The Gift of Lent

by The Rev. Raymond Hess

Lent means various things to different people. For some, it is a very serious season for
repentance, fasting, and prayer. For others, it is a more joyful time of preparation for Easter. Another way to think about Lent is that it is a gift to us from God.

It is hard to be deeply focused on our spiritual life all the time. Our lives are full of
challenges and distractions. For me, Lent is a gift of time to grow in our faith. Lent is similar to Advent as a time of preparation, but it is longer and has a more serious feeling about it. I love Advent, but it always seems to go by very fast. Advent is full of things like sending cards, decorating our houses, and buying gifts. In Advent, we are distracted by the early celebration of Christmas around us, beginning right after Halloween. Lent does not have these distractions. We may have some things to do to get ready for Easter, but not nearly as much as for Christmas. We have the possibility in Lent of really taking some time to be more open to God.

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Our parish mission statement is “Growing in God’s Love.” Lent is the gift of time from
God to grow in God’s love. How might we do this? If your life is already very full of activities, perhaps the best way for you to grow in faith is to take some time to be quiet and still. Taking a walk or listening to music can be ways to focus on God’s presence with you. There are other spiritual practices which can be helpful in Lent – prayer, study, worship, and service for others in need. The Forward Day by Day booklets or other Lenten reflection booklets can be very helpful in your study and devotional practices during Lent. Joining in our Sunday worship regularly is a great Lenten discipline. Lent is also a season for self-examination and repentance, where we can experience God’s forgiveness and new life. Our Prayer Book provides for individual confession with a priest. If any of you would like to do this, please contact me at the church or by email at rhess1947@gmail.com to schedule an appointment.

I am thankful that we are part of Christian tradition that has the observance of the Church Year, with the different seasons. When I understand Lent as a gift, I see the season as a positive opportunity to focus more deeply on my relationship with God in Jesus and on my relationships with other people. As our Ash Wednesday service says, “I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent.”

Lenten Spring Training

by Father Ray Hess

This is the time of year that baseball teams are gathering in Arizona and Florida for spring training.  Players will be doing exercises and drills to get ready for the coming season.  It would be very difficult for a player to jump right into the regular season without this time to prepare.

In the church year, we have our time of spring training.  We call it Lent, and it is our time to do some exercises, drills, and conditioning to “get in shape” for the coming Easter Season.  Sometimes, Lent can seem like a negative experience, kind of like punishing ourselves or beating ourselves up.  I hope that we will not see it this way!

I find it helpful to think of our Lenten spring training in this way: things we want to take out of our lives and things we want to add to our lives.Image

The things we might want to take out of our lives could be certain kinds of foods or drinks, excessive TV watching, unkind comments toward others, jealousy, grudges, holding onto hurt feelings, laziness.  Some these things we might remove just for the Lenten season, as a way of self-discipline.  Other negative personal qualities, like holding a grudge, we might want to take out of lives permanently.

What may be even more important are the things we could add to our lives for our training season.  These could be Bible reading and prayer (like doing the new Bible and Prayer Book Challenge!), devotional reading, physical exercise, taking quality time with family or friends, finding some quiet time in your daily life, doing something for people in need.  Some of these things could be helpful regular additions to your life ongoing, and others might be temporary positive additions to your life.

For me, it is helpful to write down my spring training plan for Lent.  I do this in my personal journal which I keep, but it could be written anywhere.  It’s good to write it down and keep it where you will see it regularly.  It does not work well for me if I write down my plan and then forget about it until after Lent is over!  I try to look at my Lenten plan (or rule of life) at least once a week during the season.

I hope that we will all have a wonderful Lenten season of getting in shape and strengthening our spiritual lives!

Did you ever wonder – Ash Wednesday

by Deacon Bob Olsen

Image                Some of you may remember Andy Rooney from 60 Minutes – his weekly commentary on some aspect of life would begin “did you ever wonder…”  That phrase came to mind when I thought about Ash Wednesday.  I have no idea how many Ash Wednesday services I’ve gone to, I’m guessing somewhere between 30 and 40 over my 66 years.  For the bulk of that time what I knew about Ash Wednesday was pretty basic: 1) it was the start of the Lenten Season; 2) you had ash smeared on your forehead (later on I’d learn it was supposed to be a cross); and 3) that there was something about “ashes to ashes dust to dust”.

                I decided to re-read some of my books from School for Deacons and discovered a bit more about Ash Wednesday.  First off it wasn’t until sometime in the 6th Century in the area of ancient Gaul, that Ash Wednesday was first reported as the beginning of the 40 days of Lent.  The history of the 40 days of Lent is interesting, in some areas of the church Saturday’s and Sunday’s weren’t included, some only Sunday’s were excluded and then there was the issue of whether Holy week be included, or if it was how little or how much.  You might want to count the days starting with Ash Wednesday to find out how the forty days of Lent is now observed. 

                While it is interesting to learn of the history of Ash Wednesday and the days of observing the Lenten Fast, the more important purpose for the period has stayed pretty much the same from the beginning of the church.  There were two purposes: first a time of preparation leading up to Baptism on Holy Saturday for new Christians and second, a time of repentance for Christians.  The Ashes are to remind us of our mortality and God’s gift of eternal life.  The Litany of Penitence we say on Ash Wednesday is a corporate, public confession of our failure to love God “with our whole heart, and mind, and strength.”  To serve as Christ served us and to forgive as we have been forgiven.  During the season of Lent we are to examine our lives, repent where we have fallen short and amend our ways in loving God and our neighbors.

Ash Wednesday Services at St. George’s Episcopal Church

Ash Wednesday Service at St. George’s will be at 7:00 pm (March 5)St. George’s Episcopal Church is located at
5600 Winding Way
Carmichael, CA 95608

Mardi Gras Brunch

by the Rev. Bob Olsenimage

Please join the folks at St. George’s for a Mardi Gras celebratory brunch.  All are welcome for this festive brunch immediately following the 10:00 am service on March 2nd, 2014.  We’ll have plenty of food and festive music as we celebrate together before the season of Lent.

Ever since Sandy and I joined St George’s back in the spring of 1990 they have held their annual Mardi Gras brunch the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, rather than the traditional Shrove Tuesday pancake supper.  I know they’d been holding the Mardi Gras brunch long before we joined, having a set menu and recipe for the strata’s.  I asked a couple of the old timers why the Mardi Gras brunch instead of pancakes on Tuesday and the answer was simply – that’s the way we’ve always done it.  So shrouded in the mists of St George’s history is why we started doing a Mardi Gras brunch rather than pancakes, but it is a tradition that folks don’t question and I can’t remember anyone ever suggesting we do a pancake supper on Shrove Tuesday.

So once again, after our 10:00 service on March 2nd   we will hold our annual Mardi Gras brunch.  Tickets are available through the Women’s Guild and the office, Adults $5 and Children $3.