Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happy Lent!

I greeted Fr. Y with those words from the title, and he laughed and said it was an oxymoron. I replied, "Yes, I like that sort of thing."

Well, "Happy Lent" is kind of an oxymoron and...kind of not. I happen to like Lent. When I wrote an article for my old church's newsletter, I learned that "Lent" came from an Anglo-Saxon word for "spring." That kind of stuck on me. When I think of Spring, I think of Spring Cleaning, being refreshed, starting anew. Lent is like that -- Spring Cleaning for the soul.

I like the penitential seasons of Advent and Lent because they are an opportunity to intentionally clean up my spiritual life. Like housekeeping, one should clean up on a regular basis, but sometimes you need to set aside a special time to do some deep cleaning.

In a couple of weeks, I'll meet with one of our priests and say my Confession. It will be an opportunity for me to hear God, through the priest, say "I forgive you." Now, I know that God has already forgiven me, but for things that really bother me, I need to admit my wrongs and hear -- physically -- the words, "I forgive you." From past experience, I know that when I can tell someone the wrongs I've done, get a way for making things right (often referred to as a "penance"), and hear the words of forgiveness, I will feel better. Not only will I feel better, but more importantly, I will have made steps toward repairing the relationships that have been broken by my actions -- relationships with other people and with God Himself.

I like the somber, subdued mood in our worship during Lent. It's a break from the frenetic activity that sometimes invades even our worship space. I find that I can connect with God more deeply. Our music emphasizes our brokenness and need for healing. I appreciate that I can stop and admit that I'm human; I'm fallible -- I don't need to know it all or do it all. My 12-step work reminds me that there is a Power greater than I am, and Lent reminds me of the same.

As for giving something up...this year, not so much. I think I'll go the route of adding something rather than taking away. The reality is that I'll naturally give up something in order to make this "new" thing, whatever it may be, fit. This year, I'm going to add exercise and Bible Study to my life. It will likely mean less playing with the iPhone...oooh, can I do it? Heh. I can with God's help!

I wish you a blessed and most holy Lent. Happy Lent!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lent's Coming! Quick -- get out the sackcloth and ashes!

Recently, I contributed a Lenten meditation for my former church's collection of writings. I like Lent, with its thoughtful, penitential focus. It's a lot like spring cleaning (the word lent comes from an Anglo-Saxon word for spring, after all) for the soul.

Here's the meditation:

Meditation for the 5th Day in Lent 2010 by Erlinda

Please read 1 Corinthians 1:1-19

There is a saying: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Unfortunately, this holds true when we look at the state of the Church in Corinth and the present-day Church. Because we have been created to live in community (Gen. 2:18, Matt. 18:20, 1 Cor. 1:9), we have an almost insatiable hunger to belong to something. But often, when we create groups in which to belong, we also create out-groups. When Paul learned that the Church had split into factions, he admonished the Corinthians to strive for unity, “in mind and purpose.”

I have seen the sad results of church splits, whether from personal differences, doctrinal differences, liturgical differences, or any number of things that cause relationships to break down and die. People experience real pain from these splits, and friendships and communities are lost. Worse, people who have been wounded may begin to believe that there is no purpose for a worshiping community. Hearing the Corinthians say, “I belong to Paul”, or “I belong to Apollos”, or “I belong to Cephas”, or “I belong to Christ,” is not much different than saying, “I am orthodox,” or “I am progressive,” or “I belong to Holy Spirit,” or “I belong to St. George,” or “I belong to…” I call it looking at church with a “little c”, rather than Church with a “big C.”

We are going through a time of divisiveness within our Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, of which we are a part. If we, as a Church, are to survive this tumultuous period, we need to do what Paul told the Corinthians – be united “in mind and purpose.” That purpose is to proclaim – in words and actions – the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who do not know Him. This is too big a task for any small group to undertake. We need to look beyond our differences and cooperate in inter-parish and even inter-denominational efforts. Christ will give us the gifts we need to achieve our goal – to fill the hunger of those lonely souls who need to know the love of Christ and the love of a truly Christian community.

Let us pray: Lord Jesus Christ, give us the strength to overcome the sad divisions we are experiencing in our Church. Help us to use the gifts You have given us to proclaim the Good News of Your presence to those who hunger so much for Your love, Your grace and Your peace. Amen.

It's hard to do the right thing -- why?

It is interesting how hard it is for people (including me) to do the right thing. Tonight I came home from work to see my grandson, S, standing in a corner and crying because he did not want to help his mom put away his toys. Even when putting away his toys would mean certain freedom and playtime with Nana (me), he still refused to put the toys away. This continued for several minutes, forever, in a two-year-old's time frame.

It took a while, but I finally convinced him to put away his cars, a few at a time. Then all was well in his little world and we danced to the kids' music blaring from our TV.

So the question remains: Why is it so hard for people to do the right thing, even when doing so usually brings pleasurable results?

I'll think about this a bit and blog my thoughts. Meanwhile, if you have any thoughts on the subject, please share.