An Invitation

Column for March, 2017

“I invite you, therefore, in the name of Christ,

to observe a holy Lent

by self-examination and penitence,

by prayer and fasting,

by works of love,

and by reading and meditating on the Word of God.”

Every year, we begin the church’s season of Lent when I offer you those words.  They are from our liturgy for Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent.  They lay out the theme of the season and the disciplines of the spirit to which believers have traditionally paid special attention during Lent.

 

On the one hand, any talk about Lent, with all of its traditions, darkness, and especially discipline, sounds like a drag.  At best, Lent seems a bit dour; at worst, it seems like a time when pious people seek to become more self-righteous.  Give up chocolate or coffee or meat or whatever else tastes and feels really good.  Spend time examining your sins.  Read more, study more, pray more, or do something else more.  And in the process, make up for all of the things you do wrong, and all the things you fail to do right, for the rest of the year.  It doesn’t sound like any fun.

 

Of course, Lent is not supposed to be dour, pious, and especially not self-righteous.  The word “Lent” comes from the old English word “lencten,” which simply means “spring.”  Lent at its best corresponds to the season of nature we are in now (and, inexplicably, we seem to have been in since our one and only freeze in January!).  Think about this season a bit:  there is more light, as the days get longer.  The air is warmer, though without that stifling humidity which makes us all want to slow down and take it easy during the summer.  The trees bud out; the flowers come up, and life unfurls again.  This season is a part of the annual pattern, but every time it comes around, it feels like a new gift again.

 

And that is what Lent is.  It is a time of darkness which gradually dawns to light.  It is a time of building warmth, but the kind of warmth that gives us energy to do new work, not the kind which stifles us and makes us lazy.  It is a time for growth, when new life emerges and our lives unfurl to become more open, more receptive, more vigorous, and more ready to broadcast beauty.

 

Throughout the rest of this newsletter, I hope you will see some ways you can observe a holy Lent at White Bluff Presbyterian Church.  There are opportunities for us to learn something about ourselves and our neighbors; we hope you will join us for the Evening with Robert Lupton on March 30.  There are opportunities for fasting and giving alms through our Lent Food Drive.  There are chances for us to contemplate works of love, especially as we continue to develop our Building Families program.  There are opportunities for us to pray, lifting up our sisters and brothers on the prayer list and giving thanks to God for the many ways that all of us work to build up the church and community.  And there are chances for us to read and meditate on the Word, through the studies of the Presbyterian Women’s circles and through the work of the Sunday School.

 

I hope you will hear these words of invitation again to join together in the light, the warmth, and the growth which are the gifts of Lent:

“I invite you, therefore, in the name of Christ,

to observe a holy Lent…

Let us bow before God our Creator and Redeemer.”

Amen.