A WAY OTHER THAN OUR OWN:
“My Lenten Journey Plan”
The older I get, the more I appreciate the wisdom that’s been passed down through the generations by my spiritual ancestors. Some of it, which made little sense to me forty years ago, now makes perfect sense. My immaturity showed by my dismissing traditions, like Lent, as religious practices that had little to do with my understanding of spiritual development and as mainly about what I believed—my theology. I now know that it’s not that God’s Spirit is dependent on these practices, but that these spiritual traditions and practices work in concert with the leading of the Holy Spirit to promote my halting spiritual growth and maturity. Faith leads to practices that, in turn, build faith. What I want more and more of in my life is the promise Paul made in his letter to the Galatians!
For that to happen, I need the opportunity Lent offers to prayerfully examine my spiritual development. Lent is a season that is meant to roughly correspond to the forty days Jesus spent after his baptism. Lent traditionally begins with Ash Wednesday and ends before Easter Sunday. It is a time of reflection, sorting through our lives—incorporating the life-giving practices—shedding the habits that hinder and cripple us. While too often it can result in “denials” of rather inconsequential stuff (i.e., “I’m giving up chocolate for Lent”), the invitation is there to go deep and seek more alignment between the life I actually live and the life I’m invited to live in Christ. It is true that if I’m going to seek to add practices to enhance my alignment with God’s will and be more like Jesus, there are probably some things that are best left at the side of the proverbial road. Here’s the hope Paul laid out for us as translated in The Message:
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. [Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way.] (Galatians 5:22-23)
What does it mean to live God’s way, not in a legalistic rule-driven way, but in a life-giving way that brings these gifts into our lives? I’ve found Walter Brueggemann’s insights, as Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary, to be both instructive and challenging. He is a man who has lived and breathed God’s word in the Bible. Richard Floyd, who compiled a series of Lenten readings in A WAY OTHER THAN OUR OWN, says this about Brueggemann’s work:
Prolonged exposure to Walter’s work performs a kind of alchemy on the soul, gradually transforming our cramped and sclerotic vision into something more capacious and generous. He is an excellent, if occasionally disruptive, companion for the Lenten Journey.
I agree. Consequently, I am inviting us to use A WAY OTHER THAN OUR OWN as our Lenten guide. Fifty copies will be available Sunday or can be purchased in e-book format from your favorite e-book supplier. (I know Amazon has it for Kindle).
So here’s what I’m planning to “practice” for Lent…
We’ll start our journey into Lent this Sunday as we participate in the Lord’s Supper together. Until then…