Sometimes one word can change one's whole way of looking at things. So it was for me this week. A couple of weeks ago, I had decided to preach from the Leviticus text assigned for the 7th Sunday of Epiphany. I had never worked with that text before, and I had never really read Leviticus either. (And truth be told, I still haven't read all of Leviticus-you can catch it's drift pretty quickly.) I found myself focusing on one word in that text-holy. It's used more frequently in Leviticus than in any other book of the Bible. "You shall be holy." "I am holy." A dance of our holiness and God's holiness.
I wonder-are those words I want to be saying to people who fast every day because there is not enough food to feed their family? Do I want to say to people who, by their poverty and/or homelessness are denied the luxury of self? Shall I say to a person riddled with self-doubt, "Do some self-examination?" We schooled in the nuances of theological conversation understand repentance as a turning (or returning) to God. But I wonder if my friend Judy who, every time she sees me says "Thank you for being kind to me", hears it that way. I wonder if my friend Judy hears the word repentance and thinks of all her alleged short-comings.
Self-examination makes sense-especially if it focuses on the ways we are drawing closer to God and to our neighbor. Spending time in prayer and making an effort to deepen one's prayer life are important foci at any point in the church year, but particularly in a season when we draw closer to the One who draws close to us. Reading and meditating on scriptures are also good ways to deepen our understanding of God's life with God's people.
Perhaps, at it's core, that invitation to keep a holy Lent, is an invitation to draw closer to God by aligning one's life to God's life as best we can and in ways appropriate to our own individual life situation.
My brothers and sisters, I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent. As those ashes are placed on your forehead, "Remember that you are God's, and to God you shall return."