What shall we do for Lent?

Dear friends,

Here are a few Lent ideas, in case you’re looking for some.

First, here at St. Martin’s we’ll be holding Lent Discussions right after church on each of the Sundays of Lent. These will be on a variety of topics — sometimes we’ll dig deeper into that morning’s scripture readings, sometimes we’ll look at larger issues. There’s no preparation required, and you can miss a few sessions and not feel left behind. I hope you’ll join us for some or all of these.

We’ll also be celebrating Evening Prayer every Wednesday at 5pm. It’s a simple, brief service (20 or so minutes). You can leave when it’s done, or bring a brown bag supper and stick around to eat it with others.

By the way, I’m reading two books this Lent — if you’d like to read along, that would be great. Let me know and we’ll find time to talk about what we’re reading.

The first, by Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, isBeing Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer.”

The second is “Give Us This Day: Lenten Reflections on Baking Bread and Discipleship,” by Christopher Levan. The truth is, I’ve always wanted to take up bread baking,  and this seems a good opportunity.

More generally, here’s what’s in the traditional Lenten toolkit:

  • Fasting (reducing our consumption of food);
  • Self-denial (giving up something we find pleasurable);
  • Prayer (committing ourselves to a prayer discipline);
  • Spiritual reading and study (scripture or some other nourishing texts);
  • Good works (find something worth doing and commit to a discipline of doing it);
  • Self-examination and confession (committing to a discipline of awareness of the way we live our lives).

And here are a few ideas from around the web:

If you want to pray, Sacred Space is a good place to look. It guides you through praying with a daily reading from scripture. When you get to the page with the reading, you can click a “Need Inspiration?” button that suggests insights and pathways to making the passage your own. It’s run by Irish Jesuits, and has been around for years.

If you’re feeling a little more ambitious, you could pray the daily “offices” (Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and/or a few others) from the Book of Common Prayer. The services in the Prayer Book involve lots of choices and page turning, but this site puts it all together for you.

The (episcopal) monks at the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are producing a daily video series during Lent, called It’s time to… Stop, Pray, Work, Play & Love. Your daily meditation just appears in your email inbox.

I hope you know about Episcopal Relief and Development. They do very good things in our name all around the world. They’ve published a booklet of meditations which you can read online or have them send to you daily during Lent. If you choose a Lenten discipline that involves giving up something you spend money on then giving that money to a good cause, ERD is one good option.

Choosing a Lenten discipline can (and maybe should) be very personal, and flow from your own  habits and prayerful observations about your life. Here is a sometimes quirky list from religion journalist Rachel Held Evans to help your thinking (from fasting from National Public Radio to cleaning out your closets).

The point of Lenten disciplines, or one of the points anyway, is to allow ourselves to be knocked a little off balance. If I give up chocolate, for example, and find myself really wishing I could eat a piece of chocolate right now, then I can let that moment remind me of the larger journey I’m on, and that that journey calls me to a different set of priorities. It’s not about feeling proud of ourselves for suffering through 40 days of heroic self-denial, it’s about finding ways in the middle of day-to-day life to remind ourselves of who we are. It’s about the luxury of taking ourselves seriously.

Peace,

Mark.

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