Like many of us, Peter has a wandering heart. His journey is not polished, or linear, or perfect, but he is always tethered to the love of God. When you look closely at Peter’s story, you find Jesus at each step along the way—offering him abundance, catching him when he begins to sink, challenging him when he stands in the way, washing his feet, predicting his betrayal, and offering him agapē love. This Lent, we’re joining Peter in figuring out faith. We’re not idolizing or vilifying him; instead, we’re hoping to wander alongside him, open to what we might learn about Jesus (and ourselves) by stepping in his shoes. Come along this Lent as we strengthen our faith in the footsteps of Peter following Christ.
Our theme for this Lenten season will be “Seeking”, and is centered on a series of questions that I hope will lead you to a deeper faith, a new beginning, a restoration and a wider grace. Our questions won’t necessarily lead to answers, but they can help us find clarity and a new perspective. Like the characters in our Lenten scriptures, we are also seeking many things; clarity, connection, wonder, justice, balance. We are seeking our calling, the sacred, and how to live as a disciple of Christ. Throughout the uncertainty and turbulence of the last few years, many of us have asked questions about our lives and our faith. I hope that during the Lenten season you can be reflective and unpack some of the questions in your life. Throughout the season, I hope that you will ask yourself: What am I seeking? What is God seeking? This Lent I invite you to engage in the spiritual practice of seeking. Stay curious and open. I hope that you will find a safe place to explore and dream, and be drawn more deeply into the fullness of life, and into God’s love and grace. To help you on the journey, there will be Lenten devotional books available as well as devotional cards and a self-reflection tool.
The Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday, February 22 and extends until Easter. I look forward to all that our searching will reveal.
The irate employee stomps into the payroll office and shouts, “There’s been a terrible mistake! My paycheck is a dollar short this week! I demand to know why, and what you’re going to do about it!” The payroll employee looks up from his ledger and says calmly, “I see here that we paid you a surplus of a dollar last week. I don’t recall you complaining about the mistake we made then.” The employee says, “Well, an occasional mistake I can overlook, but not TWO in a row!” The Lenten season is a time to reflect that we have all made mistakes, and we are fortunate that God has forgiven us for two, three, 203, etc…….through confession and repentance we can receive that love and grace that has the power to renew and sustain. A grace so amazing that it can be difficult to comprehend.
The old fable imagines a handful of blind men positioned around an elephant. After taking a moment to explore with their hands the beast before them, each is asked to describe the elephant. Since one has the trunk, another has the tail, another a tusk, and so on, however, they come up with very different descriptions of what an elephant is like.
The fable may be used for all sorts of mischief, of course, but it does provide a helpful image: namely, that some truths are larger and more complex than any one person can fully understand or adequately describe. So it is with God’s love. While it may be overwhelming, God loves each of us where we are at in life, who we are right now, and wants to work with each of us to be the best we can be. The Lenten season provides us the opportunity for reflection, renewal and re-directing our lives to be in tune with God’s mission and purpose. As we approach Holy Week and Easter morning, take the time to draw closer to God and to get headed in the right direction.
On the Lenten journey,
The word “Lent” comes from a word meaning “spring” and “long,” an apparent reference to the lengthening of the days of spring. Lent is the season preceding Easter, a season for self-discipline and renewal. Its tradition goes back to the early days of the Christian church, beginning in the first century as an observance lasting forty hours, roughly the amount of time Jesus was believed to have laid in the tomb. In later years, the duration of the season was extended to six days called Holy Week. A custom arose about that time among those able to visit Jerusalem of visiting various sites associated with the life and ministry of Jesus. It was to be a time of fasting and self-denial, symbolic of Jesus own suffering and death. This visiting of significant sites also led to the Stations of the Cross for the Roman Catholic Church. In later centuries, the duration of Lent was again extended, this time to 36 days, apparently a tithing of the number of days in the year. Still later, four more days were added, the numeral four being significant as symbolic of the number forty, that number often symbolizing a long time, or even endless time. It especially calls to mind the forty days and nights that Jesus is said to have spent in the wilderness, a time of testing and temptation prior to the start of his ministry. Sundays are not included in the numbering of the days of Lent, because Sunday celebrates the resurrection of Jesus and Lent recognizes the events leading up to the resurrection. For this reason we refer to the Sundays in Lent rather than the Sundays of Lent. Currently, Lent begins with Ash Wednesday in most Western churches, though the Eastern Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches begin Lent on Monday.
As our world faces many challenges, including hunger, homelessness, drug addiction, war, political divisiveness, disease and overall despair, make an extra effort this Lenten season to spend time in prayer and reflection. Be disciplined in offering prayers for those around you, those across the globe, those your encounter in your daily activities. When and where you can, be generous with your time and resources. In all things, be thankful for God’s grace and goodness.
Things to give up during Lent:
1. Fear of Failure – You don’t succeed without experiencing failure. Just make sure you fail forward.
2. Feelings of Unworthiness – You are fearfully and wonderfully made by God.
3. Impatience – Count to 10 and extend grace.
4. Blame – Tell yourself, “I am not going to pass the buck. I will take responsibility for my actions.”
5. Guilt – Remember, you are loved by God and forgiven. Today is a new day and the past is behind.
6. Over commitment – Do less better and accomplish more.
7. Entitlement – The world does not owe me anything. God does not owe me anything. I live in humility and grace.
8. Apathy – Life is too short not to care.
9. Hatred – Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
10. Complaining/ Bitterness- Put aside negative thoughts. Work to minimize contact with people who are negative and toxic. Instead of contributing to the problem, be the solution.
11. Destructive Speech – Encourage one another.
12. Worry – God is in control and worrying will not help.
13. Resistance to Change – Change is certain. It is not if we will change, but how we will change.
14. Ungratefulness – You have been blessed in a way greater than you realize. Give thanks.
15. Reduce the Use of Electronics– Spend more time making direct contact with others and less time utilizing electronics (i.e. instead of sending that text or email, pick up the phone and call).
Things to start doing for Lent:
1. Give away something every single day, be it time, money, or something you own. Clean out closets and drawers. Donate, recycle, and get rid of 40 things in 40 days.
2. Make a list of 40 people who have touched your life and write one each day with a letter of appreciation.
3. Plan to read the Sunday scriptures before you go to church. In the same way that reading up on football players, opposing teams, and coaching strategies will help you experience a game more fully, familiarizing yourself with the readings ahead of time will help you experience them in a deeper way on Sunday.
4. Plan 40 acts of kindness, and/or 40 phone calls to the important people in your life.
5. Read the entire Gospel of Mark in one sitting. As the shortest Gospel, it is the most concise story of Jesus’ life.
6. Unplug from your iPhone or turn off your car radio on your commute. The silence may be jarring at first, but you may find that you are able to concentrate better and will be more observant of your surroundings.
7. Plan to volunteer at least one weekend or evening during Lent. Serve a meal at your local soup kitchen. Visit the elderly or those who are ill. Stock shelves at a food pantry; pick up litter; volunteer at church, etc.
8. Pray for someone. As you’re walking the streets, driving the highways, or sitting in your cubicle at work, pick out a person who appears to be in need and pray for that person.
9. Get to know your neighbors. Introduce yourself, plan a dinner, or bring food to an older person on your block.