As a pastor for nearly twenty years, I have rarely enjoyed the season of Lent. There have been years where the one thing I've wanted to give up for Lent was Lent itself.
Not this year. God has invited me on a different type of Lenten journey...improvised. Give up preoccupation and preparation. Embrace the moment. Embrace deep listening. Embrace the Spirit at work in the present.
A few weeks ago in worship, we reflected as a community on the following text from Mark,
He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. ~Mark 6:8-13
Jesus sends the disciples out to do ministry improvisationally. They have nothing with them except themselves and their faith. They are instructed to remain present, "Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place." How long should we stay? Until you leave. Be fully present until you leave. And the disciples "went out and proclaimed that all should repent". They created ministry and a message in the moment based on the needs and the people before them.
This will be my journey through Lent as well. Like the disciples I've been invited into deeper presence in the moment not relying on anything outside myself except God. I've been invited to trust God in a deeper way than I have at this point. This means preaching without preparation. This means trusting that God will arrange seredipitous conversations. This means being fully present with each and every person and in each and every moment. It requires deep listening and honest response. It's about relationship.
When I am present, the story emerges...the story of God being told by the Spirit in the moment of preaching, in a conversation with someone, or when praying with others. God is at work now. Am I open enough to see it?
I have always appreciated Paul's prayer request of the Christians in Ephesus, Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak. ~Ephesians 6:19-20
I am far from being anything like the apostle Paul as a preacher, but I am like him that I am called to proclaim the gospel. During the season of Lent, the Lord has invited me to let go of preparation for preaching and simply step into the moment and trust that "a message may be given to me".
Please pray for me. That, like Paul, literally a message may be given me and that I speak it boldly and that I may be truly present and open to what God is doing momemt by moment throughout the day.
Yesterday, as I shared my Lenten journey with a friend of mine I heard God whisper in my ear, "Let's play..."
You are welcome to join me on this improvised journey.