“Wait a minute… do UU’s celebrate Lent?”
Not always. And not everyone. But we can…
“Isn’t Lent about giving stuff up? That doesn’t sound so great…”
Lent isn’t just about sacrifice. Lent is about practice – that is, practicing the attributes of a faithful life. Lent is also a time to deepen and explore religious/ spiritual identity… to do so for a limited time within a supportive community.
“Isn’t Lent Christian?”
Yes, and no. Lent is a solemn observance in some Christian traditions today. But like so many traditions that have a modern form, the ancient form is more basic. The word “Lent” is, in fact, a shortened form of an Old English word meaning: spring season. In some other languages, the word means “great fast” or “fasting period.” And Lent leads up to Easter, a holiday that is surely Christian today but one that also finds its roots in Judaism and paganism. So, is Lent Christian? Yes, but that’s not all it is…
SOME IDEAS FOR UU’s WHO ARE CURIOUS ABOUT LENT:
The story of Lent relates to a 40-day journey of Jesus in the desert. There he fasts, and he is tempted. The journey itself is connected to the 40-year journey of the Israelites, who fled Egypt (i.e., Exodus) through the desert.
What does it mean to have a desert faith? This is powerful question at any time – perhaps even more so in 2021. When we are cut off from our familiar forms of comfort and worship, what remains? What endures? What is most important to hold onto, and what can be let go?
In Scripture, when the temple was destroyed or unavailable, it was incumbent on practitioners to adapt their religion into a more road-worthy form. Temple worship gave way to pop-up tabernacles, as communities and individuals found new ways to come together around what they held to be most important.
What might this mean for Unitarian Universalists (UU’s)? What might this mean for UUSGS community members who find ourselves unable to gather in familiar ways? What are the core values and practices of Unitarian Universalism?
These are not questions for any religious authority to answer for us. Rather, these are the questions we each are invited to consider for ourselves. What really matters? What is a “good life” for UU’s? What do you need to find and keep your balance? What practices might help us to develop healthy habits of the heart?
The links below outline some ideas for practices to engage in throughout the Lenten period (typically 40 days before Easter, so February 17th – April 4th, 2021). The invitation before you today is to use this time as a period of focused practice in some key areas.
The really cool thing about Lent is: you don’t have to do it forever! It’s just six weeks or so. But while many look at Lent as a time of loss, it is more accurately a time of focus, even curiosity. Lent is a time to try something new related to your spiritual well-being. Again, you don’t have to do it forever. Try something out during Lent… a new practice, a new commitment. If it sticks beyond Lent, great. If not, at least you have likely learned something about yourself.
A helpful metaphor may be stretching. A healthy stretch doesn’t last forever. It may be uncomfortable for a short time; it may require some adjustment. It should never hurt. (This is important!) But done for a time, what we find is that our overall health, flexibility, and strength is improved. What stretching is for the body, a time of intentional practice (like Lent) can be for the soul.