Anticipating Lent

4c9EX5RniLet’s start here: whatever it is we’re searching for in Lent, it will bring us joy when we find it. It’s not just that it will be good for us – this isn’t about eating your vegetables – but it will be the source of real joy. That’s the promise.

Lent can sound so grim – giving up this or taking on that thing that we don’t want to do enough to do it the rest of the year – that we can forget that seeking joy is at the heart of it. So, the first question of Lent is, “what would give you joy if you found it?”

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. (Matthew 13)

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Buy the Field! by James B. Janknegt (1953-)

The first thing to notice here is that those people knew what would give them joy.

Maybe you have a place of refreshment in your life, a place you return to regularly. Maybe it’s a cabin by a lake or a place to ski, maybe it’s an apartment in the city. We love these places because they allow us to focus on a certain quality of life: hanging around in the water, spending undistracted time with people we love, being energized by the noise of the city or relaxed by the solitude of the country. Lent can be a time of refreshment in our lives, too: a time to discover and focus on the source of our peace and hope, so that we can learn to inhabit peace and hope more of the rest of the year as well.

It’s a time to indulge in the luxury of taking ourselves seriously, to examine our lives honestly, identifying the things that get in the way, that distract us from what we know in our heart of hearts is important. It’s a time to focus.

Ash-WednesdayNext Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, we will once more be invited “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.” (BCP, page 264) And we’ll hear the prayer book call us to “cleanse [our] hearts, and prepare with joy for the Paschal feast.” (page 379).

As an old friend of mine likes to say, “God comes to us disguised as our life.” There’s treasure buried in the field of our lives; Lent is a time to focus so that we can discover the joy of finding it.

Peace,

Fr. Mark.

A letter from Bishop Ely

Dear people of the Episcopal Church in Vermont:

On June 13, 2015 members of the Episcopal Church in Vermont will gather at Trinity Church, Rutland for a Convocation, to which all are invited. This Convocation concludes the year-long “Becoming More Missional” consultation process that I initiated prior to my 2014 sabbatical. During this Convocation I will present several recommendations that I believe will help strengthen and guide us as we engage God’s Mission in the months and years ahead.

In advance of that gathering and in order to assist the Diocesan Council in its budget and mission deliberations, I am announcing my decision regarding a significant change to the diocesan Ministry Support Team. As of September 1, 2015 the full time positions of Canon for Ministry Development and Canon for Stewardship and Development will be eliminated. While other key recommendations will be forthcoming as we seek to “re-imagine” the future of the Episcopal Church in Vermont, it seemed important to share this particular decision now because of the associated budget implications that I will be discussing with Diocesan Council and its Budget Committee in the weeks ahead.

You can read the rest of the letter here.

A Curious Discovery

From an article in the Huffington Post:

Today, the American government released the list of documents found during the raid on the Pakistani compound in which Osama bin Laden was found and shot. Much of it is predictable: Islamic theology, terrorist manuals, conspiracy theory books and so on. One document is, however, remarkable. It is no less than something entitled “Profiles of Bishops in the Church of England.” At this point I could understand you checking the date to make sure that this is not a delayed 1 April blog — but it isn’t.

It’s a bit unfortunate really, isn’t it? Of all the Christian books and literature that he could have had to read, he ends up with this. But why did the man, who was for so long global Public Enemy Number One, keep this document on his bookshelves? The possibility that one of our bishops is in fact already in the employment of Al Qaeda is, I think, unlikely. All Anglican bishops are specifically chosen on the basis that they will strike terror into no one!

The end of the War of the Roses!

RIchard IIIKing Richard III,  whose death at the battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 marked the end of the Plantagenet dynasty and ushered in the Tudors, will be laid to rest this week in Leicester Cathedral.

Details on the search for Richard’s remains are on the University of Leicester’s web site here. The Richard III Society, which was also behind the search, has details here. And Britain’s (ridiculous) Daily Mail newspaper has more general coverage here. Oh yes, there was a play about him, too.

We come from mystery, and we return to mystery

Some of you may know Parker Palmer, a Quaker writer, educator, and activist. His most well known work is probably Let your life speak: Listening for the voice of vocation, but he’s a quite prolific writer.

I’ve just discovered he writes a column of sorts at the On Being blog, which is associated with the Public Radio show On Being (which used to be called Speaking of Faith) with Krista Tippett. His current essay is called On the brink of everything. (Click on the title to go read the whole thing). It begins:

Last Friday, in this space, my friend and colleague Courtney Martin posted a column titled “Reuniting with Awe.” It painted an exquisite picture of how her sixteen-month-old Maya helps her see life’s wonders through a toddler’s eyes.

As I began reading that essay early Friday morning, I was mesmerized by its opening line — “My daughter is on the brink of everything” — because that’s where I am at age 76. I’m frequently awestruck as I stand on the brink of the rest of my life, including that part of life called death which I can sometimes see from where I stand.

Along the way he says:

What I know for sure is this: We come from mystery and we return to mystery. I arrived here with no bad memories of wherever I’d come from, so I have no good reason to fear the place to which I’ll return. And I know this, too: Standing closer to the reality of death awakens my awe at the gift of life.

It’s all worth a read as we move through the final week of Lent, preparing to enter Holy Week.

A benediction

Paul KalanithiPaul Kalanithi, a 37 year old neurosurgeon, died earlier this month of lung cancer. During the two years he lived with his diagnosis, he did a lot of thinking and some writing, he designed a course with a colleague drawing on his experiences both as a doctor and as a patient, and he and his wife had a daughter. Here is his obituary, from the Stanford Medicine news center.

The thing that struck me most, though, was this paragraph he wrote for his infant daughter:

“When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.”

No motivational speech, no life advice at all; just a blessing: “you are my beloved child, in you I am well pleased.”

(Via Mockingbird)

#Muslims4Lent

B-IysqkCcAAnR9EThe Independent newspaper has a story on Muslims celebrating Lent in solidarity with Christians:

Muslim American entrepreneur Bassel Riche, 28, told The Independent  that he was inspired to start the campaign after non-Muslim students joined in with the Muslim Students Association’s Ramadan Fast-a-Thon at his former college, The University of Houston.

“We would all gather in a big hall and break our fast together at a hosted dinner and partake in interfaith dialogue,” he said, explaining that he had observed lent around for four years, and wanted to encourage fellow Muslims to join him this year.

“The goal is to thank the many Christians that have always shown love and respect towards Islam by showing them we in turn have the utmost respect for their beliefs,” Riche said.

The article, with lots more pictures, is here.

(Via Episcopal Cafe)