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Expansive Lent

"I have to start talking about the people... we are all brothers, we are all uncles, we are all cousins, nobody is unknown here. we are allcousins, no one is unknown here" - Goyo, En Letra de Otro "Be joyful; keep progressing; be encouraged; have the same feeling and live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. " - 2 Corinthians 13:11, Latin American Bible I was watching a movie recently released on HBO Max and it really got me thinking about what we are discussing during this Lenten season at my church, Metro Hope Church, in Harlem, New York, of living a full life, a life that is overflowing. It was a film starring Goyo, an Afro-Colombian artist, a member of the group ChocQuibTown, who is embarking on her first solo album, entitled En Letra de Otro, in which she discusses the importance of cultural representation in her work and how it has led her to really develop as a person. But something very important for me was to hear why Goyo does what she does, she does it because it is what keeps her connected to her people, to other people of African descent, to God and to herself. For me, this idea of doing things that connect us to ourselves and to others, relates to our Lenten theme. Living an abundant life; living a life of an expansive faith is one in which we see ourselves connected to others, but only after we have allowed ourselves to be connected to ourselves. Too often, especially during Lent, as we seek to grow spiritually, we sometimes look for ways to be stricter and more rigid and make sure we follow a set of rules that we believe will allow us to be better connected to God. But sometimes we engage in these practices of self-denial at the expense of ourselves. Now, I'm not saying that fasting from drinking coffee, for example, is a bad thing, or that we shouldn't change our eating habits, as many of us do during Lent. No. In fact, sometimes fasting from these kinds of things has been a way through which we have been able to eliminate from our lives things that are unnecessary. What I am asking us to ask ourselves is: why are we doing these kinds of things? Sometimes our Christian theologies have made us too focused on self-sacrifice over self-love, lack over embrace, denial over affirmation. What we need to do, sisters and brothers, is to really embrace a theology that changes the way we see ourselves, our world and others. If we really want to live a full life, a life that is overflowing, if we really want to have an expansive faith, we must begin to seek practices that better connect us holistically. Engaging in fasting during Lent can be one such practice, as long as we do it for the right reasons; giving alms, another traditional Lenten practice, can also be this, as long as we are not expecting some grandiose recognition, but we are doing it to correct the imbalances caused by the ills of our societies. Whatever practice we undertake, whether it is praying, singing, walking or entering into a contemplative practice, it should be done with the goal of encouraging one another, connecting us to the Eternal Church (a term I use to talk about Christians past, present and future) and helping us to be the closest representations of God that people can see. I don't know what this looks like for each of us, for me, at least during this season, it has been connecting with people. However we seek to live an expansive Lent, to have an expansive faith, may it be a way that allows us to encourage one another, and affirm one another along the way, as a way to better represent God. As Mother of the Desert Amma Theodora says "we take ourselves wherever we go". Let us continue this Lent, even as we are in a time of fasting, affirming who God has made us and embracing practices that allow this version of who we are, an integral version, to connect with everyone, because as Goyo says "here, no one is unknown." Pastor Guesnerth Josue Perea
Metro Hope Church, Harlem, NYC

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