A weekly Rector’s Notes article for February 25, 2019
The practice of giving something up for Lent is rooted in deep tradition, but it sometimes feels like it has lost some of its depth as it has become a practice of self-flagellation over soda, alcohol, coffee, and chocolate in recent years. Personally, I have done a number of different things in observing Lent. I have given up soda. I have tried to treat it as a time of resolution much like New Years. I have tried to do the “hot new thing” in taking on something rather than giving something up. Each of these tasks though did not do much to really do the thing that this practice of self-sacrifice should hold in Lent: drawing one’s self closer to God through removing those things in our life that are a barrier or impediment to our relationship with God.
We get so caught up in the act of giving up and/or taking on that it becomes the focus of our Lenten discipline. We spend more time focusing on not consuming or our failing to live into new practices that we lose the purpose for taking on these acts of self-discipline. Are we really sacrificing anything in order to grow closer to God if the very act of sacrifice gets in the way?
So, how do we engage in this practice in a faithful manner?
How do we acknowledge that the action of sacrifice it isn’t about a period of 40 days but rather is about drawing ourselves closer to God?
How do we go about recognizing our brokenness and constant mucking up of things as a part of this process and not a failure of our Lenten discipline?
How do we recognize that a truly impactful Lenten discipline is about altering, about radically changing our life so that God is recentered in our focus?
It is different for every person. But, I will tell you what I hope to give up and take on this Lent, because I ask that you help me in my Lenten practice. We are a church after all, we don’t do this faith thing as sole individuals, we rely on each other as a community to hold each other up, including the priest.
This Lent I am committing to reducing my carbon footprint because I am concerned that the gift of creation is not going to be accessible to my children or their children (should they choose to have them) in the same way (if at all) in the future. In doing this, my hope is to reconnect to a piece of my spirituality that has been so critical in shaping and forming me in my life, the beauty that is creation, especially in the Pacific Northwest. This will involve a lot of minor changes on my end to simply reduce the amount of goods I consume, whether recyclable or not. This will also hopefully involve some bigger life-altering changes. These may take more time than the 40 days of Lent, but that’s ok.
What can I, and we as a congregation, help you in giving up and/or taking on this season of Lent?
Perhaps it’s as simple as committing to engage in more fellowship, worship, and formation with your church family of St. Stephen’s by attending things like Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, and the Wednesday Lenten Worship, Soup and Study gatherings. Perhaps you will make a commitment to attend our Sunday Forums in Lent to learn how you can make a bigger impact on homelessness in Cowlitz County.
Perhaps, like myself, you are concerned about your carbon footprint, but don’t really know where to start. If you’re in this camp I have good news! Our diocese is helping pilot a new program out of the Diocese of California that will eventually be rolled out to the entire Episcopal Church. It is a robust carbon footprint calculator, tracker, education center, and activity challenger, and the exciting part is that we get to engage in it as a local community with our own home page, question and answer boards for our church family, and ability to support one another in this vital work. More details will be following as the program has not quite launched, but the goal is for a launch at the beginning of Lent.
Whatever you decide to do this Lent, I hope you will share it with others, because we don’t do this faith thing alone, so it’s silly to think we should take on Lenten disciplines alone as well. I am always here to support, to offer guidance, to challenge as needed. I just ask that you do the same for me.