No Quick Fixes
The season of Lent recognizes that there are no “quick fixes” in the Christian life. Real and serious problems take time, effort and commitment to address. Life change is slow and difficult.
We think of Lent as a time devoted to self-examination and Christian discipline, and this has always been a part of Lent. Originally, the primary purpose was two-fold. First, new converts to the faith were educated in the Christian faith and life and, second, those who had been expelled from the church because of unrepentant sin were restored to the fellowship. Lent was originally a three year program in which it was expected that the convert or the penitent would actually change his or her way of life. That took time both to accomplish, and to see that it would “hold.”
Eventually, Lent was shortened to the 40 days we now know so that it would fit within the liturgical year, and to connect with Our Lord’s forty days in the wilderness. There was also the pressure of many converts from various pagan Roman religions who needed to be integrated into the church more quickly. Some would see this mass entrance to the church, following the conversion of the Emperor Constantine, as one of the most disastrous moments in the history of the church because so many were brought into the church without time to demonstration real repentance and amendment of life.
At the heart of Lent remains the conviction that repentance and amendment of life take time, effort and discipline. As you walk through Lent this year, I encourage you to remember that you are making a long term investment, not getting a quick fix for your spiritual life. Choose a discipline not just for the season of Lent, though that may be helpful, but choose a discipline that can become life change for the long haul. If, for example, you want to give up desserts, don’t just sit at the table and watch others eat dessert. Instead, at dessert time, get out your Bible, or a devotional guide, and take that time to read and pray. Then when Lent is over and desserts return, keep that bit of time for the Lord.
If real change is challenging for an individual, it is even moreso for an organization like a church. It does seem to me that over the last year or more we have seen a good improvement in the attitude and life of St. John’s. Our new outreach ministries have helped bring, I believe, a sense of accomplishment and vitality. I believe the next step, which I mentioned at the Annual Parish Meeting last month, is to begin to be more intentional about growing the church and, specifically, reaching our neighborhood. I think we would all agree on the need to grow St. John’s, but the challenge is that this will require change. Remember, “if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got.”
The theme for this year’s Diocesan Convention was “Evangelism: Embracing our Neighborhoods.” As you may have noted, St. John’s is not really a “neighborhood” church, even though it was founded as one over 100 years ago. The vast majority of our members drive here from some other neighborhood in Melbourne, Palm Bay, Viera, or beyond, but almost no one from Eau Gallie. What might it look like for St. John’s to again be a church center for the Eau Gallie community? What changes would we need to make and what changes might this bring in our community?
As you undertake your own Lenten disciplines, please pray both that God would do His work in your life for the long haul, and that the Lord would continue to move our church toward His vision for our life together and our life in our community.
The Rev. Eric Turner
This column appeared in the March 2018 edition of St. John’s monthly newsletter, the Good News. Click here for the full edition.