A Message from the Rector - "Deep Gratitude"
Ash Wednesday ushers us into the holy season of Lent, a season that has always been held as a time set apart to prepare our hearts and minds for the annual celebration of Easter. This season, we have a special set of gifts for you as you journey.
Over the centuries, Lent has been a chance to take on a special spiritual discipline, but recently those disciplines have looked less and less spiritual. I can remember friends over the years saying that they were giving up caffeine or chocolate, or perhaps they were going to start exercising daily or drinking more water. Although I would never claim to know the mind of God, I’ll go out on a limb and say that I don’t believe God’s overly concerned about our caffeine intake or whether we get to the gym. Instead, I think Lent can be a deeper experience with a bit more intentionality.
In the first century, Jesus’s followers would gather each year to celebrate his resurrection. Their celebration was most often held in secret for fear of retaliation, but for those early Christians, that Easter celebration was the most important moment of the year. Yes, they celebrated Jesus’s resurrection, but what made the moment so special was not the celebration itself, but the opportunity to welcome new followers into the Body of Christ through baptism. Easter, for centuries, was the moment when new disciples were fully welcomed into the Church.
Fast forward to the 21st century, and the idea that Lent is the main entry point into Christian discipleship has mostly been lost. Many of us are baptized as babies or as young people, and those baptism moments are often whenever the time is right. We have disconnected baptism from Easter, and for some solid reasons. Yet, Lent can still be an opportunity for us to intentionally prepare ourselves for growth in our discipleship.
To start off, I want us all to pray each day in Lent. Prayer is a gift for our souls. Prayer fills us up, renews our spirits, and keeps us properly focused on God. This year, your Saint Michael clergy have prepared a podcast to help you begin or deepen this habit. Each weekday, from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday, your Saint Michael clergy have prepared a simple offering of prayer, scripture reading, and meditation, that you can listen to at a time that works best. The recordings will be available as a podcast or to stream on our website.
Daily prayer is not something that most people find easy to do well. My guess is that most of you reading this article like the idea of daily prayer, but don’t quite make it happen. I am beyond sympathetic – life is busy! – but I want to push you to make the time. Each of the daily episodes lasts less than 10 minutes, and we all have 10 minutes to give back to God. Last fall we kept track of moments of grace and gratitude, and this spring, let’s turn those moments into sacred prayer together.
In addition to daily prayer in general, I encourage you to focus your prayers on one specific idea: your spiritual gifts. I admit that when I first learned the concept of spiritual gifts, I thought they sounded a bit fluffy. Spiritual giftedness is a complicated matter and one that takes energy. One’s spiritual gifts are not simply worldly skills, nor do they stay in the realm of potential, but rather an intentional meeting of the two.
To put it another way, spiritual gifts are anchored in the grand mystery of God but can be expressed in tangible ways. Here is a quick primer of Spiritual gifts: First, spiritual gifts are not the same as the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to each of us in our faith to support our work, but when we do our work, our own spiritual gifts guide us. Second, spiritual gifts are abilities given by God for the service of others, not human talents. Third, spiritual gifts are the means to achieving a good goal, not the fruits of the process. Finally, spiritual gifts are not offices with the Body of Christ (the church), such as prophet, priest, teacher, or elder. We are all gifted to help bring about God’s kingdom, and the roles we play do not validate our gifts any more or less.
Finally, make a commitment to regular worship each weekend with our brothers and sisters. This Lent, the clergy are offering a sermon series titled Reorder the Disorder, a specific look at the ways in which our world influences us toward spiritual disorder. We hope to be transformed by the gospel, and by sticking together and reordering our priorities, we can move forward on the path of discipleship together.
My hope is that we will center ourselves in the season of Lent in order to launch with energy into the season of Easter. This year, our preparation will be good for our souls because we will prepare to live out our call to discipleship in new ways that will challenge us, fulfill us, and transform the world around us.
I invite you, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a Holy Lent, and I look forward to being with you on the journey!
The Rev. Dr. Christopher D. Girata