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Lent as Blessing

Dear friends in Christ, 

We began the season of Lent on Wednesday, with ashes on our foreheads to remind us of our finitude, our reality that we are creatures whose lives on earth are precious and time-limited, and with an invitation  “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.” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 264)  My prayer for each of us is that we draw nearer to the Triune God, the one who calls us “Beloved,” as we undertake this year’s Lenten journey with intention.  Trinity is offering study opportunities, a forum series to prepare for and think more deeply about the events of Holy Week, the Rite of Reconciliation with a priest, mite boxes and Lent calendars for all ages to offer alms and other ways to share, beautiful sacred music, and the weekly gathering around God’s table where we are strengthened for our lives with Christ’s Body and Blood in the bread and the wine.  

In conversation with clergy colleagues this week we observed that the Lenten journey isn’t only about pious observance or even intentional practices we might take up.   Lent is most useful when it helps us understand something about our lives both inside and outside our churches. I thought a lot about the practices we are encouraged to try, the heightened piety of the season, and even the liturgical adjustments we make by tradition in our worship (no spoken or sung “Alleluias,” no flowers at the altar, no baptisms until the Easter Vigil, music in a penitential tone–often in minor keys–the purple vestments and hangings holding the seriousness of the season in tension with the royal color.)  These visual and audible “cues” are here to strip away some of what we take for granted, to stir in us a desire to understand ourselves better–our failings, our longings–and to draw us closer to the all merciful God who loves and forgives us by grace alone. 


With these experiences of Lent on Sundays, we are to take our forgiven, slowly healing selves out into the world with new eyes, a softened and opened heart.  How might Lent this year be for you a “whole week” experience?  A journey not simply here at church as we worship together, but in your relationships outside of these walls, in the way you read the news, care for your neighbors, do your job, your schoolwork, understand how connected you are to everyone else in the world in our creaturely belovedness?  

One spiritual practice that often comes up in many contexts is that of gratitude.  I had not directly connected gratitude with Lent until I read this reflection offered by Dr. Kate Bowler for the day after Ash Wednesday.  It begins with the sense of loss and disappointment many of us carry with us into Lent, but moves, like a traditional psalm, to a suggestion that God might open our eyes to unexpected beauty and blessings.  How might your Lenten practices include asking God for forgiveness AND for glimpses of fantastical beauty and joy in our world.  Gratitude for all of God’s actions and love can lead to a rich Lenten journey.   Penitence leads to forgiveness and grace.  Gratitude to peace.  Cross to Resurrection.  So let’s start again.  May it be so! 

Prayer “To feel a little more grateful” by Kate Bowler

I piled my small joys in heaps,

like mounds of autumn leaves on a lawn,

but they’ve blown away. 

I have known thankfulness

but it all feels too scattered now.

So let’s start again, shall we?

Perhaps I’ll begin by…

Taking off my socks (who can stop me?)

Silencing my phone from its buzzing.

Sighing like I am writing on a clipboard

how deeply disappointed I am. 

I am. 

All right.

Lord, what shade of blue is that 

in the shifting sky?

And why does it settle me 

to light a candle? 

Let me strike a match for the sheer

pleasure of the sound it makes.

These small hopes pull me on.

Lord, the sound of laughter is there, faintly,

if I strain for it.

And the way kids laugh, God,

it’s contagious.

And why hasn’t anyone curbed the number

of eyelashes per child?

It’s ridiculous.  Absolutely useless.

It’s a marvel.

Remind me of a love that is good

and let the warmth of it 

tug loose a memory

of being seen and loved, even cherished

by a familiar, knowing face.

They’re here within reach.

These loves.

The kindling of gratitude when I start

to count and count and count again. 


May your Lent be holy and blessed, inside and outside the church,


Prayer used with permission: Bowler, Kate Have a Beautiful, Terrible Day! Daily Meditations for the Ups, Downs & Inbetweens, 2024 Convergent Books, New York

Photo: NJ Hagner.  Walking toward the tomb A Lent display at Duvall Chapel, Newbury Court

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