So, what’s the definition of madness . . . ? Repeating the same action over and over again expecting a different result. A man has a fig tree in his vineyard. Every year, for about 3 years, the man keeps coming to the fig tree in search of fruit. Every year he comes, there is no fruit, yet he still comes. Out of sheer frustration he turns to the gardener and says that clearly there must be something wrong with this fig tree, it is not producing fruit, just cut it down! The gardener isn’t so quick to want to cut the fig tree down. He comes up with an alternative. His plan is to dig up the soil, add manure and leave it for another year.
Church it never ceases to amaze me at how we can get so caught up and preoccupied with our routines and the same old, same old every day with little or no change. We are a people and society that loves routine and rhythm. We love how each day can unfold in a predictable and safe manner. If we want to go to South Vancouver, Costco, IKEA, work or school we have our favorite route. We know which lane we need to be in when, and the time of day we will make such a trip. I have given up on many of my routes, because inevitably when I shift lanes or take a different turn, Liz will almost certainly pipe up, “why are you doing that? I wouldn’t turn here . . .” We can’t help ourselves but have our routines and ways of navigating through our day and week.
The same is true for our Spiritual lives as well. We love to come to church and know exactly what to expect when. We know what the music will sound like. We know what the prayers and the Order of Service will be like. We know when we come to church that inevitably our favorite spot - “my spot” will always be available and God help the poor soul who may happen to sit in “my spot!” We may laugh but it is true. We have all heard the stories and know people who have fallen victim to this kind of wrath.
The truth is, there is nothing wrong with familiarity, rhythm and predictability. There is nothing wrong with any of this in our daily lives or church life. As I have mentioned before, God created routine and loves to see it unfold day in and day out. The trouble comes, the problem arises when our routines and the familiar stop bearing fruit.
When we find ourselves stuck in a rut where we can’t see a way out. When we find ourselves feeling helpless and unable to imagine what a better way may be, let alone what the first step is that we need to take. When we find ourselves losing the meaning; losing the thread of why we do what we do, that becomes a problem. We become the valley of dry bones the Ezekiel talks about. Our purpose and passion for life, church and friendships wain and become strained.
So, what do we do? What are we supposed to do? How do we refresh and re-ignite our passion for life, the purpose of everyday and the meaning of our faith? This is a question not only for our Spiritual lives. This is a stewardship question where we ask ourselves what we need to do to take care of our own wellbeing so that we can take care of God’s world. Well, sometimes we need a little fertilizer. We need the gardener of our heart, mind and soul to dig us up. We need to sit in a different seat, sing a new song, try taking another exit or different lane before we are able to get a different perspective.
We know this to be true too. Whenever we try something different, a new recipe, a new way of approaching a challenge or even the familiar we begin to see ourselves and our lives in a different way. There is something that happens in our mind when we do this. When we intentionally make a change, no matter how small, all of a sudden, we are no longer stuck in a rut, but can see more clearly a much more excellent way forward. What at first may have seemed an insurmountable problem, becomes something that is much more manageable easier to navigate.
This too is a part of Lent. To undergo a process of self-examination. To allow ourselves to experience and see things differently so that we may arrive at Easter with a fresh, renewed vision and passion for who we are and what we are, the Beloved People of God.