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Taking time for Lent

Rev. Jerrod H. Hugenot

March 20, 2019

Taking the forty days of Lent seems an eternity in the fast-paced world we live in.  Truthfully, such a religious season is more desperately needed because of this world we live in.  Putting the brakes on all manner of demands and deadlines we feel piled upon ourselves seems nigh impossible, yet have you considered the benefit of doing so?  In a world addicted to “go”, have you given thought to the merciful self-permission to stop or deaccelerate?

Lent aims to make us better disciples of Jesus, so that by the time Easter is celebrated, we have made progress (in whatever way or capacity we are able to do so) to move God to the forefront of our lives.   Its ancient wisdom continues to inform and reorder the world, if we simply let ourselves embrace a Lenten rhythm.

Lent is often known as a time for “giving things up”.  Some Christians bid adieu to friends on Facebook until Easter, a virtual fasting from “social media”.  Others open up their pocket books or their schedules to support community needs through funds or volunteerism.  Such practices that require us to let something go that we think we cannot live without actually turns into a practice of saying “no” to self and “yes” to God—surely well in line with Jesus’ call to discipleship!  Time is indeed money, yet living life more faithfully is “priceless”.

I note a similar wisdom offered by Roger Williams, the “first” Baptist in the United States. Back in the 17th-century, as Baptists began to emerge in Europe, their beliefs and teachings began to work in the minds of these upstart colonists in America. Roger Williams founded the “first” Baptist church in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1638, part of his life shaped by living a contrary-minded faith.

When he arrived in America in 1630, Williams was a controversial figure, aggravating the Puritan colonial government to the point that within six years, he was banished from Massachusetts. To avoid deportment to England where he was equally unwelcome, Williams set off in the dead of winter 1636 for the wilderness. 

After spending some of that first winter in an old hollow tree to sleep and get some protection from winter storms, Williams later set his reflections into verse form:

God makes a Path, provides a Guide,

And feeds in Wilderness!

His glorious name while breath remaines, O that I may confesse.

Lost many a time, I have had no Guide, No House, but Hollow Tree!

In stormy Winter night no Fire, no Food, no Company:

In him I have found a House, a Bed,

A Table, a Company:

No Cup so bitter, but’s made sweet. When God shall Sweet’ning be.

(Edwin W. Gaustad, Liberty of Conscience, Judson, 1999).

A hollow tree may seem a bitter comfort, yet for Williams, it was a place where he felt provided for and able to look forward to the next day.  We need places like that, as getting from day to day is about all we can manage.  When our bandwidth is exceeded and our last wit feels long spent, God provides. 

Take time this Lenten season to let its ancient patterns and practices of self-examination, humility, prayer, restraint, and fasting open your heart to the possibilities you might not otherwise explore.  Listening mindfully for the right voice may seem a tall order not worth taking, as we rush through the hubbub.  It may seem counterintuitive or too contrary for our own good.  Yet we must, for when we filter out the babble of the world’s competing voices, we will find the calm and steady voice of Jesus, calling us back to the fold and along the path God provides.

Rev. Jerrod H. Hugenot is Associate Executive Minister of the American Baptist Churches of New York State.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

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