It’s Ash Wednesday as I write today. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I might personally RSVP to the invitation to “the observance of a Holy Lent.” Of course, working at a college where most of the students take their faith seriously, I hear lots of talk about “what they’re giving up” – mostly desserts – as though Lent might be a way of jumpstarting their diets more than a time of intentionally making room for God. Students ask what I’m doing to remember this season in my life and I don’t tell them, although I do give a reason why I’m not saying. First, it is between me and my Lord. To be honest, I do occasionally have to remind myself that it’s “not just about me,” that this season is about “God and me.” Second, as our Gospel reading for today reminds us, we’re not supposed to go around announcing our sacrifice and self-denial to everyone; otherwise, we’ll be getting our pats on the back here — and there won’t be our reward in heaven. I want to make sure my “treasures” are where they belong. Less importantly, I don’t want to announce whatever it is because I generally fail somewhere along the way. I’ll start out well – not eating whatever I’ve chosen, or praying an extra office, or taking on some service project. But then a day comes and I forget, or I’m invited out, or my schedule gets too busy and one day leads to the next…and the next…and pretty soon I just feel awful about it. It’s tough being human. But, finally, the reason I don’t want to say is because there are just so many options for ways to set this season apart from others. Where to begin? What am I going to choose?
Now, I know that by the time you’re reading this, we’ll already be a few days into the season but there’s no time like the present! It’s not too late to look at some of the resources available in case you didn’t find “the right” devotional or study – or in case you need a fresh start. So, here are a few ideas borrowed from the Episcopal News Service:
Lent Madness – This light-hearted “Saintly Smackdown” pits 32 godly people in a competition to win the Golden Halo. In the midst of the fun, you will learn about this “great cloud of witnesses” whose lives can inspire our commitment to follow Jesus. Check out the full article on ENS – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2015/02/05/lent-madness-2015-which-saint-will-win-the-golden-halo/
Then go to the Lent Madness website and join in the fun –
Episcopal Relief and Developments 75th Anniversary Lenten Meditations – This year’s meditations have come from both Episcopal and Anglican Communion leaders and are centered on the “I Believe” statements at the heart of ERD’s anniversary efforts:
• I believe that everyone should have access to clean water.
• I believe that no one should go hungry.
• I believe that all children and families deserve a healthy start in life.
• I believe that no one should live in poverty.
• I believe that together we can heal a hurting world.
You can download a copy of the meditations here – http://www.episcopalrelief.org/church-in-action/church-campaigns/lent or order through the Episcopal Marketplace – http://episcopalmarketplace.org/Products/Episcopal-Relief-Development
You can also find ENS’s description of this resource at their article – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2015/01/12/episcopal-relief-developments-75th-anniversary-lenten-meditations-available/
The Episcopal Public Policy Network – The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society will offer a seven-part series “Engaging Poverty at Home and Around the World” put out by EPPN. The series will begin Ash Wednesday and will be available at advocacy.episcopalchurch.org. Here’s the link for their Ash Wednesday post – http://advocacy.episcopalchurch.org/app/document/6529741;jsessionid=rth6UBrclQkj0hkBiHqA-9Lx.undefined
The Society of St John the Evangelist – Perhaps my favorite resource this year comes from the brothers at SSJE. Their study entitled “It’s time to …Stop, Pray, Work, Pray and Love” has a daily short video message and a workbook with thought-provoking questions for you to consider as you go about your day. You can sign up for daily emails here: http://ssje.org/ssje/time/ where you’ll also find a link to download the free workbook.
Finally, I want to include a link to our Presiding Bishop’s Lenten message for this year – http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2015/02/10/presiding-bishop-katharine-jefferts-schori-lent-message-2015/ Bishop Katharine reminds us that Lent is a journey that will bring us enlightenment if we make the time consider the meaning of this season for our lives as followers of Christ.
Whatever you choose, let us journey together as we grow closer to God and to each other in our observance of a Holy Lent.
Let us pray…
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have
made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and
make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily
lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission
and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.