09 Feb An Invitation to Lent
I have hit the “Covid-19 wall,” and as it turns out, I am not alone. Last week, a clergy friend directed me to an online article that described how adrenaline has helped us push through the first several months of this pandemic. But human beings cannot live indefinitely fueled by adrenaline, so inevitably, there is a “crash” which results in fatigue, loss of focus or motivation, etc. Perhaps you can relate. We’ve done an admirable job of adjusting to our “new normal” but eventually, the fatigue of all that adapting, adjusting, and making do catches up with us and leaves us tired, or irritable, or even depressed. Which is why I am happy to offer you two ways to combat your Covid fatigue over the next week.
First, this Sunday we will gather virtually for our Annual Congregational Meeting. (Watch for the Zoom link and call-in information in Friday’s e-letter.) One of the things that was immediately apparent in November when we met virtually to vote on new elders was how excited and happy people were to see one another’s faces and hear one another’s voices, even if it was via a screen versus being in person. It was a “shot in the arm” to have time together as a congregation, so if you have hit the pandemic wall, I encourage you to Zoom or call in. I think you’ll be encouraged to be in the company of the saints, so to speak, as we take care of the business side of being the church. And yes, I know it is Valentine’s Day. We are going to love on each other along with loving on our families and Significant Others!
Second, while it seems a bit hard to believe, Lent does begin next week as we observe Ash Wednesday on February 17. This is your second opportunity to reconnect with the Calvary family. At 6:30 p.m., we will have a virtual Soup Supper via Zoom in lieu of the soup supper that normally takes place in our fellowship hall with friends from Bush Hill, Heritage and Mt. Vernon Presbyterian churches. In keeping with the spirit of community of this wonderful tradition, each church has shared a soup recipe (thank you, Jean Roberts!), and this little collection is also included in the e-letter. I invite you to try one of these or cook one of your own favorite soups and join us for a time of fellowship around our virtual table.
Then at 7 p.m., the Ash Wednesday service will be available on our YouTube channel, in the same way that our Sunday services are posted each week. (Look for two separate links—one for the soup supper and one for the worship service.) Again, in keeping with the spirit of our normal annual practice, the pastors from the four churches met last week to pre-record a service of scripture, music, prayer, and silence, ending with the signing of ashes. A Worship Guide will also be available to you, so that you can fully participate. (All of this will be available on the Calvary website under the “Sermons” tab.)
Our original idea was to mail ashes to each member of the four churches, but it turns out that ever since the Anthrax scare in 2001, the post office frowns on powdery substances being sent through the mail! Instead, there are some easy ways to create ashes at home. The most obvious, of course, is to use ash from your fireplace, if you have one. If not, burn a candle for a few minutes, snuff it out, and the burnt wick should provide enough ash to make a cross on your forehead. Garden dirt, mixed with a little oil from the pantry, will do in a pinch. And for the over-achievers among us, you can find directions online for how to burn palms (as in, Palm Sunday palms) to make the most authentic version of ashes for Ash Wednesday. Be sure you burn only non-toxic plants. We don’t want to create a liturgical surge of Ash Wednesday Emergency Room patients!
While certainly different than in past years, my hope and prayer is that you will set aside time and create a sacred space from which to begin your Lenten journey. Even virtually, this can be a deeply meaningful season in which we focus on repentance and prepare our hearts to hear again the message of the cross. Sometimes, it is tempting to skip the cross and run straight to the joy of resurrection. Let us resist that temptation and instead, do the hard work of examining our hearts for the ways that need the transforming grace of God. That is Lent’s invitation to us. I hope you’ll respond with a resounding, “yes!”
Yours for the Kingdom,