John Morrison – 9 April 2017

It’s Palm Sunday and Lent is almost over. Next weekend it’s Easter. Are you ready? We often think of Lent as a time of preparation for Easter. Are you prepared? I don’t mean have you finalised your travel plans for the weekend, or your menus or your shopping for Easter eggs. I’m thinking more in terms of spiritual preparation. Are you prepared to celebrate God’s great act of redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus and to affirm again your commitment to the Saviour? Are you all set to do that in unfractured connection with others, living out the new life?

Our sermons and reflections during Lent this year had a somewhat different focus than usual. Instead of concentrating mainly on the events of Jesus’ fateful journey to Jerusalem, we have considered a range of practices to enhance the life we have in Jesus. One church member told me his approach to Lent was not to give up something but to add something. Our aim this Lent has been exactly along those lines – to encourage the addition of some tried and true spiritual practices that can revitalise not just our observance of Lent but the whole of our lives and our life together. We hope you have found it helpful in an ongoing way.

We covered 10 practices identified as significant through research by Diana Butler Bass and reported in “Christianity for the Rest of Us”. In the book’s Epilogue, she describes the final church visit of her 3 year research study. It was the start of Lent, and the bulletin contained the following note.

“Lent is the season that invites us to ponder those things that keep us feeling separate from God. Inwardly, we may suffer from fear and guilt; outwardly we may remain silent in the face of injustice against our neighbors. The Lenten journey of six weeks gives us time to take these things to God, trusting in God’s wide mercy. At Trinity this year, we are focusing on spiritual practices that bring us closer to God, our neighbours, and our deepest selves.” (p. 280)

The preacher explained that Lent is not about being sad or doing some sort of spiritual penance, but is about change – the change that God can make in our selves, our faith communities, and the larger world. She talked about Lent being a time that opens our hearts to transformation, to becoming God’s people and doing what God calls us to do. This resonated with Bass, who felt it summed up her research and wrote: “Christianity for the rest of us is the promise of transformation – that by God’s mercy, we can be different, our congregations can be different, and our world can be different.” (p.281)

Today, as we celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, we do so knowing that that is where Jesus met his death. But it was also where death was miraculously transformed into life, opening the way for our transformation. Things are different because of Jesus. Hosanna! Blessed is the Son of David. Blessed is the King who came in the name of the LORD!

John Morrison