Lent Devotion, March 20th

Lent is traditionally a time when we turn to those wilderness places in our lives where we struggle to find meaning. For those of us who follow the liturgical calendar Lent tends to lead us to reflect on our mortality. And when faced with mortality, we may desire to make changes in our lives, not because we expect something in return, but because our lives are empty and meaningless. We make changes because we have exhausted all other possibilities, or have nowhere else to turn. It is time to take stock of our lives, to figure out what is truly important, and to change.

This year the season of Lent is far more complicated. So many are fearful of the days ahead. How will we make ends meet? Will our loved ones succumb to the COVID-19 virus? How is the economy going to recover from this? Will we lose our savings? The questions become overwhelming and the truth is that there is no crystal ball to tell us the future.

However, in the midst of this season of soul-searching and contemplation, we have a respite in the liturgical calendar from dark times. For Lent too has its own harbinger of spring and it is called Laetare, or Rejoice, Sunday. It is traditionally celebrated during the fourth week of Lent and is expressed with a lightening of the solemn mood of the season. According to Wendy Wright, author of one of my favorite Lent, Easter, and Pentecost devotionals called The Rising, the Church of England refers to this day as Refreshment Sunday, or Mothering Sunday. She writes, “the customs of visiting one’s mother or baking and eating similcakes are still occasionally practiced today.”

The “mothering” image for this Sunday, says Wright, reminds us that our first steps toward the kingdom of God are made under God’s tender care, as a mothering presence: someone that tenderly stands behind us as a loving backdrop. “It is especially in the mystical tradition that the motherhood of God is given expression: God as the one who labors and gives us new life on the cross; God whose creative activity confers life on us.” On this Mothering Sunday we experience glimpses of God’s hidden nature and we rejoice.

Traditionally, the scripture readings for this Sunday play with the theme of light emerging from darkness. This reflects what we experience naturally at this time of the year — the lengthening of the days. This Sunday, I will discuss the healing of a blind man in John’s gospel. According to Wright, “the motif of the light of God piercing the darkness of the blind man’s world yet remaining unseen by the dark spirits of those unable to perceive the dawning light animates the reading. The light image comes to us as refreshment and welcome respite during this somber season.”

During such a time of uncertainty and hardship for so many around the world I am comforted by the following thought: I do not know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future. My faith and hope continue to be edified by some of the kind acts that I see all around me. I am inspired by the willingness of so many in this congregation to reach out to those in need of comfort, care, and hope. I am also inspired by signs that I see in the greater community: I saw a woman pay for a distraught father’s groceries at Safeway.

The prophet Hosea, who ministered during a time when his people were suffering from war with Assyria, wrote this:

“Come, let us return to the Lord;
for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us;
he has struck down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord;
his appearing is as sure as the dawn; he will come to us like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth.”

At this time of duress for our nation and our world may we be watered by God’s promise of fulness of life to come. May Hosea’s words of comfort fill us with hope for the future.