We are deep into the season of Lent, when things are a bit subdued. I hope you’ve noticed that this year I had the metal ware (the silver and brass) taken out of the sanctuary to create this sense of difference. Removing the glitz and glitter from our lives is one way we can do something during the season of Lent that will help us get to know our true selves. It’s one way we can practice who we are without the façade of something that makes us look better or feel better. It has us spend some time in a place of mystery and discovery. We do this to enhance our experience of resurrection at the end of the 40 days.
I have not been very good at keeping my Lenten disciplines this year. Many of you have probably experienced the same thing. However, every time I slip up, it’s not the end of the world. I get a chance to think, back up, refocus, and begin again. It’s like training for a sport. I think of it as if I were on the wrestling mat again in High School. Drilling, practicing, so when the match comes, I am conditioned and ready for what comes at me (usually someone bigger and stronger – but that’s another story!). So, Lent for us is just part of the practice; a practice that conditions us to be closer to God. The things that we do or give up give us a chance to discover and rediscover who we are and whose we are. Some of you know that I practice Taekwondo. And yes, I said practice, because as my instructor says, “even a black belt is just an advanced beginner.” He says many things in the course of training that make me think about my life as a priest and as a Christian. He says that we need to train for what is coming, be ready to react so that our reaction is second nature. To know how to handle situations with a calm confident response. This got me thinking that if we put as much into conditioning our spiritual lives as we do other things (insert thing here!), then this world would be a much better place. This world would become a place of restoration and healing. This world would actually be-come the Kingdom of God here on earth, like our Lord’s Prayer says, “Thy kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven.”
Life comes at us from all directions, the only way we can know how to respond is if we have practiced. Practiced and trained for our spiritual response. Lent is one time that we can intentionally practice and train for those things that are ahead. But, in our practice, we must realize that we need to practice the right things. The old adage goes, “perfect practice prevents poor performance.” We can only handle life’s mysteries with good spiritual practice and conditioning. Church then becomes a training center for life.
Jesus rising from the dead is the greatest thing that has ever happened. However, the resurrection is a great mystery that we can only accept, appreciate and respond to if we have practiced resurrection ourselves. What does it mean to practice resurrection? To me, it means to condition our spiritual life and continue to condition so that we become a point of restoration for others in this world. Practice resurrection so that we become a vision of Christ for others.