I shared with the gathered community last night in our Ash Wednesday service that the season of Lent feels to me a bit like the restoration of our building that has just begun. You’ve read the update this week, I’m sure, and seen the stunning pictures inaccessible to us until we ascend the tower to really see up close, confirming what work that needs to be done to our building.
For you see, if there’s anything at all I’ve learned in this work, it’s that the work of restoration never involves a quick fix — slapping on a fresh coat of paint, or tearing something off to hastily affix something in its place. Rather, the work of restoration is painstaking — and sometimes painful! Literally terra cotta block by terra cotta block, our crews will ascend the tower and ‘map and tap’ to determine what response is needed for each one. Some blocks are in need of full replacement — extracting them carefully, shipping them off to a mason who will re-cast these and send back new ones in its place. Others need a hearty cleaning, with careful attention given to the type of cleaning, the speed of the water pressure, the elbow grease and type of brush used to scrub it clean. Some will need a particular type of mortar used by a trained technician to fill holes and patch cracks. Others will need to be refined and sharpened, sanded and painted. But block-by-block, piece-by-piece, slowly, individually, carefully, almost as if it’s being turned inside out and made whole again, the tower will be restored.
I honestly wasn’t thinking of our building project when I chose the “Restoration is Coming” title for my Ash Wednesday homily, but now I can’t help but to see how illustrative the process of restoration is for us to consider this Lent. For we’re reminded that these forty days of penitence, reflection, meditation and meaning, should serve to create in us a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us. In so doing, we who are scrubbed and shined and sanded down, cut out and filled in and repaired, might spot spring emerging in a true restoration of our very souls from the God who washes our iniquities away.
Like our building, this Lenten restoration of our hearts won’t come quickly or without challenge. Some days during this season, we might feel uncomfortable by the process, or rubbed raw from what God might do. And like this interminable cold and rainy winter that feels as if it will never pass, we may think that spring will never come. But in the end — the end of Lent, of course, but in any end, God’s promise is always, always that of presence, of belovedness, of life in the face of death, and of restoration when it seems like all we see is broken, dirty, cracked, and crumbling.
For in the words of the prophet Isaiah, if we love as God loves, “The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.” May this Lent be for you a time of holy restoration!
Together in the work of Love,