My formative experiences of keeping Lent were not particularly inspiring. My grandmother always made a big deal of giving up sugar in her tea during Lent. My mother would say “Why doesn’t she give it up permanently?” Of course, there is nothing wrong with Lent disciplines so long as they are viewed positively! It is undoubtedly good for us in a western consumerist society to “do without” for a change. Whether it is sugar, chocolate, alcohol, desserts, nuts, or meat, or binge watching of TV, addiction to the internet, or Facebook, giving up these tastes or activities for a season probably will not do us any harm and may well modify behaviors or prove our lack of dependence on them. But, whatever we gain by particular Lent disciplines the ultimate aim of any spiritual discipline is to remind us of why we are undertaking the discipline in the first place and that is to draw us closer to God. Disciplines of self-denial are helpful to many so long as they are treated as personal disciplines and not as weapons of piety! That is what the Matthew 6 portion of the Sermon on the Mount set for Ash Wednesday is all about. Keep your disciplines to yourself! Don’t use them to show others how pious you are. So, Jesus says about our charitable giving “Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand it doing;” and about praying “go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret”; and about fasting “do not look dismal” but “put oil on your head and wash your face”. But there is another whole way of regarding Lent disciplines and that is rather than “giving up something” for Lent, in fact “doing something extra” during Lent. For example, you might decide to make time available to contact family or friends you have not seen or talked to for some time. Or you might volunteer for the Soup Kitchen or some other organization convenient to you. Or you might decide to read morning prayer each day during Lent, or Compline at night from the Book of Common Prayer (or eCP from on your Smart phone). Or you might be intentional about some Lent reading (I love a good biography) or seeing a movie (at present I would heartily recommend “Lion” and “Moonlight” – both wonderfully human movies). But whatever you do or don’t do during Lent remember the rationale of Lent is to focus us afresh on God’s great love for us as shown in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Ultimately Lent is a preparation for Holy Week and Easter. George Herbert wrote “Welcome dear feast of Lent”. To that I say “Amen”.
Recent Pulpit Posts
May 19, 2017
by Rev Susan Hill
Rogation Days are traditionally observed on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Ascension Day (May 25 this year), though in practice they may be observed on other days. Here at Holy Apostles we will mark them a day early this coming Sunday. Mamertus, Bishop of Vienne, France, is credited with originating the tradition of fasting and prayer in the 5th century — the goal was to prepare for the feast of the Ascension and to beseech God to forestall any impending calamities. (The word “rogation” comes from the Latin rogare, meaning “to ask.”) Farmers would often have their crops blessed by a priest at this time….
May 12, 2017
by Bishop Andrew St. John
In the first reading this coming Sunday we hear of the death of Stephen at the hands of his accusers among whom is Saul (aka Paul). It is a particularly powerful passage with its reminders of the death of Jesus who also prayed for his accusers and whose death like Stephen’s took place “outside the city.” What is of particular interest is that Stephen is the first Christian martyr (one who dies for the faith) and so he is known as the Protomartyr. But according to Acts 6:1-6 Stephen (“a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit”) was one of the first seven Deacons set aside with the laying on of hands and prayer to assist the Apostles with a ministry of service (the Greek “diaconos” simply means “servant”). Later on we read of women deacons also including Phoebe a deacon from Cenchreae (Romans 16:1). So in Christian iconography Stephen is always shown in deacon’s stole (worn crosswise from the left shoulder) and dalmatic….
May 5, 2017
Our world is full of unhappy and dissatisfied people. For this reason, people everywhere are looking for answers to the emptiness they feel inside. They will try anything, if it might bring them some sort of satisfaction or happiness. Perhaps this explains why there is so much drug dependency, alcohol abuse, criminal behavior, depression, emotional distress and psychological disorders.
There is an answer to the eternal question, “How do I find happiness and satisfaction in life?” Jesus states in John 10:10 the purpose of why he came. He said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life to the full.” What did Jesus mean when He said that we can have “life abundantly” to the full….