I have two questions: Why does daylight saving time seem to start earlier every year? And why do we say “spring ahead” when it’s not even spring yet? I mean, what good is a pun when it’s not even accurate? I guess that’s three questions, and I also guess I’m still confused writing this the morning after DST starts. This stolen hour is hard to part with every year!
Longer days and warmer air ahead are reigniting the long tradition of spring cleaning. For me, it’s almost a sacred rite. My husband is an obsessive-compulsive netnik, and spring cleaning is his favorite time of year. I reluctantly participate in cleaning rituals that rid our home of dust bunnies as every piece of furniture is moved and every surface disinfected.
The expression “cleaning up” can mean different things. It can refer to cleaning the house: getting out the buckets, rags, and Mr. Clean. In politics, it refers to the removal of people who offend us or block the progress we want to see. Most often, and in a general sense, “cleaning up” simply means sweeping away the old way of doing things so that something new and better can take its place.
Lent is aptly named and timely. Perhaps you have already heard that “Lent” comes from the Old English word “Læncten” which means “to lengthen”, as in the lengthening of daylight. In other words, spring! It makes sense that the spiritual season that Christians call Lent is a time when the light increases and the earth itself is renewed.
It also makes sense that Lent is the season for spring cleaning. The dust has settled on the sills and the windows show streaks left by the winter. It’s time to wipe everything down and start from scratch! Our souls also carry a bit of grime. The extra light shines in the darkest places and reveals thoughts and habits that we prefer to keep hidden. Instead of pretending that everything is fine, Lent is a great opportunity to be very honest. Whether our spiritual practices during Lent lean towards self-sacrifice or we choose to embrace other ways of serving others, it’s actually a great time to do some inner housecleaning.
The Sufi tradition has a rich collection of stories – many of them humorous – that have been telling the truth for centuries. One of my favorites is about a group of frogs. The frogs were traveling through the woods and two of them fell into a deep pit. The other frogs huddled together to assess the situation. It looked grim. When they saw the depth of the pit, they told the unfortunate frogs that they would never come out. The two frogs ignored the comments and did their best to jump out of the pit. The other frogs told them to stop, that they were almost dead. Eventually, one of the frogs heeded what the others were saying and just gave up. He fell and died. The other frog was jumping as high as he could. Once again, the crowd above shouted at him to stop his suffering and die. He tried even harder, however, and eventually pulled through. When he did, the other frogs asked him: why did you keep jumping? Didn’t you hear us? The frog explained to them that he was deaf. He thought they were shouting encouragement to him all the time!
Many voices are trying to get our attention; which one will we listen to? We can listen to those who tell us that our souls are so wasted and defiled that we have little hope when the light of God’s radiance shines upon us. Or we hear the encouragement from Scripture and those around us who remind us that even in our humanity, with all its imperfections, we are fully loved by the God who created us. Lent is a time to be honest with ourselves and with God. And… it’s a season to allow God to do in us what we can’t do on our own. The cleaning job is still a work in progress, and there will always be another winter and another spring ahead of us. Rest in the assurance that God, in love, is making all things new – even you!
Reverend Dr. Rick Danielson is pastor of Lockport United Church of Christ, an open and assertive congregation that meets at 98 East Avenue. Before coming to Lockport UCC last fall, Rev. Danielson served other churches in Western New York, Maine and Colorado.
LENT INSPIRATIONS is a weekly series of reflections on the holy season of Lent. The authors have been signed up to be guest speakers for this year’s non-denominational Community Lenten Luncheon series at Lockport, which has been canceled due to ongoing Covid concerns. Lent Inspirations will be published every Wednesday until April 13.