You would love the way our sanctuary looks right now, during this season of Lent. Some gifted women in our congregation have transformed it into a wilderness, visually inviting us on a Lenten journey. When you first walk into the sanctuary there is a display of sage brush, desert rocks and even a skull laying in the illusionary sand. An old trunk sits in the sand holding the “Alleluia” banner in its dark interior until that joyous day. Bare branches stand tall here and there in vases. Seeing all this gives you pause, as these things don’t typically belong in a church sanctuary. Flowing from a far wall is a spring of lovely blue (fabric) water that is pouring forth as a small waterfall down onto the rocks below. Our sanctuary wilderness offers both a feeling of desolation and beauty, sadness and hope; just some of the emotions of the season. You step into this space with openness and expectation.
This wilderness invites us each Sunday morning and Wednesday evening of Lent to step back from our busy lives to be still, to reflect, and to examine our hearts. That is often more difficult than it should be because we are all too busy. Each of us carries many concerns and responsibilities. Our many problems weigh us down and we are just plain tired. Very tired, usually. Making time to be still, reflect and examine is a gift we can give God; and believe it or not, ourselves, during this season.
We can take this wilderness opportunity during Lent to be more thirsty for God and his ways. We do this by freely giving more to help others, however we can. Or, if preferred, denying ourselves a daily indulgence. Fasting is yet another way to focus on God’s goodness and abundant blessings. Then dedicating that fasting time in prayer and giving, best done as a heavenly secret.
Just remember that whatever you decide to do, or not do, include in your days things that draw you closer to God: prayer, meditation, scripture reading, reflection, gathering together, and anything else that opens you up to God’s love and grace. In so doing, your wilderness experience will become a blessing.
Hold my hand as we journey through these 40 days of Lent. Gently lead me and teach me your ways as we go. As we approach Easter, help me to appreciate more deeply your suffering, so that I may truly celebrate your resurrection.