taking the words of Jesus seriously

For love of the world God does foolish things is my theme for Lent this year. It came from the fact that Ash Wednesday coincided with Valentine’s Day this year, and Easter is the day before April Fool’s Day. I like to choose unusual and unfamiliar themes like this for familiar seasons like Lent because it shakes me out of my usual ways of thinking and encourages me to explore new perspectives and new understandings. It gives me an opportunity to immerse myself once more in the astounding depth of God’s love, the incredible extent of Christ’s sacrifice and the wonder of the Holy Spirit infused world in which we live.

To hone my focus, I created a Lenten Garden which sits on my desk to guide my meditations each morning. My first step was to decorate a stone and write the words “For love of the world God did foolish things around the decoration. This sits as the centre-piece for the garden. Around it I planted several succulents to represent the desert of Christ’s 40 days of temptation, and then sprinkled it with sand and placed several heart shaped rocks around the garden.

I love the process of creating a contemplative garden like this. It always begins with dreaming, then moves through the gathering of materials to creation before I get to the stage at which it is ready to be used for meditation. Finally, after Easter I will enter the last stage of the garden’s life – letting go, a hard but necessary step. As I comment in my book Digging Deeper: The Art of Contemplative Gardening,Accepting and incorporating impermanence into our rituals enables us to accept and embrace change in a healthy and liberating way. We let go of our desire for permanence, of control, of acquisitiveness and even of our creative process. It is hard but we learn a lot in the process about ourselves, about God and God’s good creation.” It seems even more relevant as Lent slides into Easter.

As I painted my stone, and created my garden, I had plenty of time to think about what practices I wanted to do throughout Lent this year. I pulled out my bible and read two scriptures:

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” (Matthew 22:37, 38 CEB)

These verses hold the essence of God’s love and of the purpose of Lent from my perspective. Lent is meant to be about learning to love God more fully and expressing that love out into the world that God loves. It is about letting go of distractions that keep me from the path God intends me to tread, a path that is meant to draw me closer to God, to neighbours and to God’s good creation. It is also a time to grab hold of new commitments to actions that will transform my life and the lives of others, as they bring glimpses of God’s eternal world into being. In other words, this is a time to love God with all our hearts and souls and minds and love our neighbours as ourselves.

As I reflected on this, three questions, that I will return to throughout Lent formed in my mind:

For love of God, what am I willing to give up?

For love of my neighbours and of God’s world, what am I willing to give up?

And for love of myself and my own wellbeing what am I willing to give up? 

Interestingly, as I share these questions with others, it is the second question “For love of my neighbours and of God’s world, what am I willing to give up, that people struggle with the most. Lent is about preparing ourselves for the life of God’s eternal world, a world in which there is no more pain or suffering or destruction. It is a time to commit to actions that will bring glimpses of God’s shalom world into being. Is there an organization that works with the poor, the unjustly treated or the disabled you would like to volunteer with during Lent?  Could you help clean up the environment in your neighbourhood, maybe commit to at least one day a week car free? Or is this the time to start gardening? Perhaps there are privileges of wealth and education we need to give up. Or prejudice against those of other faiths, sexual orientations, or ethnic groups. Or you might consider giving up your car or the heat in your house for several days. Whatever you choose it might make you look foolish in the eyes of your friends or the world but if it makes God’s world a better place it is worth it.

As Lent began this year, I launched a new podcast The Liturgical Rebels (https://godspacelight.com/liturgical-rebels-podcast-is-live).This podcast is for those who feel restricted to traditional spiritual practices that often seem outdated and of little relevance in today’s world. It is for those who are discouraged to express their own creative talents and develop spiritual practices that are uniquely them. The Liturgical Rebels podcast is for people who want to reimagine and reconstruct their faith and spiritual practices.

What I was not prepared for was the need to give up other commitments that it made necessary. This week I found myself letting go of webinars and unwritten blog posts that I no longer have time for. It has been a hard decision because I love what I do and like most of us I rationalize that this means I should hold on as long as possible. However, Lent is about relinquishment. It confronts us with our mortality, our vulnerability, our ambitions. It confronts us with how seriously we will follow Jesus into the future and challenges us with the need to do foolish things, like giving up ministry and practices that has been important for years.

I hope you will consider joining The Liturgical Rebels this year. Step outside the box of convention and triviality and do something more than giving up chocolate or reading a short devotional each morning. Take Lent seriously and do something foolish for God.

For love of God
For love of the world,
This beautiful yet pain filled earth
On which we live,
God does foolish things.
How strange and unwise,
To send a much beloved son
To dwell amongst us,
Knowing he would die
A tragic and painful death.
Only love would be so reckless,
And so vulnerable.
Only God would care so much
For those who
despised and rejected Holy love.
For love of the world,
God does foolish things,
That turn the world upside down.
And bring life where we expected death.

About The Author


Christine Aroney-Sine is the founder and facilitator for the popular contemplative blog Godspace, (godspacelight.com) which grew out of her passion for creative spirituality, gardening and sustainability. ******************************************************************************** Christine describes herself as a contemplative activist, passionate gardener, author, and liturgist. She loves messing with church traditions and inspiring followers of Jesus to develop creative approaches to spirituality that intertwine the sacred through all of life. She facilitates workshops on contemplative and creative spiritual practices, spirituality and gardening, simplicity and sustainability as well as how to develop a more spiritual rhythm for our lives. She often encourages participants to paint rocks or leaves, plant contemplative gardens, walk labyrinths and create spiritual pathways that draw us into deeper intimacy with God. Christine is inspired by Celtic Christian spirituality, which has opened her eyes to the God who is present in every moment, every experience and every place. She is open to learning from everyone and everything around. ******************************************************************************** Together with her husband, Tom, Christine also co-founded Mustard Seed Associates a small organization that encourages followers of Jesus to think about how the world is changing and how we need to change to be more effective in the future. ******************************************************************************** In a former life Christine trained as a physician in Australia ,practiced in New Zealand and developed and directed the healthcare ministry for Mercy Ships. She spent 12 years on board the mercy ship M/V Anastasis facilitating the development of a program for cleft lip and palate repair and cataract removal as well as setting up medical and dental clinics to help bring health care to the world’s most vulnerable. She has worked extensively in Africa, Asia, Caribbean Islands, Central America and South Pacific. She no longer practices medicine but delights in guiding people towards the health and wholeness of God’s new world. ******************************************************************************** Her latest book, is published in March 2019 by InterVarsity Press is The Gift of Wonder:Creative Practices For Delighting in God. She also self published several books in the last few years, a bit of a hobby for her: Digging Deeper: the Art of Contemplative Gardening (2022) Rest in the Moment: Reflections for Godly Pauses.(2016), Return to Our Senses: Reimagining How We Pray (2012), To Garden with God (2010) L and Tales of a Seasick Doctor (Zondervan 1996). Christine and Tom Sine also co-authored Living on Purpose: Finding God’s Best for Your Life. (Baker Books 2002). ******************************************************************************** You can connect to her on twitter: https://twitter.com/ChristineSine, or Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/christine.sine, Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/christine.sine/, Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/christinesine/,and Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/Christinesine

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