Kindred in Christ,
During this Lenten season, we have reflected much upon prayer labyrinths and the winding paths of our human lives. Lent, in many ways, is designed to remind us that we are vulnerable to the twists and turns of life. And that this is just part of what it means to be human and to be in need of God and one another. There is an existential freedom that can be experienced once we accept that we are not overtly in control of our lives, but that we can only do our best and move forward in trust (or faith). This also leaves room for God to surprise us on the road and embrace us in unexpected ways.
As we will reflect upon this Sunday, Jesus told a story of two sons, one who squandered his inheritance and the other who lived a life of mirthless duty; neither lived in the freedom of their loving parent (Luke 15:1-2, 11-32). Yet their loving parent journeys out toward them, each on different occasions, to embrace them and remind them who they are and the love that is always theirs, no matter what.
Each of the sons was invited to give up the goods that they had (freedom or duty) in order to go deeper into something even better (the unconditional love of their parent). For many Christians throughout the centuries, giving up something (or a fast) has been central to the observance of Lent. We give up something good in order to receive something better. Though we most often relate this to physical fasting, giving up meat, sugar, eggs, and other rich foods, our fast can be anything. This is not meant to be an act of abjection—these are not ills we’re giving up—but rather an act of love and devotion.
It can be helpful to think intentionally about this as a rhythm of both fasting and feasting—of setting aside and taking up—and choose something specific to feast on in exchange for our fast. Fasting has much to teach us about our dependencies and our needs. If you have yet to give anything up and/or take up anything for Lent, I invite you to prayerfully consider it. It’s not too late!
Whatever way you decide to practice Lent, my prayer is that you will discover the surprise embrace of our loving parent in the midst of our human journeys. Join us this Sunday as we continue to reflect on the meaning of Lent with our series, The Path back To You. I hope to see you on Facebook Live!
– Rev. Paul Ortiz