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April 10, 2012


Did a lousy Lent lift your Easter?

When Fred Borsch was Bishop of Los Angeles, he liked to wish folks “a lousy Lent.”  He said it with a wink, of course, but he made a good point.  The “holy Lent” spelled out in the Ash Wednesday liturgy invites us into potentially, even inevitably lousy moments: “self-examination and repentance; prayer, fasting, and self-denial…reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.”

One of the Lenten prefaces celebrates the lift that can come out of a lousy season:

You bid your faithful people cleanse their hearts, and prepare with joy for the Paschal feast; that, fervent in prayer in and works of mercy, and renewed by your Word and Sacraments, they may come to the fullness of grace which you have prepared for those who love you.

The prevailing opinion here at Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls is that we had a memorably joyful Easter, and that after several stagnant years the Holy Spirit is again lifting our parish into growth and impact for the heavenly kingdom.  I am noticing that the most expressively thankful and fired up people are the ones who labored in the lousy work of Lent:

+ The Senior Warden and his wife, both of whom work full time and then some, and their two energetic little kids, who all attended every session of our special Lenten kids’ program on being forgiven and forgiving - and then made it to all of the liturgies of Holy Week;

+ A young couple who are members of an Assemblies of God congregation and visit us regularly for liturgical worship, who attended all five adult Lenten classes on “Confession of Sin” and attended all of the Holy Week liturgies;

+ A group of middle-aged men who undertook a serious discussion of Biblical standards for husbands and fathers, and who found their group growing with young and new dads seeking guidance and encouragement;

+ My wife grappling with health concerns and caring for our autistic son, making it to all of the Holy Week liturgies for the first time in five years.

+ Our music leader, who had to travel out of state for his beloved grandfather’s burial on Maundy Thursday.  It was far from a planned Lenten observance - it was Lent with all the stops out.  Yet when I spotted him on his Easter morning return to Good Shepherd, he was smiling and sharing his hope in the resurrection with another parishioner.

Those are just some of the examples that leap to mind less than 48 hours after the first “Alleluia” ended our Lenten disciplines. They are all examples of walking through the lousy realities that Jesus Christ humbled himself to share, suffered to redeem and rose to make glorious.  They make me sad for a blog buddy who, when I announced our series on Confession back at the start of Lent, lamented, “In our liberal parish, that wouldn’t fly as a Lenten program. Of course, we don’t have Lenten programs anymore.”

So, testimonies, anyone?  Did lack of Lent let you down?  Or did a lousy Lent lift your Easter?


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6 comments

I hate to nit pick, but I assume that the bishop meant “lousy” in the sense of “infested with lice” rather than “swarming with money”.  wink

[1] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 4-10-2012 at 08:27 AM · [top]

Nice pun there Pewster… nit picking & lice!  LOL

Tim+
i don’t know that I can honestly say that my Lent was “lousy” - I perhaps did not allow enough time for real deep examination and confession and letting the Lord’s light to shine into the dark places of my heart.  It’s been a very busy season and perhaps my renewed blogging spurt was a detriment to the quiet.  But it was a focused Lent, with regular reading and meditation on themes of sacrifice, suffering, spiritual discipline, and especially HUMILITY, and frequent prayer for grace to submit to the Lord’s guidance and to learn of Him rather than choosing whatever way seems good to me.

So, while I deeply enjoyed Easter celebrations, I sense that there’s still more work the Lord’s wanting to do in my heart, so ongoing examination and some focused spiritual disciplines will continue for awhile.

I remember a lousy Lent - lousy in a different sense - of a few years ago.  I think it was 2009.  Lousy in terms of failure.  Just totally copping out of any focused time with the Lord, having allowed myself to be distracted time and time and time again from quiet time in His presence.  (Hmmm, that was a busy blogging year for me too.  I think I hid from God that year by blogging.  This year much less so, thankfully.)

I felt unworthy to celebrate Easter in any meaningful sense that year.  But the Lord used St. John Chrysostom’s famous Easter Homily to speak very powerfully to me that year, especially this line:

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!  First and last alike receive your reward;  rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

Even those of us who may have been SLOTHFUL during Lent are invited to enter into the joy of the Lord.  Lent is a wonderful gift to us as God’s people and can be exceedingly fruitful.  But God’s grace is still offered to all of us, even though we fall short, daily.  I am so thankful for that.

I blogged briefly about this on Easter Monday in 2009 and then posted several other striking quotes from St. John Chrysostom’s Easter sermon in the days following.

“Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;  for forgiveness has risen from the grave.”

“Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.  It was in an uproar because it is mocked.”

It’s exciting to read about what God is doing at Good Shepherd, Tim+, keep us posted so we can be praying with you for a season of revival and fruitfulness!

[2] Posted by Karen B. on 4-10-2012 at 09:08 AM · [top]

Our rector planned the worhip for Lent and it felf just right. There were enough changes but not a complete redo. We did not refrain from praise. Often the musician ruins things.

[3] Posted by Pb on 4-10-2012 at 09:45 AM · [top]

Pewster - I took it literally and have worn a lice-infested hair shirt ever since.  Don’t you wear one?

[4] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 4-10-2012 at 11:19 AM · [top]

Sorry Tim, those kinds of shirts always rubbed me the wrong way.

We had a trying Lent this year with many of our friends going through far more dark times than they had expected. Praying together and being present with them helped me to focus on the essentials during Lent which in the long run results in the uplift I am seeing this week.

[5] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 4-10-2012 at 01:21 PM · [top]

Tim,
From the beginning of my Easter sermon:

“Lots of good things have taken place around the grounds of our church, under the watchful eyes of our Junior Wardens, in the ongoing development of the Children’s Learning Center – you may have seen that big colorful play set provided that was provided through the estate of Dave Zorn’s father, in our preparation and devotions during Holy Week, in people’s lives as they have been challenged with the life and death of Jesus this Holy Week, big answered prayers in jobs, safety, reconcilitation, and in gracious giving, both with financial gifts, and with personal energy.
It’s been a good Holy Week. It’s been a good Lent, if you can call Lent good, it’s been good! (Muffled assent from congregation).

“The culmination of so much has been today, this Easter day. The centerpiece of our Christian faith is this day. We have acted in such ways as to show our faith in God..”

[6] Posted by Rob Eaton+ on 4-11-2012 at 02:53 AM · [top]

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