Lent begins next week. Over the last few weeks I’ve mentioned several things that might be worthy of consideration for a Lenten discipline. During these 40 days, you might explore how you are a lamp on a stand, and how you can live that even more. You might take up a discipline out of Scripture adapted to your place and time in obedience and trust-- similar to the alms purse I carry to honor Matthew 5:42. You might even look at periodic fasting from a core process in your life, such as hot water or speech, or internet, or automobiles--something that is really a pain to do without--and explore what that tells you about your life. (Kids: this is not permission to give up homework!)
There are many wonderful resources for spiritual disciplines such as silence, simplicity, solitude, hospitality, Lectio Divina, Centering Prayer, and other things--some are listed below. There are also fun Lenten disciplines you can take on, such as exploring the Communion of Saints through Lent Madness.
We have spent a season rejoicing in the revelation of God incarnate--the Epiphany. Now we come to a season of exploring who we are in light of who God is in Christ.
Lent is a penitential season, so we will see liturgical changes during the coming weeks. We’ll do the Great Litany and the Decalogue and Penitential Order. We’ll have no “Alleluia’s” or flowers, and the crosses will all be draped. The Prayers of the People and the Eucharistic Prayer will change. The Sanctuary will be open for private prayer whenever the Church office is open, and the reserve Sacrament will be present on the altar for visitations. The tone of liturgy will be more contemplative and more solemn. All of this reflects the self-examination that we undertake in light of the cross of Christ, his death and resurrection, and his ultimate return.
It is important that we participate in Lent, not by rote, but in the spirit of exploration, conversion and coming joy. A non-Episcopalian once asked me, “What’s Lent all about, anyway?” and I said, “It’s about spring cleaning, only spiritually.” As April and I cleaned out our offices a few weeks ago, we
lugged out a lot of junk--and found a few treasures. An antique perpetual calendar, a neat flip file for collating, some brand new cameras, all were discovered with joy and a sense of fun. That’s what Lent does. May you have a fruitful Lenten season, and may you discover new gifts and joys in your own
spiritual life through these forty days.
Resources for Lenten disciplines:
· The Society of St. John the Evangelist does a daily e-mail, “Brother, Give us a Word” as well as a Lenten video series that allows you to watch and then respond. This wonderful monastic community offers sanctuary and support to many who need refuge in their spiritual lives. They can be found at www.ssje.org
· Lent madness explores the Communion of Saints through its Lent Madness bracket. Each day two saints are presented for a vote, with videos by the saints and lots of fun. The winner advances to the next round, while the loser retires (laughing) back to the heavenly courts. It all begins on Ash Wednesday, so get on the website and sign up for the daily e-mail. It’s at www.lentmadness.org
· The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston is the retired Bishop of Alaska, and was the first Native American to be consecrated a Bishop. He posts daily prayers that are stunningly beautiful and conducts a Saturday prayer request day on his Facebook page. Find him by searching Facebook for Steven Charleston and liking his page.
· The Text This Week offers rich resources of imagery, prayer, meditation, Scriptural studies, and other things. It’s available at textweek.com
· You can pray the Daily Office online with the Mission of St. Clare at www.missionstclare.com/english. This includes the Daily Office and Lectionary, and audio of prayers and music. Some selections from the New Zealand Book of Common Prayer are also included.
· If you are interested in environmental fasting, concerns, Carbon Fasting--
www.ecfvp.org/vestrypapers/caring-for-gods-creation/a-lenten-carbon-fast/ is a way to explore taking on disciplines that address how we might walk softly upon the earth.
· The Episcopal Church offers many resources for Lent. Check out what’s available at
· Books you might explore include Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life by Marjorie Thompson or Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline or Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World.