The lectionary readings for Year A in Lent are heavy on symbolism, probably because most of the gospel readings come from John, and he tends to like that sort of thing. As our community looked at the readings in an attempt to find a theme or centering idea, what surfaced was the recurrence of hiding in the stories: David in Psalm 32 trying to cover up all of his sins from the Bathsheba debacle, Nicodemus coming to Jesus in the cloak of night, the Samaritan woman attempting anonymity with a stranger. And in each of these instances, these people are brought out of hiding by a sense of security or trust in who God is, in who Jesus seems to be. They feel enough, at least, to risk a little something, and that risk gives them new insight. David learns the power of forgiveness. Nicodemus gets an answer to his question about the Kingdom (although I doubt it was the clear answer he wanted). The Samaritan woman experiences acceptance despite her relational track record. Coming out of hiding was risky, but the stories are clear: it gets us somewhere. It allows us a better view.
So for our community this Lenten season, we are going to confront our many forms of hiding. We are going to attempt to live our lives fully before God, no cobwebby corners. We always take it up a notch liturgically during this season, and this year will be no different. We'll have weekly prayers of confession and communion, both of which are fantastic ways to thwart our attempts to hide from God and from the community into which we are called to live. And we're finding some other ways to play with the ideas of shadows and light, too.
Dallas Gingles suggested we start the first week of Lent surrounded by light that grows dimmer each week as we near Good Friday. Laura Schmidt, one of our leaders, thought we should incorporate the altar cloth fabric into this idea, making it change from lavender to deep purple to black as we descend into the darkness. We need light at first, of course, because our first Lenten duty is to come out of hiding and come clean. But once we do so, we have to follow along that journey toward Gethsemane, and Golgotha, where the sadness of our shared story of brokenness shrouds the sun for a time.
As in years past, we will hear stories each week from community members who are taking up a Lenten discipline. We'll hear what they've decided, how it's been going, and what they're learning. It's always a great way to share in one another's struggles, and certainly, to laugh. Last year, Carter Rose gave up steaks for Lent and then found himself within a span of a week's time at three well-respected (and pricey) steakhouses in town. We all had a good laugh when he admitted he crumbled at the third and final pro gratis offer for a $40 filet mignon. These stories remind us of the ups and downs of any practice, spiritual or otherwise. They take work, they require some laughter, and we should expect a few setbacks. But they also have the power to bring us out of our hiding and into the deep security of God's love. And that's worth another round of effort every time.