I was thinking about lent, and then a good friend of mine wrote an excellent blog post on the topic. Summer actually was my first inspiration for writing a blog (if she can do it, maybe i can too!)- though I am not sure if I am as successful at it as she is- her blog is candid writing on her marriage with my other good friend Owen- a neat reflection on a young couple making marriage work in modern day America. Anyway, here is her recent post on lent:
So anyway, back to the church service on Christmas eve. It was one of the most genuine services I have been to. There were no pretences or business as usual approach that I am used to. Yes we sang the hymns and lit the candles and read allowed all the regular Lutheran liturgy. But the sermon was what set the service apart. The pastor at St. Andrews Lutheran church stood up and immediately had 1) all the athiests raise their hands 2) all the people who had only come to church once that year 3) all those in the church of different faiths and religions. He then stated "you are all welcome, thank you for being here". He acknowledged the medley of reasons people come to church on christmas- family tradition, so as to not upset one's parents, because that is what you do etc. etc. He then told a story (which I will do my best to retell well):
5 years later, the son showed up on the pastors doorstep. He had graduated, made it through his four years of service and came back to thank his foster father. The pastor then spoke of how elated he was, how thankful he was to reconnect with his son and be able to express his love for him. He spoke of embracing his son, and of how this day was the happiest of his life- having someone who he imagine lost to him return as a family member.
I know this story rings hard of the prodigal son, and is not the only story of its kind. And the parallel here may be all too obvious: each of us distancing ourselves from God, and him then welcoming each of us back joyously. But the way the pastor shared it was so genuine, and the story naturally inspired authentic hope. Within me was kindled the possibility of many others- after whatever journeys they have imparted on in life drifting from God, whatever convictions they hold against him, being able to reunite with him; and have a relationship with him, and to feel his love as a real, tangible experience. That is a bright outlook to have to look forward to.
So maybe this Easter, for those who go to the service because it is ritual, or for whatever other reason- maybe this time they go will make the difference. Or maybe they will find God some other time in a walk in the forest or in an experience in some other unexpected place. You never know in life where God will show up, where suddenly the spiritual is present in real time. So for me, I am going to rejoice in all of those who go just 2 times a year, because maybe the visit this Easter, or next Christmas, or some far out service in the future, will be the one that makes all the difference.