LENT & EASTER

A JOYFUL LENT?

By: The Rev. Joanne Tetrault, Associate Rector for Children’s Ministries & Parish Day School Chaplain

 

A short verse by one of my favorite poets, the late Mary Oliver, goes like this:
 

We shake with joy, we shake with grief,

What a time they have, these two,

Housed as they are in the same body.

 

If we think of our own experiences of joy, and of grief, and how they play out within our physical selves, we can feel the dichotomy – the seemingly opposing tugs – that Oliver speaks of. What amazing creations we are, that these two quite strong and different emotions, housed together within us, can bring forth the same response.

 

And so as we approach the holy season of Lent, a season of “self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial …” (BCP, p. 265), might we do so with a bit of trepidation this year? After all, haven’t we all been through enough? Enough sadness, loss, isolation, separation, upheaval, worry. Couldn’t we use a little joy right now, and a lot less grief?

 

I think this is an instance of both/and. We can all benefit now from BOTH less grief AND more joy. As we approach this season of Lent, let’s broaden our perspective, to remember it is a time when we are, once again, invited fully into God’s loving embrace of forgiveness and redemption. When we are, once again, invited to begin again. Every day. It is not simply and only a season in which we follow our savior Jesus to the cross but also a season in which we are invited to name and shed light on those dark places that are housed within us. It is a season that also houses the seeds of new life.

 

One of my professors from Virginia Seminary, The Rev. James Farwell, says it so well:


“Lent is also about joy, to the extent that our effort, by the grace of God to return to the life God offers, is a moment of solemn celebration. There is sorrow in repentance – in turning again – as we acknowledge death and loss. But there is also JOY in Lenten repentance. It is a turning again toward LIFE. It is a return to what heals us … a love from whom we are not separated by pandemic or disaster, and who does not abandon us.”

 

Amen to that. A blessed and holy Lent, sorrowful and joyful, to all.

REPAIRING RELATIONSHIPS DURING LENT

By: Georgi Funderburk, Director of Youth Ministries

What do you need to repair in your life?  Which relationships need some work? 

 

I grew up with Jesus, the good boy, who did as he was told and was nice to
people, to the detriment of himself. So, young Georgi was the good girl who was
nice to everyone to the detriment of herself. It caused me to become holier-than-thou
and strained relationships because of my need to be perfect and “set apart”.

 

We ARE called to be set apart, but the way that I went about it put a wall between myself and others, which isn’t what Jesus did or calls us to do. I was against divorce, homosexuality, gambling, pre-marital sex, cursing, overdrinking, marijuana, cheating, anything and everything “bad.” And worse, I was judgmental of anyone who chose to live their lives that way. If you participated in any lewd behaviors, you needed saving — and I knew how to point you to the one who could do the saving. You can imagine the kind of comments and mocking I received. While I am not proud of my past self, it did teach me many lessons as I have deconstructed. I vividly remember telling a classmate that he could not be bi-sexual and be a follower of Jesus. Ouch! As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community (I’m the +), I felt called to reach out to that classmate and make amends. It was not my place to judge him or tell him that he cannot be a part of God’s community. I share this story as an example of my need to repair a relationship but also my need for my understanding of the Christian faith to be restored.

 

What I now understand after 3.5 decades of living as a Christian, is that life happens to all of us. No one WANTS to be divorced or CHOOSES to be LGBTQIA+ and have their family disown them, or WANTS to fall into addictions or unhealthy lifestyles. But life is complicated and we as Christians have to love first and foremost. Jesus came, not for the perfect people, but to seek and save the lost - and the reality is, none of us are perfect - we are all lost.

 

Lent is the perfect time to stop and examine our lives. Where are we putting our energy? Is it a healthy place? Where are we being judgmental? What is causing that judgement? Is there an area in our lives that needs repair? Is there a relationship that needs to be restored? May we all use Lent to uncover these areas so that we can experience resurrection in new and fresh ways this Easter.

WHAT ARE WE TO DO?

By: The Rev. Stephen Hagerty, Associate Rector for Discipleship

Lent is that time of year that "Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord's
passion and resurrection and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a
season of penitence and fasting." (BCP, pgs. 264-65) Remember when it was only 40 days!?! 
I imagine for many, maybe even most, you feel as though Lent began a year ago with the
onslaught of Covid-19. It is as if we were all sharing the same Lenten practices, whether that
was taking on the challenge of wearing a mask every day, or no longer having people over
for a party, or all learning to hate the phrase, "please unmute yourself."  

So, what are we to do about it?  

Well, first, nothing. Seriously, please do not do anything. I mean this and cannot emphasize it enough. To start with what we are to do is always the wrong question from a theological point of view. We are to do nothing first because that is God’s freedom to do whatever S/He wants to do first. And if scripture is any gauge of what God wants to do (and, it is, by the way), then what God wants to do is hang out. (The theological term for this is “incarnation.”) Is this because we are always so pleasant to be around? Hardly! (Sorry if this is a shock for you to hear—it was for me!)  God wants to hang out because when God decides to be fully present, there is Light, and Joy, and Healing. Lent is that time of year (40 days or 365 days in this time of Covid-19!) when we realize God does for us that we cannot do for ourselves.

 

I imagine of few of you are thinking. If that is the case, why all the fuss about Lenten practices (whether giving up chocolate or praying every day or [fill in the blank])? Well, I am glad you asked! Taking on a new Lenten practice is not about succeeding to deny yourself what you will immediately have on the day after Easter Sunday. Taking up a Lenten practice is just doing something concrete to remind ourselves that our lives are not our own. ("Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.")  

 

So, absolutely give up something or take on something this Lent. Or don’t. Remember the point is not what we can do for God, but what God wants to do for us. Or as we say like to say both virtually and in person, “the blessing of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be with you this day and always.” 

ST. JOHN'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
9120 Frederick Road
Ellicott City, MD 21043
Office: 410.461.7793 
Pastoral Emergencies/Clergy On-Call: 443-538-2806
blessings@stjohnsec.org