O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
-- BCP, page 218
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:22-30;
Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38
Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38
The forty days of Lent are counted from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday, exclusive of Sundays. This is why we have Sundays in Lent, as opposed to, say, Sundays of Advent.
We observe Lent as a Fast -- a time of "self-examination and repentance; [...] prayer, fasting, and self-denial [...] and [...] reading and meditating on God's Holy Word," as the liturgy of Ash Wednesday bids us all (BCP, page 265).
All Sundays, however, celebrate the Resurrection. Sundays are always feast days, even if during Lent give up alleluias. Sundays are not part of Lent. It is always Easter on Sunday because we enter into the sacred space of remembering and proclaiming that "Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again." (BCP, page 363)
You might have seen "Church Leaders Reflect on Lent as Spiritual Renewal," in last Saturday's Daily News- Record. I thought the writer, Shelby Mertens, supplied a pretty good picture of the meaning of Lent as understood in liturgical churches -- and not because I'm quoted in it! (Ha-ha!)
Fr. Miguel Melendez, who serves at Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church, said that, "Lent is about being holistic in life. Renewing your spiritual life is really the biggest thing that's going on, and spiritual life being communication or relationship with God."
Lent is not a downer; it's an opportunity to revitalize our relationship with God. That said, Lent does require intentionality and discipline. Intentionality is about making the decision to de-clutter our hearts from the sins that weigh us down by giving up the ways that are harmful to ourselves and others and filling our hearts with the love and grace of God.
Discipline is the habit-forming practice of repeatedly doing these things throughout the Lenten season. That's the whole journey from self-examination and repentance through prayer, fasting, and self-denial to reading and meditating on the Bible. Lent requires rolling up our sleeves and going to work.
The first part of Lenten intentionality and discipline -- self-examination, repentance, prayer, fasting, and self-denial -- is something that we each make choices about in the privacy of our conversations with our "Father who sees in secret," as Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6: 1-6,16-18).
I should also mention that I am available for private and confidential conversation with anyone feels the need to review his or her choices. The sacrament of Reconciliation of a Penitent (also known as "Confession") is always available on request. And remember the Anglican dictum about private confession: All may. None must. Some should. We must each make our own choices.
The second part -- reading and meditating on the Bible -- is something we can do both privately and in community. I invite you to join the Tuesday evening group that will focus on the Bible this season. Participants read the entire Gospel of Luke in small daily portions, and then we share our learnings and questions on Tuesdays. We are calling it "Luke for Lent." (Yes, I'm an incorrigible punster -- your groans only encourage me!) The Rev. Dr. Donna Scott and I will co-lead the conversations.
We would love to have a very large group. We start this Tuesday, Feb. 27, at 6:30 with a soup-supper. I hope many choose to come.
May God bless us all with a rich, life-giving Lent.
Under the Mercy,