February 13, 2024

From the Rector…

Psalm 51 tells us we are “but dust”. Depending on where you put the emphasis of pronunciation, you might find that to be a bit amusing though butt dust is not any more heartening than realizing that in the naming of our bodily self as dust, we are naming our own mortality. That is one of the distinctive purposes of Lent—recognizing our mortality, that we won’t live forever.

Someone once told me that if you can get “right” with your death, then you find you live with different purpose and intention. I won’t profess that I get what that means in its entirety, but I do think it has something to do with an intentional life that understands the inevitable will happen.  If we’ve gotten right with our ending, then Instead of allowing fear or suffering to dictate one’s response to life we embrace fear and suffering and doubt as opportunities for reflection and growth. I think that is a helpful approach to the season of Lent.

Traditionally Lent is met with some intentional spiritual discipline meant to inform our own discipleship. The season and its penitential practices can be traced back to at least the Council of Nicaea in 325AD where it was officially recognized, though its origins appear to be of a more ancient date. Fasting has always been a part of the traditional observance as the early church fathers admonished any who did not participate in dietary fasts as sinners. The period and type of fasting were common to the season and included anything of the “flesh and wine”. The tradition of fasting has waned somewhat in modern times though the church still encourages those who are able to recognize Ash Wednesday and the Fridays in Lent as times of fasting. More and more people in the modern era turn toward the “taking on” of some practice as their Lenten discipline.

I don’t know if Lent requires you to fast or take something on, but I do think it requires you to do something. It is a forty-day opportunity to “reset”, not simply as a Christian, but also as a community. Page 265 of the BCP reminds us that, “the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and the need of which all Christians communally have to renew their repentance and faith.” (emphasis mine) Thus, from the beginning, Lent was understood to be a communal observance, not simply an individual one. 

Western civilization has caused us to doubt the inevitability of our death as well as emphasize a personal salvation over a communal one. The message we are taught from birth boils down to “every man for himself” be it in this life or the next one. I wonder if this Lent we might enter and engage in a more communal observance in which we offer ourselves the opportunity for a reset on God, away from the things of man.

Drew+, Laura Mielke, Emily Pritzel and I invite you to an observance of a holy Lent in which through self-examination we might begin to notice and name our practices around our use of screens—phones, tablets, computers, and televisions. We invite you through prayer to fast—just for a little while—on some part of your screen usage that might distract you from the greater purposes of a life centered on God. We encourage you to practice some self-denial around your screen time in order to begin to shift from our reliance on technology and rediscover our own gifts and opportunities that empower us to be God’s agents of transformation in creation.

In this season of Lent, we encourage you to be a part of All Our Understandings: Loving God with All Our Minds.  This six-week opportunity will allow you to explore your own use of screens and the impact they have had on your life. It is not meant as a judgement, but as an opportunity. The core of the practice can be found here on our website. In addition to a personal practice of self-examination and reflection, there are numerous formation opportunities as well as a preaching series on the Collects that Drew+ and I will offer during this season.

I have never known anyone who met their death with phone in hand trying to answer that one last email or make sure that they were up to date on the latest information or gossip on social media. But I have known a lot of people to prepare for their death by surrounding themselves with those they love, and turning their hearts to God. In preparing for our “end” we begin to notice that the things the world values seem a little less important. Instead, we long for a community in which we can engage and grow and remember our joy.

Whatever your spiritual practice for Lent may be, I pray that you might be willing to be uncomfortable for a while. For it is only in the discomfort and our willingness to embrace it, that we might discover release from whatever has bound us.

Light and Life,