Daily Dose, Feb. 22 — Holiness & Lent

  “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting-place, but not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first.” (Luke 11:24-26) Some people give up chocolate. Some people give up caffeine. Some people give up carbs. Some people give up TV. Some people give up Facebook. Some people give up red meat. Over the years, I’ve heard people share all sorts of things that they’ve chosen to give up during the season of Lent. While I applaud the effort, I always hope it’s also accompanied by the addition of something. All too often, it seems that the denial of a certain thing during Lent just creates an empty space…a negative space that isn’t filled with anything. In terms of spiritual disciplines, the practices of self-denial are meant to create space in our lives in which God’s presence can be invited. More often than not, what I tend to see is people simply stopping the process once they’ve given something up. Then, if they’re not careful, they can get to the end of Lent and feel so very proud of themselves that they “stuck to their commitment.” Stop and think about that: the season of Lent is supposed to bring us to humility and mortality, and yet we sometimes end it with pride. That’s the exact opposite outcome of what it’s supposed to be, isn’t it? The parable that we read today -- it’s present in both Matthew and Luke -- tells of an evil spirit that leaves a person. Once gone, the person’s soul is cleaned out and left empty. It’s not filled with things that lead toward God. It’s just void. Empty. When the spirit comes back, it finds an even more inviting place than when it left, so it invites some buddies to tag along. If you’re giving something up for Lent, consider what you’re doing AFTER you give it up. How are you filling that empty space? -- Rev. Brad Greene