Snow, Teeth, and Soil, by Pastor Clancy Nixon
Snow fell yesterday! The first snow that stuck in 2 years. Snow makes everything quiet and lovely. Kids play in it; adults shovel. It’s like a clean new blanket, covering the earth. Spring feels distant. No dirt is visible – not till it melts! A covering of snow is like God’s forgiveness of our sins – God covers our sins with His forgiveness. Like a covering for nakedness, He takes away our shame. We need this forgiveness on a deep level – underground, if you will.
To become thoroughly cleansed, we need more than a covering; we need an inner cleanse; the renewing of our minds. Recall our CHS scripture verse for 2021: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2) It’s not only the coronavirus that besets us; worldly patterns have infected too much, and too many, of our lives.
I invite you to a holy Lent.
More than any other season of the church calendar, Lent belongs to the Church. No one writes Lenten cards; there are no Lenten shopping deals. We don’t wish everyone a happy Lent; we wish believers a holy Lent. We don’t celebrate Lent; we observe it. Around the time of the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.), the church adopted a collective discipline modeled on the forty day fasts of Moses, Elijah and Jesus, which we call Lent (our English word “Lent” means lengthening of daylight in spring).
I invite you to set aside this 40-day season before Easter (Sundays are not counted – every Sunday is a feast day!) for mind renewal. The Church calls us to a holy Lent in this way: “by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and alms-giving; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.” (Book of Common Prayer 2019, p. 544) It’s not about being miserable or conspicuously pious. It’s about reconnecting with God through these essential spiritual disciplines.
Like our dentist examines our teeth twice a year for problems, God calls you to examine your own soul – (see 2 Cor. 13:5). What are you thinking about most these days? Are you caught up in the anger or anxiety that is so prevalent in pandemic culture? What images are fascinating you these days? Take a moral and spiritual inventory of your soul early in Lent. If you are doing this regularly – daily or weekly – it is not painful to do. For some of us, though, self-examination may be quite painful – like when we haven’t been flossing for a while, and we start again. Better yearly than never!
Then, of course, once we admit our faults, we are to repent. To change our minds. To turn around. God will help you! If you know what you need to do and still aren’t doing it, I encourage you to seek out accountability with another believer, who will encourage you in godliness. We can match you with a mentor or accountability partner – email me.
These practices will humble you. The word “humility” comes from the same root word as “dirt.” On Ash Wednesday, we recite this over you personally as you receive the imposition of ashes: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Our mortal bodies will all turn to dust. We are all sinners in need of redemption. Humus, as every gardener knows, is good dirt – it helps to grow fruitful plants.
Self-examination and repentance are essential ways we renew our minds. They are essential to our spiritual health. Examine your soil this Lent. Dig under the snow of your shallow repentances, and turn your soil over, bringing new life into your fruit-bearing.
Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple (1881-1944) composed a prayer for the people of God as we embark on this holy season: “O God, our judge and Savior, set before us the vision of thy purity, and let us see our sins in the light of thy holiness. Pierce our self-contentment with the shafts of thy burning love, and let that love consume in us all that hinders us from perfect service of thy cause; for as thy holiness is our judgment, so are thy wounds our salvation. Amen.”
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