“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
(I Timothy 4: 8)
I’m writing this to you all on Wednesday afternoon (February 8), but even now I’m pretty excited about events that will kick off tomorrow evening in Pyeong Chang, South Korea. Tomorrow evening will mark the opening ceremonies for the 2018 Winter Olympics (although this will be in the wee hours of Friday morning local time). I am definitely an Olympics fan, although given my choice I’m far more excited about the winter Olympics than summer Olympics.
For Olympic fans, there’s a lot to look forward to in the days ahead. There’s the opportunity to watch world-class athletes competing for gold, silver and bronze. They’ll be competing in skiing, skating, luge, bobsleds and so much more. And, it’s not just the competition I find fascinating, but also all of the behind the scenes stories of sacrifice and hard work. For many of these athletes, competing in the Olympics is the pinnacle of years and years of training and hard work. Along the way they’ve chosen to give up many things, to focus on the goal, preparing mentally and physically in order to compete.
This year, as the world will be watching the athletes gathering in South Korea, we have our own big kick off event in the life of the church. On Wednesday (February 14- Valentine’s Day!) we will observe Ash Wednesday as we begin our intentional journey of Lent. On Ash Wednesday, you are invited to be a part of one of two identical worship services, at noon and 6 pm. At the beginning of our journey we will wear the mark of ashes as we remember who we are and the journey we are called to in following Jesus.
Lent isn’t about physical competition but the ongoing challenge of using, stretching, and toning our spiritual muscles. In her book, Something More, Catherine Marshall writes, “Were we to use the muscles of our legs as little as we do the muscles of our faith, most of us would be unable to stand.” You don’t learn to run a marathon by dreaming about it. We don’t grow in grace by lukewarm practice. Our growing in grace is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, but by the disciplines, habits, practices, exercises of faith we open our lives up to the work of God.
Exercise might not be your favorite word, but God gives us many ways to be open to the work of grace. During these 40 days you might choose to engage in the habit of being in God’s word. Not just a sound byte on Sunday mornings, rather a steady healthy diet of God’s word. Being in God’s word is one way of God’s transforming and renewing work in us. (Romans 12: 1,2). For those of you with access to computers or smart phones, I invite you to check out YouVersion.com. They offer lots of reading plans and scripture is delivered every day to your laptop or smart phone. You might choose to spend the 40 days of Lent reading through the Gospels, or focus on just one gospel. You might choose to read a Psalm a day and allow the Psalm to form a pattern for your prayer. Also, this Sunday we will have available in the Narthex(s) a devotional guide prepared by the Society of St. Andrew to guide you in the practices of scripture reading and prayer throughout these 40 days.
Whatever you choose to do, I invite you to be intentional about using, stretching, toning your spiritual muscles, that we may be those able to stand firm in faith.