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  • Lent: An Invitation To A Deeper Spirituality

    Our Lenten season began on February 26, forty days before Easter, this year celebrated on April 12. Interestingly, Easter is a “moveable feast” whose date is calculated by the lunar calendar. Our world is more accustomed to the “fixed” solar calendar, so Easter offers us a challenge from the beginning, since it cannot be “nailed down” to a specific numerical date each year. The resurrection speaks to this elusive world of the Spirit, upon which we depend, but which defies our controlling it. Lent invites us into a time of deeper reflection to release our illusions and rationalizations and help us discern the honest soul work to which we are being called.

    The forty days of Lent are based on the time Jesus spent in the wilderness facing temptations that would ultimately guide his way to his purpose and service in the world. For us, it is a reminder that our spiritual journey will involve confusing, barren places in which we are being asked to uncover our true purpose and the meaning of service in our own lives. Lent asks, “Whom are you serving? What is the ultimate goal which directs your choices, displaying the values you hold?”

    The three temptations of Jesus reveal the temptations of the ego which each of us must face in order to come to a deeper understanding of the life of the soul. St. Ignatius calls them the temptations to misplaced power, pride, and privilege. The first is the temptation of a misuse of power: that we are able to take care of ourselves alone without relying upon God or others. “Human beings do not live by bread alone” reminds us to let go of the illusion of culture’s false idol that we are in control of everything in our life.

    A second is the temptation to pride—that we are the center of the universe and never need correction. This temptation to pride and arrogance is the root of our prejudices “protecting” us from “those other people,” forgetting that we belong to one another in this human family that God has created. We are one body.

    The third temptation is privilege—that we do not have to live in vulnerability or suffer the realities of “those other people”. As we accept that God alone is God, and we are not God, we are open to the Love that transforms us and shows us our place with all others in the created order. Having been shown the great compassion of God for us, we are moved to offer compassion for others on the journey.

    These temptations call us away from our true soul work: gratitude for life itself, acceptance of God’s love and mercy in each moment, and openness to the service to which this forgiveness calls us. May Lent deepen our trust in God, the One who is Love itself, the Whole of the Creative Force, our Source and our Ultimate Home.

    —Rev. Dr. Ken Orth, Healing Worship Minister, Old South Church in Boston, Pastoral Psychotherapist and Spiritual Director, First UCC Winchester