by Bishop Wayne Smith

Some more thoughts about Lent, continued from last month”s note about this holy season, with some specific suggestions this time.

Rest. Benedict Reid, monk of St. Gregory”s Abbey in Three Rivers, Michigan (and formerly abbott of that community) contends that sheer exhaustion is a major spiritual issue of the age. A frequent spiritual counsel to those making retreat at the abbey? “Sleep for twenty-four hours. Then come talk to me.” The parenthesis-time offered by Lent can be a gift in our over-adrenalized existence.

Read. Scripture is a norm for Lenten reading, but anything scripture-inspired also fits the season. I typically read biography during Lent, and I can commend Stanley Hauerwas”s Hannah”s Child: A Theologian”s Memoir and Eric Metaxas” Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I have read them both, and they make for excellent spiritual nourishment.

Give up something good, for the sake of something better. I am not of the mind that Lent should hurt – though I do think simplicity is a byword for the season. The thoughtful simplifying we might do during Lent can spill over into the rest of the year, and living more simply can effect the conversion of life to which we are continually called. What might one give up? Elaborately prepared meals, television time, computer time, shopping time – that sort of thing. And for wh

at reason might one give up such things? Not so that it will hurt – but so there might be time to do something better. (Like Rest or Read, above. Like Pray or Repent or Be Together, below.)

Pray. It”s obvious – and it must be said. Lent gives a good season to rest in God”s presence, alone and together, and to storm the throne of God with the hopes and needs of this aching world.

Repent. Too often we get caught up in the listing of sins without dealing with root issues in our broken lives. Lent says, Deal with them. And accept the new possibilities for life offered by God in Christ Jesus! Lent is not about beating ourselves up, as if God might be impressed by our doing so. Lent is about naming root issues of sin – and moving on to celebrate forgiveness. The Rites of Reconciliation, beginning on page 446 of the Prayer Book, give some structure for considering these root issues of human sin. You might even consider arranging to use one of these two rites. I know, I know. “Private confession” has many negative connotations around it. But it is a grace offered within our church – not required. It is a grace that goes underutilized.

Be Together. Too often the fragmented manner of living in our time leaves precious little time to enjoy the benefits of a community, of life together. So take the time. Renew friendships. Write letters. Drink coffee. Sit in the den with family. Invite friends over for one of those simple meals you will cook during the season.

Above all, have a good and holy Lent, in the community of believers.

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