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Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church

8011 Douglas
Dallas, Texas 75225

Phone: 214-363-5471
Fax: 214-363-4388
After Hours Priest on Call Number: 214-232-7512

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Lenten Meditations

 

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Lent is upon us. I can think of at least four ways to “do” Lent. I’d encourage you to avoid doing three of them.

The first way is just not to take it very seriously at all. I knew one wag who every Lent gave up . . . watermelon! While he invariably drew a chuckle, the fact is he also communicated that he’d get absolutely nothing out of Lent; that he’d not grow at all between Ash Wednesday and Easter. I want you to get something out of Lent!

The second way to see Lent is as a season of penitence. While there’s good ecclesiastical and historical precedence for this, I’m less and less convinced that God is that concerned about most of what we think of as our sinfulness. If there’s some serious wrong that you’ve committed and which besets your soul, then I encourage you to contact one of our clergy, talk it out, confess, and then make what amends you can to make things right.

And please know you can talk with somebody other than the clergy! The 5th Step of the famous 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is: “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” The importance of acknowledging to another human being “the exact nature of our wrongs” is that that person’s face and attentiveness keep us honest. Note that the other person does not have to be a priest, though she may be. A good friend, a counselor, a mentor will also suffice. The important thing is that this be a person you trust, who understands the importance of confidentiality, and who is willing to hold you accountable.

But what if there’s no particular sin besetting your soul? We all of us, every single day of our lives, do little things we know we ought not do and do not do things we know we should, but should we make Lent a special time of doing something about it? I’d argue that we should be attentive to our “sin” every single day of our lives. So why make Lent a special time of penance?

Christianity is about so very much more than what Richard Rohr calls “sin management”. Christianity is about transformation – about resurrection! That goes far beyond managing our little temptations.

And that brings me to the third way I hope you won’t observe Lent. Lent is not simply a time of dieting, though many of us (myself much included) treat it as such. Truthfully, if you do observe a traditional Lenten fast (e.g., giving up all processed sugar and animal products), you will lose weight. But, as is obvious, if you then turn around on Easter and resume eating the way you did before, the weight will simply return. (On this pattern I’m an expert.) Wouldn’t it be better to discern a healthy way of living that you can continue after Easter?

That brings me to the fourth way, the way I hope you’ll observe Lent. Think of Lent as a time of preparing to be transformed, of preparing to be resurrected with Christ. As the Apostle Paul put it, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:19-20)

In Lent we’re preparing to celebrate not only Jesus Christ’s resurrection but our own as well. “[W]e have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)

What if Lent is a time in which we prepare to walk in newness of life by actually practicing walking in newness of life? Fasting is a good thing to do. Jesus prescribes and expects it! (Cf., Matthew 6:16-18) And certainly confessing one’s sin and one’s sinfulness is a good thing to do. I encourage both!

But what if you used Lent, not as a season to give up something, but as a season to take on something - a new practice which lends itself to spiritual renewal and rebirth, a practice you can continue after Easter as part of a daily regimen of seeking to improve your conscious contact with God? Perhaps you could take on daily morning and evening prayer, or you might set aside 20 or 30 minutes a day for centering prayer (there’s a plethora of literature on it). You might undertake daily Bible reading. There are some fantastic programs out there that will take you through the entire Bible in a year.

Here’s my basic point: rather than seeing Lent as a time of sorrow I suggest we see it as a time of preparation for being transformed, for being thoroughly overwhelmed by the sheer depth and scope of a God who loves us so much that he gave His very life for us, a life which He now offers us as ours for eternity!

 

Doug Travis
Interim Rector