Repinski: Lent offers a time to challenge spirituality

Published 10:09 am Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A director of music in New York City said recently on the Charlie Rose TV program: “The river is always different, but it is the same river.” Alan Gilbert stated his understanding of the great, heralded classical music pieces, of how a given orchestra and conductor render a symphonic number. Is it possibly the same with each life?

In these weeks, observed as Lent in many Protestant, Catholic, and Russian Orthodox churches, we are taught that the significance of prayer, forgiveness, and sharing of the gifts we have, is a challenge. Fasting, or a more modest life, may also be embraced. Not all Christian religious communities may share the formal or institutionally arranged Lenten season on a year’s calendar. The spirituality emphasized, finds many agreements.

The author, Astrid Lindgren, shared the story below in one of her acceptance speeches. She was, in 1978, honored with an international Peace Prize.

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In writing this, I apply it to Lent or other forms of humility; inviting a kind and sharing heart, and a willingness to address the world’s ills. In saying that, I earnestly plead with people to see these characteristics in all of the devoted persons of the world religions. They also, in many ways, have their Lenten type of devotion!

The story of Ms. Lindgren is a way — is it not — of making sense of a spiritual life that changes our hearts and gives grace to the world.

“When I was about 20 years old, I met an old pastor’s wife who told me that when she was young and had her first child, she didn’t believe in striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was standard punishment at that time. But one day when her son was four or five, he did something that she felt warranted a spanking — the first of his life. And she told him that he would have to go outside himself and find a switch for her to hit him with.

The boy was gone a long time. When he came back in, he was crying. He said to her, “Mama, I couldn’t find a switch, but here’s a rock that you can throw at me.”

All of a sudden the mother understood how the situation felt from the child’s point of view; that if my mother wants to hurt me, then it makes no difference what she does it with; she might as well do it with a stone. And the mother took the boy onto her lap and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever; never violence.”

Marv Repinski is a retired United Methodist Pastor who lives in Austin.