Wednesday, March 22, 2006

What is Lent for a pastor?

My writing has suffered once again during Lent.

One of my favorite scenes from The Simpsons involves the Simpson children lamenting having to stay inside. Marge suggests "why don't you play the game of Lent?" in a box dressed up like the game of Life. By your lack of laughter, I guess you had to be there...

Lent is a game for me. As a child, Lent was a tight rope--my family received a meal with plenty of soup and bread. Quantity was the goal in food during boyhood. Egad, but I had to go to church. My stomach won out in that game. The food was good.

Lenten services failed to arise in my yearly routine until college, when getting together with friends from Lutheran Campus Ministry seemed like a reasonable Wednesday evening activity--usually a Compline service or something similar.

When I arrived in South Dakota, I learned a new practice. Lent became a keeping up with the Jones' affair for pastors. I call this game: "How much can your Lent suck? My Lent sucks way more than your Lent!"

"I have 2 funerals and two extra worship services."

"Oh yeah, I see your funerals and worship services and raise you two extra Bible studies and a building addition project!"

Give me a break. I have never found Lent to be a time where spiritual growth is cultivated in my life, and usually I can't wait for Easter to be over. I suppose this is sacrilege coming from a pastor, but where is the joy in working myself to death? I certainly make some choices about how I use my time. And actually, the Presbyterians don't find special pride in beating themselves up during Lent--so it's a little bit better.

I have to hand it to my colleague and friend, Rev. Darth, who has invited the staff to come to worship with him on Monday and Wednesday mornings at Augustana College. I have found great peace in that worship service, and the grace of God permeated my hardened soul.

That makes a good Lent for me. Nothing like the Spirit of God dwelling in my being. I didn't have to do a thing except show up.


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