The Lenten season of solemn preparation for the mystery of Easter is nearly upon us… there’s just one last great gasp of festivity – our Mardi Gras – before we settle down into the season. Next Wednesday (March 1st) as the season begins, I and some other local Presbyterians will be offering ashes at Rockridge Bart station, starting about 7:30 AM. We will mark the foreheads of any who wish, reminding them that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. This is a very traditional observance, and I know the nontraditional congregation of MPC may wonder at the ashes, as well as the solemn purple fabrics in Celebration, and the very idea of “giving something up for Lent,” but despite their roots in the distant past, these observances can be transformative and life-giving, so I commend them to all who would like to participate. But, whether or not you choose a personal practice in this season, we as a congregation will be practicing a Lenten discipline together. Our session, in conversation with the Celebration Committee, has settled on a special practice for Lent, and I hope to write about it in a way which will hopefully shed light not just on the thing we’re doing, but on what makes a good Lenten practice in general.
We are giving up Invitations for Lent.
Yes, those beloved, 60-second bits of comedy, inspiration, and information which come between the offering and the closing hymn each week. We’ll spend 6 weeks without them, and hope to learn something from the experience.
So what makes this a good Lenten discipline?
1) During Lent we attempt to do something for a while which we know we don’t have to keep up forever. We go vegan or abstain from alcohol for 40 days, knowing it will show us how much we’ve relied on wine and cheese, and forcing us to meet our personal needs with other (perhaps healthier) forms of creature comfort. Our congregation relies on Invitations, and abstaining from them for a while will force us to get creative with other communication methods. (If you’re reading this I’m preaching to the choir, but perhaps it’ll move more people to actually read Contact…?)
2) During Lent we give up a good thing for the sake of something Better. We fast from chocolate not because it’s a bad thing, but because we want to focus on what’s truly better – the filling of that physical/emotional need that lies behind the urge to eat chocolate. Man does not live on bread alone – we need spiritual nourishment too. This much to say, Invitations are in themselves good things, but there are callings that are higher and deeper.
3) During Lent we sweep one thing out, in order to make room for another thing. We give up TV in order to have more time in prayer. We give up Facebook in order to spend time face-to-face. I’m delighted to announce that in removing the Invitations slot during these 6 weeks we are opening up a time during Celebration for prayer stations. These will be multi-sensory prayer options which I’ve been working on with Erin Grayson (a prospective new MPC member and a recent seminary graduate) and the Celebration Committee. These stations will offer us a time to deepen our spiritual practices in a variety of ways.
I look forward to our Lenten journey and hope we can all approach it with flexibility and courage.