Harrowing Of Hell
March 11, 2015

Evening Prayer: The Feast of Lent

Preacher: Holly Boone

This past Friday afternoon, when my stomach started growling, a little voice piped up inside my head:

“I bet God doesn’t give a rip whether you fast or not. Remember, Jesus said it’s is not what goes into your mouth that’s the problem but what comes out of it. I bet God would rather you just did something about that smart mouth of yours.”

God indeed might not give a rip about my fast and probably would like me to do something about that smart mouth of mine. But when my stomach called, I had to ask if the God of abundance, the God who fills our cup until it runneth over, would have little old me go hungry. Says today’s Psalmist, quoting God: “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” [Psalm 81]

Doesn’t God invite us to sing for joy, to make merry, to come to the feast he sets always before us?

This Lent actually finds me thinking about feasting as much as fasting. Since about Ash Wednesday, I and others in Service and Outreach have been busy planning several meals that were offered as prizes at the recent Have a Heart fundraiser. It is a pleasure to plan a menu and create a pleasant evening for our guests.

So I got to thinking: What meal would I plan for God? I don’t mean Jesus. Jesus, I imagine, could eat beef burgundy with as much gusto as the next guy. I mean God. The Almighty. The un-incarnate Father figure.

What place would be nice enough to invite God? And what would that menu look like? I’ll bet you know the answers to those questions: God is interested only in an invitation to our hearts, and he wants to feast only on our love. And that’s my problem.

When we receive communion, the ministers tell us, “Feed on him in your hearts with love and thanksgiving.” But when I try to imagine God feeding on the love in my own heart, I have to wonder, what’s there to feed on? I might be able to offer God a little snack, but I don’t think he could sit down to a feast.

And when I hear the Great Commandment pronounced some Sundays—

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind.”

—I invariably think, Wow. I am so not there.

My at-best lukewarm feeling for God is a curious thing. I have absolute confidence that God loves me and you and every other creature in creation. Loves with a love we can’t even express. A man who almost drowned in a Coast Guard rescue at sea, when asked to describe the indescribable love that he felt when momentarily in God’s presence, could only say that the love roared over him like Niagara Falls.

But powerful as God’s love must be, I simply can’t feel it. And I have a hard time feeling love for God. What does that love feel like? A warm little buzz in the chest?

Seeing the perky wren on my back fence can fill me with joy. I’ve gotten choked up watching an old couple help each other onto the bus. I sometimes have to stop singing hymns on Sunday mornings because I’m fighting back tears. But when I think of God, try to imagine loving God, I seem to have flipped to a channel with no signal.

This difficulty of mine—one I bet others might share—can only be solved by bringing myself closer to God. We do not love passing acquaintances. Accumulating love in our lives, the love of family and friends, requires time and effort on our part. And so it must be with God.

If I want to love God, I must act as if I love God. If just smiling really makes us feel a little happier, then acting as if I love God might lead me actually to feel that love. Then I might also feel God’s love for me.

By remarkable coincidence, acting as if we love God looks very much like practicing the old timey spiritual disciplines: the exercises of prayer, fasting, keeping the Sabbath, and so on. And as with any other self-improvement plan, I must just do it, and I must keep just doing it. I must not be like those accused in the verses of Jeremiah who “refuse to know the Lord.”

Friday is coming up again, and when my stomach grumbles and the little voice starts muttering, I must remind myself that even if God doesn’t care if I fast, or pray or sit in church on Sundays, I must care. If I keep acting as if I love God for the rest of my life, it may be that when I am an old woman, if I am lucky enough to reach old womanhood, I will be able to invite God, my old friend, into my heart for a feast.