Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Attentive in Lent

From Messiah Lutheran Church's April 2011 newsletter

Despite all the laws in place forbidding the use of cell phones while driving, I still see many people holding their devices up to their ears or texting while operating their vehicles. Every so often, I’ll see one of those drivers make a dangerous move … or fail to move when the light is green, holding up traffic because they are so engrossed in their conversation that they don’t notice what’s going on around them.

Distracted driving is perilous, both to the driver and to other drivers and pedestrians. And it’s not just cell phones that are the culprits. Eating fast food or gulping down a latte or fiddling with the radio is also distracting. Small children who whine and cry and complain and fight with their siblings in the back seat can also hamper our safe driving abilities. I speak from experience!

Our lives are full of distractions that hamper our spiritual life. They draw us away from reading the Scriptures, spending time in prayer, joining in worship with our fellow believers in Christ, receiving the body and blood of Jesus regularly in the Eucharist. When our attention is drawn away from Christ, it could even be perilous to our spiritual life. We may run off the road and dive into the ditch of despair, collide with complacency, or smash into the brick wall of unbelief.

The season of Lent can refocus our attention in the midst of our distractions. It invites us to slow down and take some extra time for both corporate and personal devotion. The fasting that some people engage in (whether it’s giving up chocolate or abstaining from a meal) reminds us in a small way of the fasting of Jesus during his forty days in the wilderness. We deny ourselves in order to refocus our attention on Christ and the fact that he gave up his life for us at the cross. Others also take the opportunity to serve their neighbor in some fashion, reminding themselves how Jesus served us in his life and death, and how he continues to serve us with his light and life as our risen Lord and Savior. Lent keeps us on the road of joy, hope, and trust in our Triune God who continues to work in our lives in Word and Sacrament.

Easter falls almost as late as it can in the calendar this year. So, it’s not too late to be attentive during Lent. Take some time out from your distractions and devote yourselves to prayer and Scripture reading. Join us at church on Sunday, but also on Wednesday nights for our services of Evening Prayer during Lent. Set time aside for all the services of Holy Week. The story is so familiar, but we need to hear it over and over again, because it’s the story of how God rescued us from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation. And it’s more than just a story … it’s “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). Then, join us for a joyful Resurrection celebration when our “Alleluias” return and our restrained Lenten devotion breaks forth into exuberant Easter praise.

In Christ’s service and yours,
Pastor Onken

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