Lent–Christian Spring Training

For baseball fans the month of March means spring training. Major League Baseball teams start practicing in February and March features a busy line-up of practice games. For the players this is a time to stretch their muscles and get back into shape for the regular season that begins at the end of the month.

Even if you are not a baseball fan you may be looking forward to your own sort of spring training. Golfers are heading to the driving range, runners are going to the track, and bicyclists are hitting the roads. These spring training exercises not only build strength and loosen cold bodies; they also help us to develop the techniques that will lead to success in the months ahead. Whatever the endeavor, whether in sports, the arts, writing, speaking, or almost any other activity the key to success is practice, practice, practice.

This is also true for faith. Sometimes it takes someone with a different angle on an issue to help us to learn the truth about our own lives. I was reminded of the importance of Christian practice while reading a book about Buddhism. Our Pastor’s book group is reading “Breakfast with Buddha,” by Roland Merullo, this month. At one point in this delightful novel the guru Volya Rinpoche tries to explain the nature of meditation by pouring sand in a glass of water. He stirs the water to show what our busy minds are usually like and then says that meditating helps to clear the mind like the sand settling to the bottom of the glass. Then Rinpoche says, “When that happens, you have a small waking-up. You start to see the world as the world really is. And after many small waking-ups we begin to see the world a little bit, some little bit, the way Jesus sees it. You see? That is the ‘kingdom of heaven.’ You see? This, I think, is what he wanted and why he came to us here on this planet, to teach us this.”

For Christians our primary practice field is our sanctuary during worship. We come to worship to clear our minds, open our hearts, and focus our lives to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. This prepares us for the arena of life in our homes, work places, schools and communities where the real work takes place. As any athlete, dancer or musician knows, it is a lot easier to do well in practice than the actual game. It takes a lot of practice to have a clear mind to stay focused on God’s love when you are tired, busy, stressed, hungry, angry, confused or afraid.

Lent is a traditional time for Christians to dedicate themselves to intensive practice. Call it our spring training. This year I am working with the Diaconate on a series of worship services to help you in your spring training. Each Sunday will focus on a different Christian spiritual practice that may open or hearts and focus our minds on God’s love and peace.

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