El Segundo United Methodist Church

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"Come to the Water"
Pastor Lee's Sermon Podcasts

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Dear Friends,

There are times when life just seems overwhelming.  There are too many things on the "to-do" list, too many people to see, too many phone calls to make or emails to send, too presentations to prepare, too obligations to meet, too papers to finish, too many tasks to complete, too many errands to run, etc., etc., etc.

Do you ever feel like that?  I do.  In fact, that's how I'm feeling as I write this column.  My "to-do" list is long, my time is short, and I woke up this morning feeling tired before I even started the day.

Hmmm . . . maybe I need to change something.  Maybe I need to reassess my commitments.  Maybe I need to find some time to breathe . . . to think . . . to pray.

Maybe I need Lent.

When we think of Lent, we tend to think of it as a solemn, gloomy time, a time when we focus on our shortcomings and deprive ourselves.

But that's not what Lent is meant to be!  To be sure, Lent is serious business, and, traditionally, it is a time of reflection, prayer, fasting, and confession.  But we do those things, not to put ourselves down, but to lift ourselves up and to renew a relationship with our God in Christ, a relationship that is fulfilling, life-giving, and joyful. 

It may help to think of Lent as "spring training."  (After all, the word "Lent" comes from an Old English word that means "spring.)  I don't know much about baseball, but I do know that before the opening of the season, there is a period of intense preparation when the players work hard to improve their throwing, catching, running, and batting skills.

Like spring training, Lent is meant to be an intense period of preparation before Easter during which we hone our spiritual skills.  It's a time to stretch our spiritual muscles in order to become more aware of those areas in our faith life that need work and to practice the things that will strengthen our ability to play and work and live as Christians.  Instead of practicing batting and throwing, of course, we practice praying, reading the Bible, and worshiping and serving together.

During spring training, baseball players also strive to change habits that keep them from being good at what they do.  Likewise, Lent is an opportunity for us to take a look at our lives and our priorities and to consider what enhances our faith and gives us life and what does not.  (Sounds like something I need to do!)  Perhaps the best way to do that is to develop our relationship with our "coach," Jesus Christ!  Just as baseball players listen to their coach and pay attention to his strategies, so Lent is a time to focus on Christ's words and actions, a time to watch for signs of God's grace-filled presence in our lives and in the world, a time to listen for the whispers of the Holy Spirit that guide and direct us.

Of course, just as baseball players constantly practice their sport, so we can and should do these things all the time.  Unfortunately, it's all too easy to be distracted by things outside the ballpark/church and by the roar of the society in which we live.  That why Lent is important.  It offers us a time to be intentional about the way in which we live as Christians and to focus on what is most important in our lives:  the relationship with God in Christ that gives us life and love and joy!

That joy is embodied in the celebration which we anticipate during Lent—Easter.  Not even the most anticipated opening game can match the hope, the glory, the wonder of Christ's resurrection! 

Praise and thanks be to God!

In training with you,

Pastor Lee

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