Lenten Disciplines

Because Lent is focused on confession and repentance, it’s natural to think that a Lenten is a time punishment. Yet the Hebrew root word of “repentance” means “to return” and “to feel sorrow.” The best example of “repentance” is the story of the Prodigal Son on his journey home. He felt sorrow for having left his family and chosen a life that led only to poverty and loneliness. That sorrow motivated him to return home where he could be reunited with his father and brother and be of service to the community once again.

The Greek root of “repentance” literally means “after/behind one’s mind”. A better translation is “to think differently after”. Repentance, therefore, is an action that moves us into a different and better way of thinking. Thus, our previous way of thinking was incorrect or, at best, incomplete. We realize we aren’t acting with the best intentions, the best thoughts in mind, and need to change our thinking for better actions in the future.

How does understanding “repentance” in this way change the way you consider your Lenten discipline? What about your capacity to be transformed this season of Lent? Repentance at its core is an act of hopefulness and faith. We believe we have the capacity to transform, to desire to return, and we have faith that God will forever wait for us with open arms. So what of those Lenten disciplines? Yes, they should be challenging. Yes, they should demand hard work, focus, and sacrifice. But so, too, should they move us to introspection and mindfulness.

Lenten disciplines are meant to be triggers to call our attention to our relationship with God and how we might strengthen it. This is one of the reasons I like taking up a new activity rather than giving up something. If I’m feeling ambitious one year, I might do both by fasting for one day a week and picking up a new activity. There are many resources available to help us think creatively about the season. Here are some resources and ideas that I have seen floating around that are worth a look:

40 bags in 40 days: This also can be 40 items in 40 days. The idea is that everyday you pick an item in your house or fill a bag with items that are things you don’t use anymore but haven’t let go of for some reason or another. At the end of the 40 days you donate the items to a local charity. The idea is that over 40 days you declutter your life with greater intentionality.

Making Crosses: The idea is that you make crosses with objects you find in your everyday life. You’d be amazed how beautifully a few simple items can be transformed into the symbol of salvation. Yoga, Tai-Chi, or Meditation: This one is always beneficial. We live in an increasingly fast-paced world, one that rarely gives us time to breathe, much less think. Committing to time every day for reflection and quiet can be invaluable.

40 Days of 40 Acts of Kindness: Every day in Lent find one thing you otherwise wouldn’t have done that will help someone else.

Lent By Heart: This book guides you through memorizing Mark’s account of the passion narrative. Similarly, there are countless books out there containing daily meditations or reflections on scripture.

Develop a Rule of Life: Our monastic brothers and sisters live by a rule of life that guides their daily behavior. Lent is a good time to undertake the self-assessment, thoughtfulness, and candidness for creating your own rule of life. The C.S. Lewis Institute provides a brief guide on their website for how to go about this: http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/webfm_send/338

This is, by no means, an exhaustive list of ideas but should get you thinking creatively about how you might make the most of this season.

God’s blessing for a Lent filled with repentance and hope!

Michael+

Thank you to Reverend Mary R. H. Demmler 

Praying for Peace during Advent

We were asked during our Camino to Santiago de Compostela, "Why are you doing this camino?"


What came up for me over and over is that we need for peace in the world, in our faith communities and in our families.


While on the Camino, I had the chance to read a biography of one of my favorite people: Bishop Mark Dyer.

Cathleen had bought me the biography, "A Man named Mark".


Bishop Mark was my favorite teacher at the Virginia Theological Seminary.  He grew up a boy in Boston, served in the navy and then became a monk. He then left the Roman Catholic Church and became a theologian/teacher in Ottowa, where he was introduced to the Anglican Church.  He was ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church, married and he and his wife adopted three children.  The first was Matthew, who was diagnosed with hydrocephalus/brain stem abnormality.  Even though Matthew never spoke, he remained the center of the Dyer family for 29 years. Along the way, Mark and wife, enjoyed sitting with Matthew.  Bishop Mark told us stories that it was like sitting with an angel.

Bishop Mark was a man of prayer and a man of peace. He would tell us that he got up each day, had breakfast and began his day by going to his den and looking at his many icons which helped him pray.  There are many stories in his bibliography where others told their stories of Mark getting a cup of coffee at the office and retreating to his office in order to pray before he started his work day.

During the Camino, I thought a lot about what was needed in my life, in my family, in our church community. What I heard was the need for prayer and peace.Thus, I am calling our Transfiguration community to prayer for peace during our four weeks of Advent.  Our Sunday liturgies will reflect this. We will say the prayer of St. Francis "Make me a Channel of Your Peace" as our Closing Prayer each Sunday.  I ask that you take your Sunday bulletin home and cut out the Prayer of St. Francis and tape it on your mirror, so that you pray it every morning as your prepare for the day. I ask that you pray for someone you love, yourself and someone who annoys you -- for four weeks of Advent.

I would like to hear your comments  along the way (camino) - what you are doing to bring peace in your life, your family and your community.

Michael+

Who is the greatest?

The Disciples were discussing amongst themselves who was the greatest. But when Jesus aske them what they were talking about, they were embarrassed at their egotism.

Jesus never rebuked them for wanting to great. Instead he taught them how to be great! 

Jesus tells them who will be first: the person who doesn’t want to be: the person who shows vulnerability and servanthood rather than seeking their own glory.

Then he takes a child, puts that child in the midst of them, and says, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Children weren’t welcomed in the first century. They were tolerated. They played like all kids do, but children were an economic asset, able and expected to work. They couldn’t speak for themselves and had no power. *

Yet, a child — powerless against the world around her and unable to defend herself — is who Jesus tells the disciples to welcome: the powerless, the vulnerable, the ones whose voices are ignored in the world.

Jesus says that by welcoming people like that, the ones who can’t influence society and don’t strive to be in charge, they welcome Jesus. Not only do they welcome him, they welcome God who sent him. Welcoming the powerless is a far cry from arguing over who is the greatest! *

Take a moment and think of when you have been great!

Think about that time when you were manifesting your best and notice how others were being Served!

What I find interesting about those times is that there is no ego striving!

At the end of a long day of service, we are tired, but also inspired!

There is good and bad within each of us.

Our task is to call forth the best in ourselves and the best in one another.

To create a better church, we don’t need better people. Rather we need to call for the best from the people already in our church!

Ministry is about multiplying our resources so that what might have been a handout becomes a revelation of God’s amazing grace!

Three questions to ponder:

1)   What do you need to be your Best?

2)   What do people you serve need to be their best?

3)   How can we as a church bring forth people’s best?

*Thank you to The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews