This past December, I came across somebody’s Facebook post that caught my attention. Let me read it to you.
It said, “To the punk who tried to steal our Christmas lights last night…you dropped your phone dummy while you were till logged into Facebook and didn’t even have a lock on your phone…I’m not going to the cops if you come back and let me talk to you…I’d rather just find out why and avoid putting someone in jail for a failed attempt at theft.”
And then the guy writes this in his post: “Here’s the profile link to their Facebook…Does anyone know who this is??? I have a lot of friends who are mutual friends with this person.” And then he provides the Facebook profile link that you can click on to see who stole this guy’s lights.
I was reluctant to click on the link, but I was curious to see who the guy was. I remember thinking to myself, “I just got to see who this fool is.” So I clicked the link and to my surprise, it was a link to my own Facebook page! It looked like I was the guy who stole his Christmas lights! In that split second, my heart sank.
And that’s when I realized that this whole think was a joke because everyone who clicked on that link, was sent to their own Facebook page, as if we were the ones who stole this guy’s Christmas lights.
I laughed as I stared at my own profile. I knew in that moment that this would make it into a future sermon and Ash Wednesday seemed to be the most appropriate time to use this.
Rusian novelist and historian, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has said, “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”
Sometimes we need a season like Lent to look carefully at our own profile and think about who we are and who God is calling us to be. But it’s not always easy to look within for any length of time. It can be a painful experience because we might not like what we see.
If we look at our profile, we might have forgotten about our lack of forgiveness toward that person who harmed us, or the gossip that we recently shared about someone we know, or the stranger who asked for a few bucks to help him out and for whatever reason, we turned him away, or how we didn’t keep a promise that we made, or when we could have been more generous and instead gave the smaller amount.
The point is that we all need Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent to look within ourselves and get right with God.
Isn’t it amazing that we can buy a number of things that help us to look outside of ourselves, but there really is nothing that we can buy that can help us look inside our own souls?
Think about it. If we want to look at something beyond ourselves, we can buy prescription glasses, binoculars, and telescopes. But what is there that can help us look into our own souls?
The season of Lent reminds us that there is something that can help us with that. It’s called prayer and confession.
John Wesley who was the founder of Methodism was known for asking those early Methodists this very important question, “How is it with your soul?” We probably don’t hear that question enough. “How is it with you soul?”
Not, “how is your day going?” or “how’s life?” but “how is it with your soul?”
This question encourages us to go deeper in thinking about who we are, who God is, and where we are in our spiritual journey. I know it’s a deep question, but it really is a game changer when we ask that particular question of ourselves.
Lent helps us to plumb the depths of our inner most being. Lent is what helps us to exercise our soul. And like any exercise or activity that involves a muscle of our body that we typically don’t use, we shouldn’t be surprised if we find ourselves a little sore after giving our souls a little workout.
How is it with your soul? Think about the possible answers in answering this question. Here are just a few examples.
“Well, to tell you the truth, right now I feel really close in my walk with Christ, and I want it to continue.” Or this…
“Actually, I’m going through a time of darkness in my life and it’s been really hard to feel God’s presence.” Or…
“I know that God has forgiven me for a terrible thing that I did, but I just can’t forgive myself.” Or…
“I am just now realizing that I’m not living life my fully. I’m just kind of going through the motions, like I’ve hit a plateau. I want to take my faith to a whole new level.”
This is what you get when you ask the “soul” question. You come face to face with the very core of your being.
Today marks the beginning of Lent, a stretch of six weeks where we designate this time leading up to Easter as a time to focus on this question, “How is it with our soul?” Lent is a long season, even longer than it’s liturgical cousin, “Advent” which is a four week stretch.
These two seasons on the church calendar have something in common. They both involve waiting. Not a passive waiting for a baby to be born or for a tomb to be found empty. No, these seasons encourage us to observe an active waiting. It’s a time for us to be alert, awake, alive. Did I just come up with a future three point sermon?! I like that! Alert, awake, alive.
Say that with me. “Alert – Awake – Alive!”
Remember when the disciples were in the garden with Jesus and he had asked them to watch and pray while he went off to pray by himself? And remember how they stayed awake that whole night praying for him? Trick question. They didn’t. They fell asleep when Jesus needed them the most.
That story reminds us that being alert, awake, and alive is hard work. We need some time to live into that kind of deeper faith journey. And this is why the church offers us this six week time frame. One day won’t cut it. Not even one week. We need a whole season. We need Lent.
One of the ways that the church can help us think about the question, “how is it with your soul?” is by asking each other that question in a small group setting.
Our church is blessed to have several small groups to help us do this hard work. Our small groups will be meeting every week during the Season of Lent. You’ll notice our small group listing in the bulletin that includes the day, time, location, and name of the small group facilitator for each of our small groups.
These groups aren’t designed to be bible studies. They are designed to give each person the opportunity to think about the question, “How is it with your soul,” based on the previous Sunday’s worship theme which will be based on six different types of crosses that Christians have used over the centuries. These crosses include the Latin Cross, the Jerusalem Cross, the Celtic Cross, The Tau Cross, St. Andrew’s Cross, and the Crucifix.
Our season of Lent focus on these six types of crosses will help us dig deeper in our faith as we explore the question, “How is it with our soul?”
And yes, this can be done alone as well as in a small group since these questions are always printed at the bottom of Sunday’s sermons that can be found on our church website. The advantage of answering these questions in a small group is that we can encourage and learn from each other.
In a few moments, we will be coming forward to receive ashes on our forward as a reminder of our mortality and of our dependence on God. The sign of the cross on our foreheads and sometimes on our noses depending on how shaky my hand is, is a sign to the people we see the rest of the day that we have just begun a holy journey.
It’s a journey that begins with the words, “how is it with your soul,” but remember, this six week journey will also conclude with these great words of good news making it all worth it.
And those words are…
“He is risen!”