We’ve just passed the 20th day of Lent. We’re more than halfway to Easter. We’ve been having a joyful Lent this year at St. Paul, in part because of Luke’s joyous and beautiful telling of the Gospel. The stories we’ve been hearing are wonderful in hope, from the baptism and temptation, to the fig tree and the Prodigal. Two snowstorms in a row made coming to church on Sundays an adventure. Last week, with nice weather, I noticed a kind of bubbliness during the morning worship, and mentioned it to the choir: “there’s a lot of levity this morning!” Church felt like a party, in a reverential way, to be sure, but a party, nevertheless.
This year, I’ve finally learned that Lent opens in joy on Sundays, the Feast of the Resurrection no matter what the liturgical season. Lent means springtide, from the Anglo-Saxon “lencten”, or “lenctentid.” It was also the name of March, in which this fasting season occurs. In the words of one of my friends, Lent is springtime for the soul. We are feeling that spring is coming, literally, and figuratively.
Often in Lent, we choose a metaphor or visual aid to our worship, just to emphasize the themes of Lent. In the past, we’ve made small desert herb gardens; we’ve planted bulbs in pots in front of the altar. We’ve built a small fountain. We’ve constructed a wilderness basket full of pussy-willows; one year we made a cocoon tree, and butterflies emerged at Easter. This year, we’re collecting rocks as symbols of both obstacles, and foundations: Rock of Ages, Rock and Refuge; Moses brought water from a Rock; Jesus is the Rock of my salvation; rocks in the desert, rocks in the path, and if you live on Cape Ann, rocks all over yards and roads near the sea, thrown up by wild and stormy waves.
We have a sweet collection of rocks, on the floor near the altar. One is an iron carved of soapstone, created by one of our member’s forbears. One is a rock from a battle ground in Finland, where someone’s ancestor fought. One is a rock with a hollowed out oblong hole in it, looking like an empty tomb. One is a small heart-shaped rock: the prayer with that is a prayer to never let one’s heart become stone. Four children carried in a large piece of granite, shaped like a heart; it could be a foundation stone. With each rock, comes a story, and with each story, comes meaning and beauty, where our stories are embraced by the larger story of faith.
Now we are more than half-way to Jerusalem, the Cross, and Easter morning. I am aware of the journeys we take together, and the events that are happening for different members and friends of St. Paul. Some of us are tending sick parents; some of us are burying friends. Some of us are starting new jobs; some of us are helping our children prepare for college. Some of us are struggling with news of a sudden illness. Some of us are teaching the faith to our young. Some of us are searching our hearts, and seeking a greater knowledge of God. Some of us are going about our daily lives, seeing the face of Christ in our neighbors. Tomorrow morning, some of us will be making pancakes, and celebrating once again, the gift of community in Christ.
Whatever you may be facing in this journey, know that you are traveling in good company, with friends whose arms are linked to yours, through Christ, in solidarity, faith, hope, and love. The Lord of love goes with us, strong companion and true Friend.