**This is a brief homily given at The Tuesday Feast, a weekly meal, worship and discipleship outreach event at Yonge Street Mission in Toronto**
Lent is a time of getting ready, when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ - his suffering and his sacrifice, his life, death, burial and resurrection.
Lent has been part of the church calendar for many hundreds of years. It’s an extended period of time where we can take stock of our lives and of our relationship to God. We can ask God: is the way I’m living my life pleasing to You? If we identify as Christians, we can ask God to give us power of overcome sins that are tripping us up.
As the Scripture that _______ read says, God wants us to return to Him with all our hearts. It’s a simple, basic fact of life that things drift. Put a box out on the street. The next morning it’ll have drifted down the street. People drift too.
In a marriage, if the couple doesn’t pay close attention to each other, doesn’t track with each other, doesn’t spend enough time talking and just being with each other, the couple can drift away from being very close and can even, if it goes on for too long, start to feel like strangers or roommates sharing space.
Most couples I know who are in a healthy relationship pay close attention to the well-being of the relationship.
Likewise, we need to pay close attention to our relationship with God in order for it to be healthy. But, like I said, everything drifts. And so we need to be really honest with ourselves and sometimes maybe say: “Yeah. I’m not where I should be with God. I’ve stopped praying like I know is best. I’ve stopped reading His Word with any passion or with any regularity”.
Maybe we look inside and realize: “Wow...i’m sinning a lot, doing stuff that offends God...maybe that explains why I’m drifting. Maybe that’s why I’m kind of cold toward God. That ain’t right”.
So Lent gives us this space and time to really examine our lives and our hearts and make that decision to return to God...maybe even, as the Scripture says, return to God with fasting and weeping and mourning”.
Sometimes when we look inside we can be shocked at how things aren’t as they should be. Maybe that’ll lead us to godly sorrow that can lead us to real repentance, turning from the way we’re headed, and turning back to following God.
Sometimes people can be afraid to return to God. “Won’t He be mad? Isn’t it easier to just keep going as I’m going and avoid God?”
The story of the prodigal son, which is really the story of the prodigal son’s Father, is helpful here.
After messing up big time, the son, who has walked away from his father with his share of the inheritance and then blown his money through doing a lot of stupid stuff, thinks to himself: “Hey, self. I’m living like a pig.
“This is not good. Maybe if I go back and beg, my father, after hollering at me for being such a dolt, might let me live with his servants. At least then I won’t starve, for crying out loud”. [That’s my paraphrase]
But he goes back to his father, rehearsing while he walks the schpeel he’s going to give his dad. While he’s still some way off his father sees him in the distance. And what does the father do?
As it says in Luke 15, 20-21 “When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’
22-24 “But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ So they began to celebrate.
That’s a beautiful picture of who God really is: he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.
So let’s take an opportunity together to spend time during this season of Lent, between now and Good Friday on April 18, to really, fully and completely return to God, knowing that his arms are always outstretched, always ready to embrace each and every one of us when we come to him in love and in real repentance. Amen.
Now we’re going to celebrate communion...