The journal Christian Century published a refreshing article recently on the value of spiritual practices. You can find it here. But in case you would prefer not to read the whole article, which is by William Willimon, a fine theologian, here is the salient point, marvelously reminiscent of Luther:
“My worry is that attention to practices deflects our attention from the living God. With the focus on practices, Christianity quietly morphs into a species of unbelief; we take revelation into our own hands.
The question to ask of any allegedly Christian practice is, “Who is the God being served through this practice?” Pelagianism is a tough thing to shake. The idea that we must do something for God before God will do anything for us, the concept that my relationship with God is sustained by my actions or feelings or inclinations, the notion that “religion” is something I do rather than God’s effect upon me—all these ideas appear to be lurking behind contemporary discussions of practice.”
All the discipline of Lent is meant to do is simply to call us home,
call us home to the prodigal Father,
who loves us so graciously and deeply,
who spared nothing for our sakes,
who reached down into our lives with his beautiful son,
who bent low over us at our birth,
who accompanies us through every age of our lives,
until that final journey,
when he carries us across the threshold from death to eternal life.
All the discipline of Lent is meant to do is help us to see the Father
waiting at the door,
to see him running toward us
down the road,
as we return,
waiting with a robe, and a ring, and a feast,
with songs of welcome, and joy,
for we who had been dead are alive,
by his grace,
and we who had been lost,
have been found.
St. Augustine put it this way:
“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee…”
Lent is the journey to our heart’s true home in God.