“Heart and Soul”
Have you ever fallen off a hay wagon, or perhaps a sleigh? Whether it is purely accidental or aided by rambunctious friends, once you find your feet again, you know that you have to run to catch up. It’s an effort. Occasionally the driver will slow down, and often outstretched hands are offered to help get back on board; but you have to want it!
The call to change, which is inherent in the invitation ‘to observe a holy Lent’, demands our willingness at this point in the season to acknowledge that perhaps we are not quite as successful in our disciplines as we planned. When you exercise, you sweat! I think that is true in Lenten disciplines as well as physical exercise, but the sweat in this case would be the result of perseverance. Just as it is easy to find excuses not to go to the gym, or use those weights or go on that walk, so it is possible, even tempting to ‘fall off the wagon’ with other disciplines.
The word ‘covenant’, frequently spoken to in the Hebrew Scriptures, is about the relationship between God and God’s people. The gift of the rainbow in Genesis chapter 9, given as a sign of God’s promise that ‘never again will the earth be destroyed with a flood’ is one example. In Exodus chapter 19, God commits to the covenant with Israel and Moses at Sinai through the gift of the Law, the 10 Commandments. In 2 Samuel the covenant with David is established.
The Christian story, of course, continues into the New Testament. The new covenant is celebrated between God, revealed in Jesus the Son, actioned through the Holy Spirit, and us, disciples perpetually in spring training. And God continues to call people, individuals and communities, to change and growth but we need perseverance to stay with the programme.
The term ‘self-help’ is popular in our culture, evidenced in the abundance of blogs, book titles, and day time TV shows, focussed on self-help and self-care. When it comes to Lenten disciplines, by definition dealing inclusively with body, mind and spirit, or wholeness, it isn’t a matter of self-help because we aren’t doing it alone. We can be upheld by others who offer support, both prayerful and practical. “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:1-2) But we must remember that we are in partnership with none other than Jesus and our commitment to Lenten goals is between ourselves and our Lord. Fortunately God promises an ongoing, inspiring, forgiving relationship with us: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 20).