Pastor Ponderings in Lent
A story is told about a little boy who was given a pencil and a piece of paper. He sat down and drew an island with a palm tree and a sun sinking below the horizon. He thought to himself, this is good! The teacher stopped by his desk and remarked, “That’s not what a palm tree looks like,” and with a few strokes of her pen, she made a proper palm tree. It is said that the little boy never drew again.
The power to imagine is foundational in art, and in faith. Many people want to tell you exactly what God is like so you won’t have to bother worrying about it too much, but I am not one of them. I would rather be like a jazz musician who creates something inspirational out of the imagination of his or her soul, or the little boy who drew the island and the palm tree. I would like to pick up a trumpet or a pen and share my rendition of who God is, so that you might be encouraged to do the same.
In our tradition we stress this. We encourage questions about who God is and what God is like. And our greatest strength is not that we know the textbook answers, but that in our listening to the questions we encourage one another to share their own imaginings.
On the Sunday before Lent begins, the scripture takes us to a mountain top where something strange and mysterious happens to Jesus. The disciples are so taken by surprise that they don’t know what to do. My guess is that we have all had some kind of mountain top experience, times when we have been moved by something beyond our understanding.
Perhaps your moment happened on a walk on the beach or through the towering trees of Muir Woods. Or maybe you experienced something as you sat with a friend who listened to you and helped you to realize something you had never understood before.
Mine have been ordinary moments, and they always happen when I least expect them. They happen in conversations with youth as I listen to the stories of their lives, hearing their questions and watching them work out the answers, or in a hospital room at the bedside of someone who is looking at the end of life, clearly ready to move on to a life we cannot imagine. Or they happen on days when I have too much on my plate and a homeless person walks in with needs too great for me to help with, so we sit and pray together, and I realize that sometimes prayer is enough.
It’s always a moment that I have not planned for, a moment where I have to improvise.
I have learned that if I am open to such moments, if I am willing to allow the Spirit to lead and create in me a new heart, then something beyond my own understanding will spring forth, something that belongs not to me, but to my faithful Savior.
During these forty days of Lent, I hope that you will allow your heart and soul and mind to be open to the inspiration that is beyond your imaginings and that you will be drawn ever closer to the heart of Jesus!
Blessings on your journey!