I said Alleluia on Sunday. It was accidental, but loud.
If there is a recording, you would know it was me. I had some ready excuses, mitigating circumstances, other exemplars of the wrong around me, but in the end, I did it.
Lent, just four days old, now wrecked and done.
Ash Wednesday begins the season with this call from the Church to its members.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and
meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.
Observing, keeping, or watching as Lent unfolds can be daunting. A goal of a “holy” Lent raises the stakes even higher.
The Church (i.e. the gathered, distilled and proven collective wisdom of those who have traveled this Easter road before us) offer us a set of practices or tools to observe this Lent more fully. The primary one comes at the invitation’s end- to kneel before the Lord. This makes sense not just for Lent, but year round. He is our
maker (he knows us inside and out and understands exactly how we are) and our
redeemer (he loves us and moves towards us in merciful grace through Jesus Christ)
Once we are in a position of humble acknowledgment that God knows us and loves us, we are freed to make use of the other tools provided. These tools are not to be used to fool God with our piety or busy-ness (He is our Creator) or to earn His love through sanctity or accomplishment (He is our Redeemer)
Self-examination, Repentance, Prayer, Fasting, Self-denial, Reading and Meditating on God’s holy Word. Quite a list from which to choose- engaging in word, worship and prayer for the sake of knowing Christ and ourselves better as we begin moving towards Jesus’ Passion and Easter.
But, what if Lent’s great design is thwarted by an ill-timed Easter acclamation, or a bag of M&Ms, or a thought, word, or deed left either done or undone?
It need not be.
Remember, Lent is a tool, not a rule.
Lent, and the other helpful patterns of formation are, in the words of Anglican theologian Martin Thornton “not intended for legalists.” Dallas Willard writes that the spiritual disciplines are “not righteousness, but wisdom”. They don’t make us better because we do them, they make us better because we use them.
As you worship on Sunday, it is good to lay aside the Alleluia so that its vocalization builds like steam in a boiler, ready to billow on Easter morning. It can be good to lay aside simple pleasures for the sake of cultivating and recognizing our appetites and desires as a way to remind us to pray or to give.
As you enter into Lent, here are two upcoming ways you might align yourself with the way that leads to Christ’s cross and resurrection.
On Wednesdays during Lent, join Bishop Carl in the church at 12 for “He Chose the Nails” by Max Lucado and noonday prayer.
This Wednesday evening at [TIME] , February 28
th, join us here at the church as we welcome Pastor Jon Ritner for an evening of conversation about reaching secularized people with the good news of the gospel. He will draw on his experiences as part of the staff of a megachurch here in the US, as well as a missionary to Belgium and now serving as pastor of a church in Hollywood California.
Join us on Sunday morning at 9am as we study Starting Over: Your Life Beyond Regrets. We will meet in the Parish Hall for breakfast and conversation around this Lenten Study. Other small groups using the book are taking place through the parish as well.
We hope that these and other opportunities will allow you to enter into the blessings of a holy Lent, imperfectly but intentionally, on our way together towards Easter morning.
See you Sunday,