Pulpit Reflections by the Rev. Donald Imming I understand spring training has started for major league baseball players in Florida, Arizona, and the like. As good as these players are, they know they need to sharpen up and hone their respective skills whether that be pitching, hitting, covering the bases, or catching fly balls.
We Christians are no different. That's why we have a season called Lent. It is not supposed to be a time when we all of a sudden become religious, and as soon as it is over, and Easter comes, we quit being religious. Rather it is like spring training but of a spiritual nature. Its purpose is to reinvigorate our spirituality. Just as baseball players get out of shape, so do we followers of Jesus. The skills we need to hone are not pitching and batting but prayerfulness, helpfulness and self-discipline.
Why prayerfulness? Because it makes us open to God and enables him to work in us. Why helpfulness? Because Jesus has commanded us to love one another, and made it clear that we cannot say we love God unless we love each other (John 12/9 ff). Love is not a matter of words only in the Christian lexicon, and not only a sentiment, but above all action. We express our love for others by being helpful toward them in concrete ways.
Why self-discipline? One can't even be a mature human being, much less a mature Christian, without self-mastery. Only when we are able to say "no" to less important things can we be free to say "yes" to more important things. If I can't say "no" to a drink that is placed before me, I'm in trouble. If I have to indulge my every whim, if my life is me-centered, there is no room in my heart for other less immediate things of value.
Or another way of approaching the subject is to compare our absorption in self-pursuits to hard ground. Unworked you can't grow much in it. The crust at least needs to be broken. The self-denial traditionally associated with Lent is intended to help us break that crust, to get the knack of saying "no" to ourself sometimes, so that we can find room in our hearts for everything else in the universe, especially God and other people We aren't the only worthwhile object around.
The gospel for the first Sunday of Lent begins with the words: "At that time Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit ? He fasted 40 days and 40 nights." The Latin word for Lent is "Quadragesima," which literally means the period of 40 days.
Our word "Lent" is an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning "spring." The baseball players, some of them at least, go to the desert of Arizona, for spring training. We Christians follow Jesus into the desert to spend 40 days and nights with Jesus for our spring training � for a period of intensive training. Let's make the most of it. Our season may depend upon it.