Over the last several weeks, through sermons and weekly reflections, we have sat with the idea of showing up and shining out as ambassadors of God’s love. We have explored the many different ways that we are called to share the love of God with those we encounter in our neighborhoods, cities, state, country, and the world. We have explored how we might live into the meaning behind our name as a parish, and most of it has centered around the idea of showing up – of being in the space with another.
In the time that we have listened and learned about ways that we can live into our parish name, I have taken on a new prayer practice in my personal prayers. It is not all that new, actually. In fact, I used this practice during my time in seminary, but after I graduated, I drifted towards a more contemplative practice (which I still hold dear and use as part of how I pray). Since the beginning of the Season after the Epiphany, I have turned, once again, to the practice of using the Daily Office to shape my prayer practices. Each morning, after getting home from my morning workout, I sit down with the prayer book and Holy Scripture to show up with God. The familiar folds of the prayers surround me in comfort and provide me a rhythm to which my own prayers seems to mold themselves. I begin with a confession and move forwards from there with psalms, lessons, canticles, and more prayers. It has become a ritual in the morning that helps me get started on the right foot, and it has helped me to listen to God in a different way than my more contemplative practice invited.
As you know, we began the Lenten season yesterday with Ash Wednesday, and we heard the invitation to the observance of a holy Lent “by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.” The last part of that invitation is one that I would like to invite our parish to consider for this Lenten season. In addition to the Wednesday evening discipleship class that we offering, I would like to encourage everyone to sign up to receive daily readings (taken from the Daily Office lectionary) in your inbox. I invite you to consider at least reading the scriptures each day as we journey through the season; if you would like to take it up a notch, you can pray Morning or Evening Prayer (and of course, you can do both!) by using the guides that we have created for this Lenten season.
As I move through this Lenten season, I am listening to the scriptures for the ways that God is inviting me, personally, into God’s mission as well as the ways that God is inviting our parish into God’s mission. The Holy Scriptures are our primary source for listening to God and for knowing “the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior.” Sitting with the Holy Scriptures gives us the words and the stories that we need to know, ever deeper, the magnitude of God’s love for God’s creation. When we sit with the scripture for a time and when we intentionally listen for the ways that God is speaking into the center of our lives, we are graced with those “sighs too deep for Words” that continue to intercede for us when our words run dry.
Our parish is in a moment of life in which prayerful discernment of a way forward is vital, and we cannot do that by simply praying on Sunday in our collective prayers. The transfiguring of our common life needs to be buoyed by the prayers of the people that sit in our pews. By praying for the life of our parish, God will help us, through our collective wisdom, to find the wise action that we need to take in our immediate and long term futures. Through prayer, we can support each other, and we will hear God whispering into our hearts as we continue to reckon with our transfigured life.
And there is another important part of reading Holy Scripture: we need active communal discernment. We need to hear what we are reading in the scriptures, and we need to sit with what is leaping off the page as each individual prays the scriptures through the Daily Office. To that end, I am going to host a Saturday morning conversation on every Saturday in Lent at 9:15am at Whole Foods in Tempe. (They have amazing breakfast burritos – even breakfast burritos for vegans!) I hope and pray that you will join me in praying the scriptures and in sharing what is standing out for you as we sit with scripture during this Lenten season.
May you, and all those you cherish, have a blessed Lent.