March 26, 2014 - It has been a very long winter and I am so ready for the snow to melt and life to spring forth again.
The signs of spring and hope are all around, even the temperature is still cold. Buds are forming on trees, the cranes have returned, and we can even see some grass in our lawn.
This is the season in the church calendar we call Lent, a word that comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word for "springtime." That seems to fit really well, as Lent can be a time of spring-like renewal of our faith and coming back to life, even if it has been dormant for awhile.
However just as winter never seems to give in to spring without a fight, so too our lives of faith can be a struggle. Our desires and good intentions to grow soon collide with the realities of a too-busy world, competing priorities, and sometimes, frankly, a lack of discipline to do the life-giving things we know are really good for us.
However, just as we can count on the return of spring, God promises to shower us with his grace and love today as we allow him to draw us close and show us the way.
By God's grace I believe Lent can be a time of real growth and transformation in our lives no matter how hard the winter has been.
Lent, which began on Ash Wednesday (March 5) and culminates at Easter, covers a period of 40 days plus Sundays. It originated in the very early church as a time of intense preparation for Baptism at Easter.
Today Lent can be a time of repentance (which means "turning or returning to God"), and renewed spiritual devotion. It's not too late to get started. Some people fast, or "give something up" for Lent, such as a favorite food or video game, as a way of focusing attention on God.
The idea is that every time we crave the item given up, we are reminded of our dependence upon God's grace and love. Other spiritual disciplines practiced during Lent include adding something to your life, such as renewed devotion to Bible study and prayer, generous giving to those in need, and my personal favorite, deciding to commit at least one random act of kindness each day.
And you might want to stop by Calvary and walk the unique version of the Stations of the Cross we have set up for a powerful experience. All of these things can draw us closer to God, but they don't make God love us any more than he already does.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
Lent culminates in Easter new life and that Good News is always in season. Each and every day we have a fresh start a new opportunity to receive and live in God's grace.
God never gives up on us. And the amazing thing is that when we do spend some real time with God, we do grow to become more the way God intends us to be. My favorite description of God's desire for the character of our lives is from Galatians 5 where Paul writes, "
the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."
That's the way God made us and wills for our lives to look no matter what is happening around us. Lent is for me a special time to partner with God so that I allow him to grow my character in these ways and I'm pretty sure that all of us have at least a bit of growing to do.
The Rev. Jonathan Heierman is pastor of Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church