VOLUME 2, NUMBER 16, MARCH 13, 2011
A Few Thoughts on the Purpose of Lent
This Sunday we hear about Christ going into the desert to be tempted, but also to get clear about his vocation. He fasts for forty days. As he fasts, the world around him—the powers of the world (the beasts referred to in the story) and what they represent (their temptations)—become clear to him. Both God and the powers that try to draw Jesus away from his Father become clear to him. That clarity—about who God is, and who we (the Church) and the world are in relation to God, is what Lent is about.
Lent is not about punishing ourselves for our sins or trying to whip ourselves into shape with spiritual weightlifting. It's not really that much about what we are doing at all. The real work of Lent is carried out by the Holy Spirit working in, with and through us. The Lenten disciplines are really about clearing the clutter of our lives in order that the Holy Spirit can do that work more effectively (and this process need not be limited to Lent).
The real purpose for Lent is preparation for Easter—for those who are being baptized, that is, dying and being raised with Christ at Easter, and those being re-admitted to the Church after being excommunicated for notorious sins (this latter isn't practiced much today), but also for the baptized to be renewed in our baptismal identity. Lent is about letting go of all those people and powers and things that try to lord it over us so that we can again submit to our one true Lord. It's about being remade, reshaped into our true identity as the Church, and claiming Christ's mission as our own.
There are many ways to do that—the traditional fasting, abstinence, increased prayer and worship, almsgiving, service, reading and meditating on God's Word—in other words, all the practices that help us to let go of the distractions and be reminded of who we are—are good places to start. If you're looking for a few new ideas about how to live into Lent, the Episcopal Church offers a variety of Lenten resources on their website: www.episcopalchurch.org/lent. However you do it, don't squander the spiritual resource that is Lent. Let go of some things. Clear a space. Let the Holy Spirit work in you and remind you and remake you into who you are—a member of Christ's own Body.
JOIN TEAM GRACE WESTWOOD TO FIGHT HOMELESSNESS IN BERGEN COUNTY... On Sunday afternoon, April 3, Grace Church will be fielding a team to participate in Bike Bergen. Last year the team raised $2000 to fight homelessness in Bergen County. This year we are going to split the money raised between Family Promise of Bergen County, who ministers to homeless families, and Christ Church Community Development Corporation, who minsters to homeless individuals. Please consider sponsoring the Team and/or joining us for a 3-mile walk, or 3, 15 or 25 mile bike ride. See Larry Sunden for details.
FIFTH ANNUAL SHROVE TUESDAY/MARDI GRAS PARTY... There was a good turnout of old, new, and masked faces for our annual pre-Lenten bash. Pictures are viewable here.
ADULT FORUM... Sunday the Rector will begin a multipart series on Islam—one of the three great religions (along with Judaism and Christianity) of the descendents of Abraham.
WAY OF THE CROSS... This Friday at 6pm and at the same time on each of the Fridays in Lent (except March 25th, which is the Feast of the Annunciation) Grace Church will walk the Way of the Cross. The Way (or Stations) of the Cross is a Lenten devotion that has roots all the way back to pilgrimages to Jerusalem in the early centuries of the Church and evolved over the centuries, only reached its current form in about the 18th century. We will use our stations and the liturgical text provide in the Episcopal Church's Book of Occasional Services. Those who've walked the Way of the Cross know its simple power and we invite you to walk it again. If you haven't, consider adding this devotion to your Lenten devotions this year.
ANNUNCIATION MASS... Friday, March 25, is nine months before Christmas and on that day the Church celebrates the Annunciation of Our Lord—the day when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive a son and should name him Jesus. This major feast is the one day the Prayer Book dispenses the Lenten abstinence. On that day Grace Church will offer a simple said Mass at 9am. If you are able, come and celebrate the feast, dispense with the fast and anticipate even in Lent the coming of the Lord in the flesh on Christmas Day.
LENTEN SERIES... The Lenten Series begins this Thursday evening at 6pm. This year Grace Church will pray Evening Prayer followed by a time of contemplative prayer. Then a simple Lenten supper will be served with discussion about the everyday spiritual practices of Listening, Praising, Eating, Working, Hoping.
DONATING TO FOOD FOR FRIENDS AS A LENTEN DISCIPLINE... Almsgiving is a traditional Christian penitential practice and Food for Friends provides a way one can throughout Lent participate in that practice. During the week, buy some canned or packaged food and bring it to church on Sunday to leave in the food barrel. Perhaps you have given up some item for Lent you bought regularly. Why not use the money you would have spent, or a part of it, to purchase your alms for the food barrel? We all know that these are hard times, but here are some statistics from the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen in New York City. In January they reported that they are serving an average of 1,250 meals each weekday, with operating costs of approximately $50,000 each week. In addition, they report that the New York City Coalition Against Hunger reports demand at NYC soup kitchens and food pantries has increased by 29% since 2008. We may expect that St. Paul's Community Development Corporation Food Pantry in Paterson, which receives our donations, has seen a comparable increase. St. Paul's especially welcomes high protein items, such as beans and canned meats. Otherwise, their wish list asks specifically for tuna, cereal, peanut butter, rice, coffee, and pasta. Alternatively checks may be drawn in favor of St. Paul's Community Development Corporation and marked Food Pantry. Please send checks directly to St. Paul's at 451 Van Houten Street, Paterson, NJ 07501. Please consider including this ministry as part of your Lenten discipline. Thank you.
SONGS FOR HOPE... On April 3, at 2 pm, the Friends of peace4paws will be singing in Songs of Hope, here at Grace Church. A group a Broadway singers, professional local musicians (including Living Tree), and some very talented student performers will perform in the church, followed by a reception in the Large Parish Hall. See www.peace4paws.org for more information. This fun event will help the animals of research and related fields find sanctuary. The beneficiaries are the Kindness Ranch (a sponsor of the event) and Mylestone Equine Rescue. Tickets are $20 for adults 18 or over and $15 for students and seniors ($10 for reception only) and may be purchased in advance through Westwood Pets (201 666-7111) or Watch Out Jewelers (201 358-1806).
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