Next Wednesday, I will be inviting us all to observe a holy Lent, by self examination and repentance, by prayer, fasting and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's Holy Word. You'll notice that these are all possible things we can do. If you need a little more specificity, think about one of these options as a way of spiritually enriching your Lenten experience:
1. Give up your wants and buy only your needs. Give the money you save to your favorite charity.
2. Give up eating after dinner and use that inclination to munch as a reminder to pray.
3. Abstain from negativite words. Practice strengthening your verbal filter and holding back on language that discourages or condemns.
1. Attend Adult Sunday School during Lent and learn about the last week of Jesus' life as a way of deepening your devotion.
2. Volunteer to prepare soup and join us for Lenten Soup and Prayer on a Thursday nights.
3. Get more sleep. Many Americans are living in a continuously sleep deprived state. This damages them spiritually. Dreams are a way that God meets us and heals us. Just look at all the dreams in the Bible! Use this Lent to create a more sustainable sleep schedule. The Ignatian Prayer of Examen is a great way to enter rest. Before you sleep, try this:
1. Become aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
5. Look toward tomorrow.
It is my prayer that we draw closer to Jesus Christ as we turn our intentions toward Lent. Being confident of this very thing: that God who began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. (Phillipians 1:6) That "day of Jesus Christ" is a whole like Easter!
One of the best things about Lent is that it happens every year. It's like having a Christian restart button. Lent reminds us that we are a people in process. As much as we intend to do well, we often fail. As much as we resolve to do differently, we forget. Lent reminds us that imperfection and frailty are realities, but that growth is still possible - especially with God's help.
As I anticipate Lent, I have been asking God to guide me in the steps I can take to correct the ways I'm slipping. Different years have brought different actions. One year, I gave up putting sugar in my tea. That may seem insignficant but it was huge for me. I wasn't keeping track of how much sugar I was consuming. Giving it up during Lent was a way to say to myself and God, 'I care about my health and I know you, God, do too'. When Lent ended, the sugar craving was lighter. I stopped using sugar for good. Now, I realize that I was eating about 3 lbs of sugar a month!
This year, my "giving up." activities will be different, but one thing remains the same: I want to hit a reset button. God invites us to return when we wander, to knock when we need back in. Whatever we forego, or change, or take on, God wants to be a part of it. When we empty something and invite God, God fills the empty space. When we want to change for the better, God gives us strength. What will you add or remove in your life duing Lent? It's six weeks of resetting. Pray about it, anticipate it, do it! God is ready to welcome you into your "restart".
When people show up, it means they’re committed. It’s true for voting, it’s true in relationships, and it’s true for churches. Jesus specifically talked about the difference between two brothers and asked his listeners to tell him which one was committed: the one who said he’d show up, but didn’t; or the one who said he wouldn’t show up, but did. The proof of commitment was showing up. (Matthew 21:28-31)
The catch is, showing up isn’t just the act of placing your body in the right location. It’s also about engaging your mind, heart, and will in whatever it is that you are committed to do. In the video below, this commitment is reflected in responding to bids. Bids are those invitations to stop everything and prove our commitment. Most of the time, the bids are small, but sometimes they are giant. Always, they are opportunities to grow - both in relationship and as a person.
As we look at all the hearts, balloons and bouquets being sold to us this week for Valentine’s Day, let’s keep in mind that the proof of love and commitment is much deeper and more transformative than tokens and treats. It’s those choices we make to be present, to invest, and to focus on the other that really matter. The church is a great place to practice this kind of love. More importantly, it is a place where God is waiting to shower us with the true love we have always longed for. God is bidding us, will we respond?
--- Pastor Rebecca
Love never fails. That's what the apostle, Paul wrote in I Corinthians 13. What did he mean? I suspect that many of us have witnessed love failing. When we see marriages end in divorce, when we see ardent prayers falling flat, it's easy to think love has failed.
And what about that most egregious of failures, the abuse of a child? Some in our St. Paul's community are survivors of childhood abuse - whether sexual, emotional or physical. Those who should have been loving us best, treated us worst. In the US, 30% of all males have been molested, and 40% of all females.
The church has a role to play in the healing so many of us need. First, we must be a safe place to talk, grieve, and model safe and healthy care for one another. We model that care by training our church workers to safeguard our children from potential abuse. We create safe space by offering a welcome environment and a supportive environment without shame or judgement. Perhaps most importantly, we re-claim that love never fails.
By this, I mean, that love itself does not fail. Humans do. Love untainted by our sin is powerful and restorative. That love is God's. Even though God seems absent during trauma and abuse, Love is constantly working to heal, mend, and restore that which was broken - us.
In Jesus, we see the power of love to take what was sick, and make it well; what was wounded, and restore. May we be a community that walks in the power of love. And may we bravely enter the conversations about our own, and others' trauma, believing that love heals.
Rector's Corner posts written by Pastor Rebecca.