We'll take a break from CBF this week to reflect on the start of this season of Lent we've just begun.
Over the past week I’ve been chewing on the first entry in the Lenten devotional we’re using this year, which pairs scripture with the poetry of Mary Oliver (copies are still available at the church) It paired a traditional Ash Wednesday scripture from the Sermon on the Mount with a poem entitled, Storage.
In the Scripture, after admonishing his audience pray, give, and fast in a spirit of humility—not preforming these religious exercises for other to see and be impressed—Jesus concludes with theses words:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth… but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
As the devotional points out, this passage is about priorities, and how they’re often misplaced, even (or especially) when it comes to our spiritual lives. Even our worship, which is meant to direct our attention to the treasure of heaven, can end up being a vehicle for earthly treasures. “Are we secretly (even behind our own backs)” the devotional wonders, "trying to impress others?”
Oliver has a few thoughts about earthly treasures in her poem, Storage.
When I moved from one house to another
there were many things I had no room
for. What does one do? I rented a storage
space. And filled it. Years passed.
Occasionally I went there and looked in,
but nothing happened, not a single
twinge of the heart.
As I grew older the things I cared
about grew fewer, but were more
important. So one day I undid the lock
and called the trash man. He took
I felt like the little donkey when
his burden is finally lifted. Things!
Burn them, burn them! Make a beautiful
fire! More room in your heart for love,
for the trees! For the birds who own
nothing — the reason they can fly.
At its heart, Lent is a season of fasting. While one of the oldest religious rituals there is, fasting is somewhat of a foreign concept to most of us. Of course it has to do with giving up food, but on a broader level fasting is meant to disrupt our normal rhythms, which tend to form along the path of least resistance, so that we might create new rhythms more in line with our priorities.
Food and our eating rhythms are just one way to do this, albeit an important one. But there may be other rhythms to disrupt that would open us up to reconsider our relationship with “things.”
The devotional suggests scheduling a “spring cleaning,” in the hopes that a physical purge of excess stuff might lead to a spiritual load being lifted. Or perhaps try fasting from buying and consuming for a week. Pay attention to how many times you’re tempted to make a purchase beyond your necessities (or even the ways you begin to redefine “necessity”) and ask yourself how these desires might be taking up “room in your heart” that might better be reserved for other things…”for love, for the trees.”
Lent is of course a time when we meditate on the ways Christ’s life, death and resurrection forever changed our relationship with God.
But it so happens this has a lot to do with rearranging our relationship with things.
What rhythms will you disrupt this Lent? To what treasure will you give your heart?