What am I doing? Not to be profane, but what the hell am I doing? I am trying to live into Lent, and it is proving to be requiring and demanding. Lent for me has not always been so: there was a time in my life, most of it actually, when Lent (which is the annual springtime season of concentrating on making myself clean enough, pure enough, sufficiently worthy, to participate in the Easter celebration) when Lent was giving up something I liked (a Hershey bar a week for example, which would have cost me five cents, a nickel a week), and as my spiritual discipline prayerfully dropping into a “mite box” one day at a time the five pennies a week that I supposedly otherwise would have spent on the chocolate bar. So that on Easter morning I could bring my mite box to church heavy with its pennies, its “mites,” and stuff it into the mite-box cross as part of the church’s Easter collection for the poor.
That’s still a worthwhile devotion of focused sacrifice. But it only skirts Lent, it doesn’t get at the heart of Lent, which is about God and me and our covenantal relationship. Here’s what, in the Ash Wednesday liturgy, the church demands of me. “I invite you --- in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word.” But you see, it’s not really an invitation, if it were that, I would RSVP my regrets. It’s not an invitation at all, it’s a gentle statement of what the church requires of me: turning my self-centered life around and going in the opposite direction; prayer, which okay, I can do a little more of that; giving up uses of time and resources that do not bring me closer to God or my neighbor; and quite frankly, Bible study. All of this is turning me on my ear this week:
- preparing for and leading this morning’s Bible Seminar at church (we’re studying the Gospel according to Mark and today we’ll be delving into chapters 12 and 13. Which have Jesus in Jerusalem making no friends with the civil and religious authorities), and for me as the seminar mentor there’s a lot of prep involved just as in painting a room most of the work is in the prep, getting the room washed and scraped and sanded and puttied and primed and ready to paint, it’s a lot of time and work for me. It’s my favorite thing I do, mind you, but it’s a lot of digging.
- preparing for Wednesday evening, in the 5:30 service, leading the brief discussion about the lectionary readings for next Sunday, Lent 2, Year B. There are three readings and a psalm to consider and think of what to focus on before I stand up front and make a fool of myself on Wednesday evening.
- preparing the Lenten program that follows after our soup supper Wednesday evening. I’ll be talking about your Lenten Obligation, what the church requires of you, including participating in Holy Week services on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Do most people even know we have liturgies and special services on the Thursday and Friday before Easter? God help us.
- thinking about my sermon for this coming Sunday, it’s my turn in the pulpit, what shall I preach about? Contemplating that task and preparing. Anyone who thinks this isn’t an exercise in Lenten discipline needs to get to the station earlier, because you’ve missed the train.
- preparing our adult Sunday School lesson for this coming Sunday. Blessedly, Mike and I share leadership of the adult SS class, and he has graciously consented to take the lead this week. I’ll still have to prepare, to support his plan, but it’s far less demanding to assist. And cope (ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω).
This week I am especially thankful for Mike.
TW+ in the Lent of +Time