“I invite you therefore, in the name of the Church, to observance of a Holy Lent” (BCP 265)
These familiar words, spoken on Ash Wednesday, begins a 40 day period of penance, usually practiced by abstaining from certain things (we give up something for Lent), by almsgiving (the practice of giving to others, usually the less fortunate, either by donating money or goods, or in donating time or skills), and by spending more time in prayer or devotions. This season, I invite the whole family to get involved, as we practice ways of connecting more intentionally to God. You may have your own ideas of how to do this, but if you would benefit by suggestions, I have a couple of ideas:
Begin the season by coming to Ash Wednesday services. This year, St. Matthew’s will offer services, with the imposition of ashes, at 7 a.m., 10 a.m. (during the weekly healing Eucharist), 12:15 p.m. (for those who want to come during lunch) and 7:00 p.m.
Join us on Wednesday nights for a quiet Eucharist, followed by soup and salad supper and Lenten book study. The book we will be reading for Lent is “Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear” by Scott Bader-Sayer. For a description, click on this link.
Even if you cannot participate in the book study on Wednesday nights, we are scheduling the supper so that those who have other Wednesday night activities at Church (i.e., choir) can join us for Eucharist and/or supper before their regular activities. NOTE: The Lenten book study on Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear will also occur as a Sunday forum series during Lent.
Commit more time to meditation and reflection. Consider joining the Centering Prayer group on Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. in the sanctuary. If your schedule does not allow for an hour commitment, consider setting aside some time for reading and meditation. Some publications you could consider include:
- Forward Day by Day – a small booklet, containing a scripture passage and written reflection that can be a good way to either start or end the day. Booklets are available in the narthex or you can download the “Forward Day by Day” link.
- 2015 Lenten Reflections, published by Episcopal Relief and Development, contains a scripture passage and reflection for each day of Lent. The focus of the reflections calls attention to the work of ERD and how we are called to help feed, clothe and shelter those in need. Booklets are available in the narthex.
- Bread and Wine, Readings for Lent and Easter – a wonderful book of thoughtful reflections by various authors, from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Meister Eckhart, Soren Kierkegaard, Thomas Merton and others. A link to more information on amazon.com can be found here.
- If you would be interested in other book recommendations for Lent, I am happy to help – send me an email!
Participate as a family to support the Southeast Gwinnett Cooperative Ministry’s Program, Give a Meal, Get a Meal. For detailed information, check the St. Matthew’s web site or the check the bulletin board outside the parish office.
- Consider taking your children shopping for these items, and explain that they will be giving this food to others who do not have enough to eat. During Lent, at the beginning of the service, we will invite all children to bring forward their food donations and place them in a basket in front of the altar. We will then say a prayer to bless these gifts.
- If you would like ideas for involving your children in Lent, or participating in Lent as a family, check out www.lords-prayer-words.com
Commit to spending some time each day in prayer. You can use the prayer book, or one of the reflection books mentioned above, but you can also download apps for your smart phone. Two apps that I can recommend are:
- The Daily Office from Mission St. Clare – offers both morning prayer and evening prayer for each day, including the scripture readings, in a format that is easy to follow – it even includes hymns!
- Pray as You Go (PAYG) – a great tool that offers music, scripture, a reflection question and time for meditation in a concise format that you can download and listen to on your phone. Average time is about 11 minutes.
Consider volunteering for a new ministry or group, such as Knit, Purl and Pray, or Wednesday with the Word, or Brotherhood of St. Andrew, or the Parish Workday on March 28. For a full list of opportunities, click on this link.
I encourage you to adopt a new practice for Lent, either one you design or one of these. It can not only enrich the time of Lent, but it can also lead to an Easter of deep joy and celebration.