By John Sutherland
One of my favorite Lenten stories comes from "The Simpsons."
Homer, whose gluttony is so painfully arresting in every episode, happens upon a soft drink vending machine. No one is nearby, so he decides to "stick it to the man" and just reach up the chute to grab a can for free. His arm gets stuck.
He hollers in agony for help, but while he's lying there, he sees another vending machine a short distance away, and in a moment of delightful comic overkill, he reaches up that one, too, and gets both arms stuck.
His cries finally draw a crowd, including the rescue team from the fire department. But after they've tried all the normal procedures, they conclude that they're going to have to amputate his arms.
As they're starting up the chain saws for this draconian operation, one of the firemen thinks of something: "Wait a minute, Homer. You're not holding onto the can, are you?"
I have my own things I'm hanging onto, things I'm trying to let go of. My disciplines this year involve dust, clutter, and VISA cards. If I am even partly successful, I will feel the blessed relief.
Lent has a reputation for being a season of heaviness, but I'm convinced it should be just the opposite. It's meant to lighten our lives, to let us walk away from the things that are holding us back.
It's a return to the concentration on who we really are. And we are all beautiful creatures of God.
Lent is not a chore; Lent is a gift.
John Sutherland has been a member of St. Paul's for twenty years. He is sometimes a member of the choir, has done time on the Vestry, and generally tries to bake enough communion bread to keep his hands from idleness.