Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Work of Lent: Part 2

After last week's writing and conversations many of you were encouraged to work "harder" at your Lenten disciplines with a new focus on improving how we live in the world God is already loving, already raising, already saving.

My favorite was hearing this from one of the Growing a Rule of Life participants: "As the garden grows, so grows the gardener."

Two things jumped into my thinking upon hearing this gem.  First is how consistent with what we have already begun to consider about how we are compelled to focus and "shrive" and pray and make ourselves ready for hearing again that our messiah has died . . . and has been raised.

I remember my first Lent with Advent. On Ash Wednesday we were already surrounded by blossom after blossom of God's springing our world out of the darkness and the cold of winter.

It made no sense to beat up on ourselves so as to earn a place at the foot of the cross or even better at the entrance to the empty tomb or in the upper room.  God was already redeeming us and our world and the tender shoots and hopeful sprouts and unfolding leaves were all the evidence we needed to understand God as already ahead of us.

Lent became a hustle to catch up, a renewed effort to align our lives, an admission that we were saved by a gracious love and not in reward for good behavior or right thinking.

As the garden grows by God's hand, so grows the gardener.

The other thought was a story I tell often, at least annually and so here I go again:
The vicar of the church would walk each day through his village, mostly for his health but often to pause and pray or to be caught in conversation with parishioners.  One property always impressed him with the richness, beauty and order of its gardens.

Finally one day he saw the gardener.  He sprang at the chance to meet him and called him over.  Immediately he began praising him and thanking him for the loveliness of the gardens and how they always uplifted his spirits when he would pause and view them. Even the vegetables growing off to one side were lush and healthy, it was all a joy to behold. 
He went on to say to the gardener, "How fortunate you are and blessed by God to be surrounded by such life and vibrancy with this beautiful garden!!"

The gardener politely thanked the vicar, "You are very kind to recognize the beauty of this garden and I agree that God has blessed me with its care but vicar I have to say you should have seen this garden when God had it all to himself."
I'm still laughing but I am just as impressed with how this story makes a claim about our gardening as co-creative in partnership.

The work of Lent is ours to do because we are made in the image of God, meant to share a garden with God.  And as the garden grows . . .

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