The work of Lent involves developing through prayer, meditation, and study the sensitivity to discern God’s intentions for this world that “God so loves.” We are, each of us, in our own small ways, the hands and feet of God. Mary Oliver says in her poem At The River Clarion, “God’s everyone of us, potentially. The leaf of grass, the genius, the politician, the poet. And if this is true, isn’t it something very important? Yes, it could be that I am a tiny piece of God, and each of you, too, or at least of God’s intention and God’s hope. This is a delight beyond measure.” The task of Lent is to become increasingly aware of this “delight beyond measure” and recognize what it requires of us.
We begin Lent with the ritual of the imposition of ashes where we often hear the important words: “From dust you were created and to dust you will return.” This reminds us that we receive the gift of life and, ultimately, we must return this gift. Disciples celebrate God’s gracious gift each time we come together around the communion table. We return this gift through our discipleship, our commitment to justice and peace for all people and the natural world. In our contemporary context that means dismantling the structural and personal racism fostered by colonialism and sustained by white privilege. For what we have been given, we give back through our values, our attitudes, our actions. Lent is a time of more intense devotion, of waking up to the gift we have been given and the responsibilities that accompany it.
The planet is groaning under the evils of war, injustice, greed, and neglect. Lent reminds us that from death can come new life. Martin Luther King, Jr. found hope in his belief that although the moral arc of the universe bends slowly, it bends toward justice. With the renewed spiritual strength, we gain through the season of Lent our spiritual foundation is renewed. In our personal lives and in our ministries, we turn to the source of the energy we need to help bend that arc. It is sacred work. It is holy work. Because it is God’s work, it sustains us for the long road ahead.
Rev. Dr. Joseph Driskill is Dean Emeritus for DSF Berkeley and is Professor Emeritus of Christian Spirituality at Pacific School of Religion. He served as DSF's Dean in Berkeley from 1993 to his retirement in 2011. Last year, Joe taught an on-line course on Protestant Spirituality for The Center for Spirituality & Practice. He has also been preaching occasionally for Hillcrest Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Toronto, Ontario. Joe and Leslie continue to live in London, Ontario where they settled when leaving the Bay area.