Susan and I have been discussing our Lenten practices. I am resuming some of my fasting practices, and she will post soon about her ideas on Lent. We have agreed to spend time together in reading John 13-17 during the five weeks of Lent before Holy Week. We begin today by reading the 13th chapter of John. We will concentrate on this chapter between now and Saturday. The idea is to practice ‘lexio divina’, the ancient practice of Scripture reading. The practice is in four parts, 1) read, 2) meditate, 3) pray, 4) contemplate. The focus in lexio is different from studying the text; the goal here is to let God speak to us through the text. You can do these four steps all at once, or at different times during the day. I encourage you, if you join us, to write your thoughts in a journal as a record of the conversation between you and God through John’s words.
Susan and I will be posting some of our thoughts, questions, and reflections here on the blog. Feel free to join in this reading project if you wish, and by all means, post your own questions, thoughts and reflections in the comments section. That way it can be a communal experience. Have a blessed Lent.
On to John 13.
While Carneval is prominent in Bolivia right now, my thoughts are turning to Ash Wednessday and Lent. I love the season of Lent. I don’t know if it is my favorite season, but I love the mood of Lent, and the metaphors of Lent, and the symbols of Lent. (Actually, I love the whole church year and the movement through time in the mystery of Christ. Part of why I am an Episcopalian.)
Many people experience Lent as a negative or a downer. Maybe it is because I have a comtemplative side to me, but I find Lent to be wonderfully introspective and and liberating. The season is known as a penitential season, and part of Lent is acknowledging our sins and waywardness. Most North American christians do not like to dwell on the subject of sin. Then there is the practice of fasting and self-denial to which the church calls us. Because of this reaction to Lent there is a tendency to downplay the penitential side, and instead insert the idea of positive action – instead of giving something up substitute some positive action. I am not against this, and in fact the giving of alms is one of the Lenten practices we are called to (read the BCP bidding prayer which is an invitation to the practice of a holy Lent). But I think there is great wisdom in facing the reality of who we are – dealing with the fact that we are sinners.
Last week I was in the Santa Cruz zoo. There were many wonderful things to look at, but alongside all of the animal life, there were some magnificent trees. I love trees, especially old majestic trees. I believe that we are created by God to grow into the equivalent of a majestic tree-like one of the redwoods, or a 500 year old oak. But because of the impact of sin on our lives, we become stunted and deprived. (Almost like the practice of bonsai. Don’t take this wrong, I love bonsai. But when you restrict the growing environment and reduce the available nutrients and resources, what would be a 100 foot tall maple becomes a 1 and 1/2 foot bonsai.). That is what sin does to our lives. It restricts the environment of our lives, and reduces our intake of God’s nutrients so that we end up far reduced from what God created us to be. Jesus came to earth to open up the channels of God’s grace that we might grow and thrive, becoming all of what God meant us to be. One of the early church Fathers said, ” The glory of God Iis a human fully alive.”
Lent is the season of the year in which we assess who we are, and where we are, and look at ways of increasing the life of God in us.
More on this later. I invite you to a Holy Lent.
Blessings, Father David
This is a picture Father Mario Morales. He is a priest who serves under my cousin, Bishop Ron Firestone.
Mario has very interestin story. He is a Quechua indian who was raised in Oruro, a city in the high Andes. His parents were very poor, and when he was six, he was taken to a convent as they could not afford to feed him. Raised in the convent, he became a Franciscan friar. He served as a missionary in various countries in South America, and later taught theology in several universities for twenty years. On two occasions, Roman Catholic bishops promised to ordain him to the priesthood, but later refused. There is serious racism against native people in Bolivia. To this day, there are only a couple of native Roman Catholic priests. Mario left the Roman church and became Orthodox Coptic because an Orthodox bishop promised to ordain him. He too later rescinded this promise. Mario met Bishop Ron at an ecumenical meeting in Santa Cruz. After exploring the Anglo-Catholic Anglican church he asked to join Hosanna Church. Bishop Ron later ordained him. At the Wednesday morning Eucharist, Padre Mario celebrated at the alter.
After the busy time last week flying to Santa Cruz, getting caught up with my cousin, and reaquainted with life in a foriegn country, and then the busy weekend with the ordination, I am finally settling down into the sabbatical experience. The fact that I am a long way away from my normal life gives a different perspective on who I am, and what I do. The first question, and in the long run the only question is, ‘What does God want for my life?’
I am not going to be doing anymore preaching or teaching for awhile. That gives me time and space for reflecting, and I am grateful for that. It is not onlu reflection about my life, but about St. Paul’s and my ministry. Again, ‘ What does God want?
Pray for me.
It is early Sunday morning. We have been in Bolivia for five days now. Yesterday was avery busy day. There was a prayer vigil from 9am to 2pm, and then the ordination service at 8pm. There were two ordained to the priesthood, and one ordained to the diaconate. All were women which is unusual for Latin America. My cousin is a Bishop in the Free Anglican Church, and thus can ordain women. The Province of the Southern Cone, which is the official Anglican body in South America, will ordain women as deacons but not as priests.
it was a long service ( not because of my preaching) and we did not get to bed until midnight. Today, Susan and I will go to St Thomas the Apostle church on the outskirts of the city. One of the new priests, Trini Rojas, will celebrate her first mass there. The church is located in the very poorest section of Santa Cruz. After church will be a time to rest.