveness;
• of growing in faith and devotion to our Lord.

And it included this reminder of our absolute reliance on God:

“God our Father,
you create us from the dust of the earth:
grant that these ashes may be for us
a sign of our penitence
and a symbol of our mortality;
for it is by your grace alone
that we receive eternal life.”

Lent is a reminder of our sins and shortcomings, a reminder of our mortality – and also a reminder of the promise of immortality which we receive by God’s grace.

Sometimes we need to be able to lift up our eyes to the hills. (Not difficult to do as you walk into town, even before you hear the children playing!)

We need the perspective that Lent brings – both the challenge and the reassurance of being God’s people.

• Yes, we often fail and fall short – but there is glory in the midst of it all.

• Yes, living in relationship with God can be difficult – but God loves us. He created us and blesses us in so many ways.

Dr Maggi Dawn is an Anglican priest who is about to move to a new post. She doesn’t know yet where it will be, but knows that this year holds much uncertainty, both for her and her son. And she is looking at this uncertainty through the prism of this season of Lent.

She writes this:

“I give thanks for health and strength, for my beautiful son, and for my fine friends. I stare down the threat of uncertainty and insist, instead, that it is an adventure. But at the end of every day there is an acute sense that we are but dust; that life is short and is running through our fingers.

It matters to do more than survive. Life needs to be lived, not just endured.

So this Lent I shall not be giving up chocolate, but instead I shall be actively, daily,

• giving up the dark tunnels of worry and fear,
• giving up an over-burdening sense of responsibility,
• giving up working overtime,
• giving up the bruising anger and resentment that I am entitled to.

Instead I shall be living … deliberately one day at a time, finding every day

• something to enjoy,
• someone to celebrate,
• and something to laugh about.

It feels like Friday already. But Sunday is coming. I know it is.”

[My emphases].

When I read those words, I knew that for me, this year, Lent could be different! I had found some positive disciplines to offset the negativity I so often feel in this season.

We may not be facing the sort of change that Maggi is this year,

but we all face life’s challenges, and we all live in an uncertain and disturbing world.

In the midst of it all, it’s good to remember that we live in this world with God, and that we can lift up our eyes – take time to recall God’s presence with us, God’s love for us.

We can take time to find everyday

• something to enjoy
• someone to celebrate
• something to laugh about.

We can take time to live in the moment with God.

See Maggi Dawn: Ashes to Ashes

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