In the late nineties I was the pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Waite Park. The parish formed a relationship with Bethlehem Lutheran Church. Bethlehem Lutheran is in the south part of the parish. Since both Catholics and Lutherans celebrate Lent, the two parishes decided to celebrate Ash Wednesday together. The combined Ash Wednesday gathering to place at Bethlehem Lutheran and I was selected to preside and preach that evening. Beyond the uniqueness of the service, the place of the service had personal significance for me. In my childhood I had ran around the area that is now Bethlehem Lutheran, as it had been my dad’s parent’s farm. In fact, the church’s sanctuary space is about where the farmhouse sat. So that Wednesday evening I came to the ambo to preach and shared the back story. A recurring theme emerged: this place was once a farm, now it is a church. Where once seed was scattered and black angus were tended too, now God’s word is spread and all are invited into the flock of Jesus, our Good Shepherd.
The journey from a farm to a church speaks to Lent’s message of personal transformation, growing deeper in our relationship with God. Lent means “to lengthen” and comes for the Old English word for “spring” or “growth”. It is this emphasis that marks the following 40 days (excluding Sundays). During this season Christians are called to reflect and practice those activities that promote spiritual growth, and help us “return to the Lord our God” more fully.
As one writer noted, “March is the month of Lent, when we are asked to rebuild the foundations of our lives on the solid rock of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. We pray that God will open our eyes to the glory and the needs all around us, the abundance and the lack. We fast to remember how good the gifts of the earth are. We fast to remember those whose share in that goodness has been stripped from them and destroyed. We give alms to help those in need, to restore — to them and to us — creation’s harmony and balance. Hopefully, by the end of Lent we will be somehow changed, renewed, re-converted and thus readied to celebrate the Triduum. Blessings on your Lenten Journey.