Lent: Been There, Done That

Lent: Been There, Done That

By the Rev. Jim Boston, interim rector of St. George’s, Roseburg

You will have noticed that there is a lot about Lent in our church newsletters and social media these days. You may have read it all before. Many times. Some will rejoice in another round of rich spiritual nourishment and joy. Some may sour at the penitential side of Lent, weary of noting and repenting sins. Some will think, “Been there, done that.” It is a joy to celebrate Christmas and Easter, even All Saints and Pentecost. Lent…not so much.

Not so much, that is, for some. But for others, Lent continues, year after year, to be a satisfying opportunity for a tune up, to recall how we found faith, for take another step or two in following Jesus.

I have a friend, a long time faithful Episcopalian, who now does what might be called Lent Lite. He has done it all: fasted and prayed, attended mid-week services, cooked for Shrove Tuesday and Maundy Thursday, helped at soup lunches and suppers, never failed to get to Ash Wednesday services. He has abstained from desserts and meat, and fasted strictly on Good Fridays. A few times he fasted from all but water from after the Maundy Thursday Eucharist until after the Great Vigil of Easter, shortly after midnight. He’s gone to Lenten Bible studies, soup suppers, lots of mid-week preaching series, three-hour services on Good Friday, ecumenical Lenten worship, and had personal disciplines for Lent.

I know him fairly well. He is not a saint. Now he is a senior citizen. He is dealing with the challenges of an aging body. He tells me it is time for him to take it easy with Lent. He figures that God loves him anyway. He would like to do what he used to do, but lacks the energy. He points out that the Roman Catholic Church makes Lenten fasting and abstinence optional for those over 59 years old, and for those whose health might be at some risk. (Our Book of Common Prayer makes no exceptions to its call for special acts of “discipline and self-denial.” We are expected to use common sense.) I fear he may just be lazy. Yet, I feel a little guilty for even entertaining the thought. “Judge not lest thou be judged.” My friend says he misses what he used to do. I believe him. And I love him. And am sure God does also.

So what about you? Are you like my friend? Or do you wonder about the joys and insights he has found in Lent, and now remembers with gratitude? Would you like to take Lent more seriously? Or do you feel like my friend, ready to take Lent more easily than has been your habit?

We can all mull over such questions and choices. Here at St. George’s our Lenten menu of church activities is limited. I do hope that many of you will take advantage of what is on offer: an Ash Wednesday liturgy at noon, special services in Holy Week. A Wednesday service led by lay people. Mite boxes. A library with lots of resources. A priest who will hear your confession and give you absolution. Always the Sunday liturgy. Books of Common Prayer and Bibles to loan. Opportunities to serve others, some sponsored by St. George’s and far more available in Roseburg. Personal prayer and study time. Time for prayer and/or study with a few friends. Generosity with time and money. Writing notes and letters. Etc. Etc.

Do what you feel called to do, knowing that the Father loves you, Christ died for you, and the Holy Spirit stands by to guide and strengthen you. And there is Heaven yet to come.

By the way, my friend is really me.