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Lent rhymes with Repent!




The Collect for the Second Sunday in Lent (Book of Common Prayer, p. 218)

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Dear friends, 


I have been out and about a lot these past two weeks and found many of you eager to talk about penitence and repentance; and what those things mean for us in this season of Lent. I have encouraged us to see Lent not as a “heavy” season of denial, but rather as an invitation to wake up, to move, to turn around, and look for new things, new ways of understanding what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  We are having lively conversations about the events of Good Friday in our Sunday Forum and Wednesday Women’s Bible Group, reading and praying together. All these are ways to get ourselves into the dance of repentance, so please do join in. 


There is GOOD NEWS in Lent:  To repent is not to sit around with guilt and beat oneself up for our human weaknesses, limitations, temptations and sins, but rather “Repent” is an active word, a word of movement.  To repent is to turn toward God and away from those things that keep us from seeing clearly who God is–the one who claims us and calls us Beloved. The one who is “mighty to save.” 


In this week’s Collect (see above), we ask God, in his great mercy,  to be gracious to all who have gone astray (pretty much all of us!), and bring us again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith back to God.  A colleague, Rev. Anna,  observed: 


“It’s meaningful that our collect for Sunday lists penitent hearts before steadfast faith– as if acknowledging faith only comes with great humility, letting go of our own control. God’s truth is unchangeable and offers a foundation and stability that we must hold onto as the world swirls around us. But that doesn’t mean we can assume or predict or anticipate what God will do in our lives and our world. Indeed, the only thing we can (or even should) land on as solid and unchanging is the truth that God loves us.”  


I love Rev. Anna’s reminder that in our very changeable and unpredictable human lives, the only thing we can truly count on is “the truth that God loves us.”  If this is our Lenten “take away,” that nothing in heaven or on earth can separate us from the love of God, that would be spectacular news indeed. 

 

More likely, we will need constant repentance (turning), community, open eyes and hearts to hold this news in ourselves.  


This reflection from Kate Bowler (The Lives we Actually Have, p.178) has touched many of us this week, so I wanted to share it even more widely with all of you.  At the end we pray to come back, full circle, to the truth of Love.

 

God, sometimes it feels like a better person wouldn’t be like this:

tethered to so many hopes, 

and fears, and expectations.


Blessed are we pulled between wanting to let go

–sometimes needing to let go– and also needing to hold on.


Blessed are we when we yearn

for connection and love and touch.


Blessed are we when we hunger

for the beauty of life itself and the people to fill it. 


Blessed are we when we are unable to say, 

“I’m letting it go.”

Because we feel like we will be washed away into an ocean of nothingness.


Teach us to cling to the truths that enliven our spirits,

and loosen our grip on the painful untruths:

like the one that says we are alone, or unlovable.

Or that desire itself is the enemy.

Teach us to hunger for what is good, and be filled.


There will be no easy addition and subtraction.

We will lose and we will gain,

and almost none of it will make much sense at the time,

and it will force our hands open.

In the ebb and flow of wins and losses, comings and goings,

may we look for the divine in the mystery of it all, 

the stubbornness of flowers that still smile at us in the grocery store,

and the need for endless small reminders

that the pain of it all, the comedy of it all, 

will point us back to love.  AMEN


Lenten blessings, 

Nancy+


Poem/blessing/prayer used with permission. Bowler, Kate The Lives We Actually Have, Convergent Press New York 2022

Photo:  NJ Hagner, Smiling flowers 2024


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