Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lent is NOT Christmas

Lent is not like Christmas. People drag their feet towards lent rather than the eager countdown to Christ's birth.  The Easter bunny does not hold a candle to Santa Claus.  I think deep down we know that we may have focused a little too much on the secular side of the holiday, focusing on gifts and parties and indulgences rather than the coming of Christ. 

During Lent, we cannot do this.  Lent is a period of preparation for the greatest gift of them all:  Christ's death and resurrection.  Lent is a time where we need to prepare ourselves to be worthy of the gift of Christ's sacrifice. Lent reminds people that they need to change. While the gift of Christ is freely given, it comes at a cost. The cost of Jesus' crucifixion. The crucifixion is also freely given, yet it reminds us that we need to be better people to honor the gift of death in order that we might have life everlasting.  The gift of the resurrection reminds us all that God has the power to transform. 

God has transformed me.  When I was 12, I lost my hearing to an auto-immune disease.  At the time, the doctors did not know what was going on with me.  My blood work was very abnormal and I was put on many experimental therapies to try and stop my hearing loss.  Three years later, many drug therapies later, I still lost all my hearing.  I stand before you today, legally deaf.  I wear cochlear implants that allow me to hear, but for a period of time, I did not hear at all. 

During this time, I have a very vivid memory of being at church.  We had all stood to say the Nicene Creed.  I could not hear at all.  At this point, I was deaf and without any hearing aids.  I became very, very angry.  I felt abandoned by God, and I thought it was very pointless to be at church when I felt that I could not participate in the liturgy.  I remember to this day, the furious tears, and the hot feeling under my skin as I sat down and refused to participate in the rest of the service.  My mind was screaming, "How can I do this and not hear?" 

And then the Eucharist began. I felt a sudden peace come over me.  My tears stopped.  My heart rate slowed.  I felt like I was being hugged.  I distinctly remember the presence of the Holy Spirit.  And it spoke to me.  And I heard God tell me that I did not have to HEAR to participate.  My Christ Walk had little to do with what I was HEARING and everything to do with what I was doing in my life. 

Throughout the years, I have come to realize that God gave me other gifts besides my hearing (and now my cancer).  And I have learned that I can manage my disease through exercise, good nutrition and managing my mind, body, and spiritual health.  I invite you to join me in the Christ Walk program to see how the Holy Spirit can transform your life, mind, body and spirit.

Christ Walk is a 40 day program designed to prepare yourself mind, body and spirit to lead a Christ-filled life that is also healthy.  In 1 Corinthians, 6:19, Paul states: "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you?" 

Our bodies house the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Very few of us treat our bodies like temples.  Rather, we make choices that treat our bodies in a careless fashion.  We eat too much, drink too much, fail to exercise, misuse medications, stress too much and make choices that do not care for this body that has the Holy Spirit within us.  We do not treat ourselves like temples. 

Lent is an opportunity for us to relook at our everyday habits, not only spiritually, but also physically and mentally so that we can turn to Christ in all of our choices, not just in our prayer life.  A Christ-like life, is something that we should chose to try and live each day.  Not just on church holidays. 

This Lent, you have chosen to do the Christ Walk program.  What does this mean? Instead of giving up chocolate, or sweets or other temptation, I ask you to take a walk with me.  Christ Walk is a Lenten devotional that uses walking different biblical routes to symbolize the journey we take with Christ in our everyday life.  You will choose a biblical route to walk this Lent.  They are listed in the appendix of the Christ Walk book.  You will choose one of the routes that appeals to you.   There are many different routes you can symbolically walk during the next 40 days.  You will collect miles towards your route in different ways.  You can walk, bike, swim, volunteer or pray in order to earn miles towards your route.  By the end of Lent, you will have collected enough miles towards your chosen route and completed your journey. 

Some examples of the different routes you can walk include the following:  One route is the distance between Bethlehem and Jerusalem; signifying the journey between Christ's beginning and his end.  Another route is the "Via Delarosa, or the Way of Sorrows.  This route is the journey Jesus made as he walked through Jerusalem towards the cross.  There are several routes from Paul's missionary journeys.  There are many different routes to choose from.  You will  choose a route that calls to you. 

If you are unable to exercise, each 15 minute block of prayer, volunteerism, or outreach opportunity you take on will count as a "mile" towards your goal.   Christ Walk is designed for anyone at any level of fitness to participate.  In fact, I have had Christ Walk participants in wheelchairs and walkers that have found ways to earn miles during their Christ Walk journey.  Your miles, however you walk, run, bike, swim or pray through are steps you can use on your walk with Christ. 

The goal of Christ Walk is to build a strong temple so that we all can continue to do the work that Christ calls us to do in the world.   

God does call us to change.  We are called in our baptismal covenant.  We are called when we confirm that we are members of the body of Christ during confirmation.  We are called daily to represent God's love here on earth.  This is not just a call of prayer, but also a call of action.  Being a Christian is all about everything we DO and every way we ACT and the CHOICES we make not only with one another, but also with ourselves.

When I was growing up, I used to say Christmas was my favorite holiday. My father, a priest, would always say that Good Friday and Easter were his. This always made me scratch my head as a child

As I have grown older, the gift of Easter grows each year and I have come to think of it as my favorite holiday. I use the Lenten period to prepare myself mind, body and spirit to receive the gift of God and strengthen my skills to use myself in God's calling in my life. Lent is a time that we can spring clean our lives mind, body and spirit so we are prepared for the springing of Easter. Lent is my time to rededicate myself to God's calling in my life.

Lent is not something to drag one's heels. Rather, look with anticipation the coming journey and the change God can make within you. At the end of this forty days, You WILL be a changed person. 

In closing, I would like to share with you the Christ Walk prayer: 

The Lord be with you: 

I will try this day to walk the path set before me
I will try to walk a little longer, a little stronger
I will walk with my mind, body and spirit
I will walk with others, I will walk for others
I will walk when others cannot
I will be still and know that you are God on the days I cannot walk
I will walk with you Lord, on the path you set before me
When my own feet fail, I know you will help me get up and walk again
I will imagine what it would be like to walk in Christ's shoes
And try to live my life as though I was on Christ's path
I will pray that I walk the path I am called to and not turn down paths I am not
Today, Lord, on my journey I will Christ Walk
And I am thankful that you Christ Walk with me too.
Amen (Used with Permission, Christ Walk: A 40-Day Spirtual Fitness Program, 2015, Church Publishing Incorporated)

Come, Christ Walk with me.