Note: For the next forty days or so, I will be writing brief daily devotions for Lent.  I hope that they will help you in your reflections on this season of penitence and renewal.

“Lent is early this year.”  For those of you who spend time in the Church, you’ve probably heard this statement more than a few times.  alarm clockLast year, you probably remember hearing that Lent was late.  What is striking to me is that in all of my years in the Church, no one has ever said that Lent was “on time.”  Tell your average Episcopal clergyperson (someone who probably pays pretty close attention to the liturgical calendar) the date of Ash Wednesday and the reaction you get will invariably be, “Really?  I had no idea!”  Lent always surprises us, always catches us off-guard, always leaves us unprepared for the season of penitence.  Lent never arrives when we expect it; it never arrives when we are ready: Lent comes whether we are ready or not.

I think that this is a good thing, because if we’re honest, we’re never going to be ready for the arrival of Lent.  We’re never going to have savored that last piece of chocolate or that final morsel of barbecue.  We’re never going to be prepared to take on that discipline we have adopted.  We’re never going to be ready to engage the hard work of self-examination.  And there are other, more important things for which we will never be ready without some prompting.  We tend to dwell on our past failures and sinfulness so much that we forget that God loves us unconditionally.  If we’re honest, we’re never going to be ready to accept God’s promises of renewal.  We’re never going to be ready to accept the grace offered to us by God through Jesus Christ.  We’re never going to be ready to allow the Resurrection to transform our lives, and so we must be caught off guard and taken by surprise.  God’s gracious love doesn’t wait for us to be ready; God reaches out to us even when we are completely unprepared.

And so during Lent this year, I invite you to savor being unprepared.  Be confident in the knowledge that God has reached out to you even when you weren’t expecting it.  Let this season be an opportunity for you to be transformed by the unexpected and unconditional love of God.

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