Remember a few months ago when we were at the end of November and we began to celebrate Advent, that time to prepare for the arrival of the Christ child? We took four Sundays to arrive at the manger on Christmas Day. Well, this month we are preparing again, for 40 days.

Lent is a season of preparation for the announcement of an empty tomb and the resurrection of Jesus. Because this is a greater event that has a much larger impact upon our lives, the journey will be longer and more demanding. During this journey we will not be distracted by shopping and decorating and gatherings at work and with friends and families. Yes, I am aware that some people put up decorations for Easter, but not to the degree they do for Christmas.

Some faiths, including our own, have challenged people to go on pilgrimages, on strenuous journeys to a sight of significance in that person’s faith. This isn’t the type of journey we will be asked to make. This journey is harder. We could find a 50 mile walk more enjoyable. Climbing incredible amounts of stairs on our knees could be less painful. This journey demands that we look at ourselves with complete honesty and serious assessment of our relationship/relationships with God and God’s children (all of them).

During Lent, we give ourselves a complete spiritual physical (like the Doctor examines our physical condition, we perform a self-examination of our spirit). Do we spend time in conversation with God? How often and how much do we speak to God vs. listening to God? Do we act lovingly toward God, or is it more like we are doing our minimum daily requirement? Do we respect and care for the Creation of which God has made us stewards, not owners? Do we love our brothers and sisters? Do we seek to do kindness for them? Do we seek justice for all God’s creation, even if it means we have to give up some things? These are not simple yes and no questions. They are challenging and may cause pain. Remember going to the doctor and the doctor did something to help you that was painful? This is how we do a spiritual physical.

We are to invest ourselves fully in the coming gift of Easter by getting ready to invest all that we are in the presence and promise of God. Being a Disciple of Jesus isn’t about a name on a membership card, or getting a pin to wear. It is about being Christ-like. Loving and living the way Jesus taught us to live in harmony and love with all God’s children. It means overcoming fear with compassion, converting anger into the energy to seek justice, and transforming selfishness into caring support for our brothers and sisters.

I invite you to take time every day, maybe 30-60 minutes at a specific time for your spiritual physical. Use all the tools available, tools like prayer, reading the Bible, worship, writing out thoughts and fears in a journal for God, and any other tool you might use. We will start on March 1st at 7:00 p.m. with a service of worship for Ash Wednesday. During that service we will dust off our tools and get them ready for use.

Shalom, Darrell