Clean Hearts (February 21, 2012)

…Opening To…

The glory of these forty days we celebrate with songs of praise; for Christ, through whom all things were made, himself has fasted and has prayed. (Hymn from the 6th century; trans. Maurice F. Bell)

…Listening In…

Create a clean heart for me, God; put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me! Please don’t throw me out of your presence; please don’t take your holy spirit away from me. Return the joy of your salvation to me and sustain me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:10-12; context)

…Filling Up…

“Lent” is an old translation of the Latin word quadragesima, which simply means “forty days.” Forty days is a significant period of time in the Bible: Noah, Moses, and Elijah all had forty days of something –flooding, fasting, sitting around with God on the mountaintop. Jesus spent forty days in the desert, during which Satan tempted him. Beginning tomorrow (on the fast the church names “Ash Wednesday”) Lent continues until the day before Easter. Historically, the season of Lent was the period of time that people used to prepare for baptism, which took place at the Great Vigil of Easter on Easter Eve.

During these forty days that bring us to Easter, we examine our lives and discern how attuned to God’s movement we are. We pray for God to create in us clean hearts and renew right spirits within us, as Psalm 51 says. We rededicate ourselves to following Christ and wonder how last year’s dedication faded away. We slow down and turn our thoughts inward. How have my actions and inactions contributed to the brokenness in the world? To what have I enslaved myself? Where is my joy and freedom? Do I really want to follow Christ?

When we enter this period of self-reflection, when we honestly answer questions such as these, it often becomes apparent just how skin deep and results-oriented we’ve become. The season of Lent helps us see the error in statements such as “It’s only cheating if you get caught” and “The ends justify the means.” Living a full life – not a half-life of results only – means valuing the moral fortitude that counters wanton opportunism and caring about how things are accomplished, not just that they are. Observing Lent means taking a hard look at ourselves and borrowing enough strength from God to be capable of seeing those festering things that we usually ignore. Then we borrow enough faith from God to know that God will help us change and will reawaken within us those faculties of hope and love that have long lay dormant.

I invite you to turn your gaze inward during this season of Lent and discover the true joy that comes from a full life lived in the love of God.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you are the source of all joy throughout your creation. Help me to live my life fully in your love so that I may follow you throughout my journey, meeting you all along the way to the destination. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, glad that you have given me the strength and the will to reflect on my journey with you.

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