by The Rev. Ray Hess
Lent is almost here! It feels to me that we just finished with our celebration of Christmas, and now Lent is upon us. This is not my imagination; this year Lent comes early because Easter is earlier. Ash Wednesday is February 10th, and the First Sunday in Lent is February 14.
I like to call Lent a season of spring training. Just as baseball players gather in warm places to get ready for the baseball season, we prepare spiritually for Easter with the season of Lent. I like the idea of training instead of grim penitence for Lent. It seems that many people either ignore Lent completely or make it into a very dour season. Neither of these responses is very helpful. The idea of training is to get in better shape for something important, like the start of baseball season.
For us as disciples of Jesus, we are training for the most important thing, to live loving and grace-filled lives! Training is not negative, but it does involve effort and discipline. Doing push-ups and running laps may not be fun, but doing these things gets you ready to play better. In our spiritual lives, we get in shape with spiritual effort and discipline.
Our Lenten training can include removing some things from our lives, either temporarily or permanently. We might find clearer focus in our lives by eating less or exercising more. We might also want to remove unhelpful habits or attitudes from our lives, things like laziness, greed, or jealousy. It could be helpful to simplify our lives some – not being so busy and running around all the time. Removing a few activities from our lives for a while could create space to relax, rest, and pray or meditate.
Lenten exercise can involve adding some positive actions to our daily schedules, such as time for prayer, Bible reading, and doing good deeds for others. A great way to begin the season is to attend worship on Ash Wednesday, February 10, at our 7 p.m. eucharist with imposition of ashes. Our diocese has provided some good study assistance for Lent. The Bishop’s Bible Challenge for this year starts in Lent and involves reading the books of Luke and Acts through Lent and the rest of the year. If you would like to do this course of study, please see me or watch for bulletin announcements and e-mails about how to follow the Bible Challenge. Bishop Beisner is also recommending a Lenten devotional book, I Am with You, by an Episcopal priest, the Rev. Dr. Kathryn Greene-McCreight, available at Amazon.
I wish us all a wonderful, helpful Lenten season of spiritual body building and exercise!