The season of Lent is almost upon us. Lent is the 40 day season in the church calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and runs through Easter. This year, Ash Wednesday is February 17. (For those of you who are sticklers for calendars and math, you will notice that there are actually 46 days between Ash Wednesday, February 17, and Easter Sunday, April 4. The season of Lent does not include the six Sundays during that time.)
Lent is a time for penitence and reflection upon the quality of one's faith and life. We begin this time of penitence and reflection on Ash Wednesday with the of the imposition of ashes and the words, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” While the imposition of ashes and the words that accompany it seem rather dark, the goal is not to be morbid. The goal is to have us acknowledge our mortality, our brokenness, our need for God to renew us. One of the most meaningful metaphors for me is the ancient custom of burning fields in the spring to remove the old and prepare for the new.
This idea of removing the old so that we can prepare for the new has sparked my imagination. One of the positives that has come out of this pandemic is that many of us are rethinking some of life choices we had adopted prior to the pandemic. We all know how easy it is to get stuck in certain patterns and routines without even realizing it is happening. Having been forced to change so many of our patterns and routines, this may be the perfect time to evaluate some of these patterns and routines. Hopefully, these evaluations will encourage us to make intentional decisions whether or not we want to fall back into these patterns and routines once things return back to “normal.” What are the old things that need to be removed so that we can prepare for the new? Those are not just pandemic questions, they are also the questions of Lent.
I decided to broaden my focus beyond specific personal matters and instead think about what Christianity, or the church as a whole, needs to reevaluate. We are living in a very unique time in the life of the church. Over the past five decades, church participation has been declining in most every denomination. For some people, the role Christianity is playing in politics is making them wonder if Christianity is doing more harm than good.
So with all that in mind, I made a list of what in my opinion needs to stay and what needs to go if Christianity is going to be more vital and engaging. I started by listing five things that I believe need to stay and then I listed five corresponding things that I think need to go. For example, I put Christian community needs to stay, and rugged individualism needs to go. (I do not want to share my entire list at this time for fear of inhibiting your creative process.)
I have invited you, the friends and members of Holy Cross, to make your own list of three to five things that you believe need to stay and a corresponding list of three to five things that need to go in order for Christianity to be more vital and engaging. I would encourage you to think about broad overarching themes instead of more specific congregation based issues. You can share your list with me through email by CLICKING HERE. While I may share the content of your list, I will not who it is from. My hope is that I can use the responses I receive to shape our Lenten experience this year. Please send in your responses no later than Sunday, February 7.