When I was younger, I gave things up for Lent. Lately I find it more helpful to take on new things instead. Now, I take on new spiritual practices, trying to focus on my spiritual life. I seek God’s Kingdom through labyrinth walks, centering prayer, or some other action. There’s a part of myself that actually believes that Lenten practices will help me find the Kingdom.
Jesus was always telling those around him that the Kingdom of God was near. He used sermons and poetry and stories to try and explain what he meant. In the Parable of the Fig Tree, Jesus reminds us of the hope we can find in the changing of the seasons. The trees around us may still be bare but we know that they’ll sprout leaves soon. Our world may seem bleak but the Kingdom – the world of peace and justice and equality that our Creator intended for us – is near. We may not reach it in our lifetimes but, if we follow Jesus’ example, our actions will bring it just a bit closer.
My Lenten practices won’t change the world. They won’t even change my own life as much as I’d hope. I can’t let that weigh me down. If we let ourselves get burdened by doubt and worry, the Kingdom will keep slipping away. Instead we can focus on the Kingdom, remember that the trees will bloom again, and seek solace in the peace of Christ.
Rev. Tom O’Brien is Senior Pastor of Memorial Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Sudbury, MA.
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