Lent is my favourite season in the church calendar. It feels more introspective and contemplative than its sibling celebration, Advent. I also suspect that deep down I feel like things of value should be worked for, sacrificed for. The 40-odd days of giving something up in order to concentrate on spiritual growth fits my nature.
But this morning, we talked about God's lavish, extravagant, no-holds-barred love as Karen preached about the prodigal father. (Here's a fun fact: prodigal actually means wastefully extravagant - not repentant like I'd thought.)
Jesus tells this story to the Pharisees and starts by asking them what they think about a shepherd who leaves his 99 sheep to go look for the one who is lost. How happy is he? Then he ups the ante by asking, what about the celebration of a woman with 10 silver coins who stops what she's doing to find one that has gone missing? Finally, something even more rare and even more valuable - what about a missing son?
The father's love over a missing son is lavish, over-the-top. Not words often associated with Lent in my thinking. So too is God's love for us wastefully extravagant! It is undeserved and unmeasured and unending.
We read these words of Jesus from the Message last night at our potluck, Matthew 11:30.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.
A reminder that even during contemplative Lent, we have much to celebrate. There is extravagant joy in our Lenten journey.