Todays Scripture: Psalms 51:1 – 10, Gen 3, 2 Cor 5:20 – 6:2, Luke 12:13 – 32
So it begins, this bright sadness, the spiritual spring. This period of time where we seek balance. When we try to discern what needs to change in our being. We pull things out, we pull things apart so that we can have a look at them. We take a step back from certain habits and routines to be able to look upon them “from the outside”. When we take a break from eating (for example), when we are not so concerned about what we should eat, we can take a step back and think about why we eat, and how we eat.
This year, Great Lent starts a little bit different for us in Holy Covenant Evangelical orthodox Church in Saskatoon. We usually start with having a forgiveness service on Sunday night. This year we have the forgiveness service tonight (Wednesday). This is due to practical circumstance so that as many people as possible can attend. But it is also telling a story about who we are as an evangelical expression within orthodox theology. Yes, there is great value and wisdom of having set rituals, routines, services and days. But these routines and days keeps a healthy spirit if they are allowed to address pastoral concerns and circumstance. The question becomes, how is tradition made alive and current? One side of the fence says that “Tradition is not made current, it is always current”. The other side of the fence says “Tradition is never current because it is not relevant to our society today”. I believe both of those sides are wrong because they push things to the extreme, yet they contain truth (small “t”). I believe tradition remains alive by actually incarnating in today’s soceity, what it teaches. Tradition becomes alive when it is lived. Not only during services but in our life as a whole. So, can one have a forgiveness service on a Wednesday? I believe so, on occasion. Tradition does not die just because we can not adhere to exact days all the time. Gods Holy Spirit is not tied down by the times and frames we set. God Himself is the giver and sustainer of time.
Stepping out of the traditional Sunday forgiveness service routine or tradition makes me think and pray more about the spirit and message it carries. Upsetting the routine, stepping back, asking the questions, is the right thing to do sometimes. Like the birds and the wild flowers in todays gospel we should not worry so much about the external. God takes care of that. But watch out so this does not become dead routine as well. Be watchful and diligent. It’s a balance.
The Gospel reading today finishes with a powerful statement by Jesus. “Your heart will be where you’re treasure is”. A good way to figure out just what you’re treasure is, is to add up the hours you spend on different activities. The activity you spend the most time with, that is your treasure. It can be work, it can be Internet, it can be food or sports. If you spend most of your time trying to know Christ better you will soon realize that will make you able to do all those other things without loosing your treasure. Christ is greater than any idols, so where His light shines forth, the idols will flee. Treasure Christ because He Is the Treasure that moths can not destroy and that nobody can steal from you.
Fr Alexander Schmemann touches on the subject in his great work “Great Lent”, p 14 () are added by me. “For even the apostles, when they heard their Masters teaching, asked Him in despair: ‘but how is this possible (to keep the fullness of the Law)?” It is not easy, indeed, to reject a petty ideal of life made up of daily cares, of search of material goods, security, and pleasure, for an ideal of life in which nothing short of perfection is the goal: “be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” This world through all its “media” says: be happy, take it easy, follow the broad way. Christ in the Gospel says: choose the narrow way, fight and suffer, for this is the road to the only genuine happiness”.
We say that Lent is a spiritual spring or a bright sadness because at the end suffering, pain, death and sin gets defeated by Christ, the only Treasure. At the end of it, death turns into life.
Lets hear and join in the Great Lenten prayer,
“O Lord and Master of my life! Take from me the spirit of sloth, faint-heartedness, lust for power and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King! Grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brother; For Thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen”
St Ephrem the Syrian
It is a long journey ahead, call it 40 days (Great Lent), or 40 years (a life time) but remember that when you enter into Christs suffering you are also entering into His resurrection.