Last night at The Practice we gathered together to prepare for Lent – which is, (ironically) a season of preparation for Easter. I don’t know about you – but this is perhaps the first time in my entire life that I have actually thought about Lent before it was upon me. So often I have been alerted to the presence or beginning of Lent by the question, “What are you giving up for Lent?” And if I’m honest – I’ve never had a great answer, certainly not one that I’ve given any great thought to. (I have probably tried and failed to give up chocolate unimaginatively every year…)
So in that light, it was a wonderful gift to be able to open up the conversation about Lent ahead of it actually beginning; to prepare for it, to plan for it, and to thoughtfully engage how to participate. In my opinion, our wonderful friend, Mark Scandrette, was the perfect guide to host such a conversation, offering encouragement, challenge and vision for how we can experiment this Lent.
This Lenten season The Practice will communally be exploring in depth the Lenten theme of Lament. Mark started us off by inviting us into the heart of Lament by pointing to the beatitude in Matthew, “Blessed are those who mourn.” In other words, “happy are those who are not happy.” As a counselor in training, I had to hold back from shouting a whole hearted amen! As Mark shared, more and more research is revealing that the belief and pressure to believe that we have to be happy all the time is actually making us less happy. Lament is a practice that faces into the honesty and breadth of our emotion and I cannot wait to dive deeper with all of you in the coming weeks into how to incorporate it into the rhythm of our daily lives.
Mark also began with the helpful reminder that ‘Lent’ literally means Spring or Springtime, and represents the desire for new life to emerge out of our lament, our pain. The practice of abstaining, or giving something up, for Lent – should ultimately be connected to a lament in your life, an understanding that something is dead or dying in your life, and a desire to see new life emerge. The rest of the night focused largely on answering two key questions,
- Where do I long for newness to come into my life?
- How can I cooperate with God’s work in me to allow more life to spring forth?
Mark helped us answer these deep and honest questions by leading us through a workshop of how to design our own personalized ‘Lenten Experiment’ that is driven by an awareness of our own lament and desire for new life. Please check out the handout that Mark used throughout his talk to help us design an experiment HERE. It will be helpful to follow along with the handout as you listen to Mark’s message, which you can listen to through the Practice Podcast or here below.
The steps Mark led us through were simple yet challenging:
- Examine your life
- Explore patterns & root causes
- Imagine the life that is possible
- Design your experiment
- Commit to your plan & track it
- Evaluate your experiment
I hope as you listen to the talk and engage the handout, that you come to see a richness in Lent that you may not have experienced before. As I listened to the message I felt a genuine sense of excitement that there was a real opportunity before me to change my life in Christ through throwing myself into Lent. I’ve never felt that way before.
We then focused our hearts and our desires, as we do every week, on the table. Kellye led us through the communion liturgy as we prepared for Eucharist and in response to all this self examination, planning and lenten hope, we came to the table to receive Christ. The outward sign of bread and juice, is such a powerful reminder of what Christ accomplished on the cross, and at the same time a present reminder and engagement with the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice. When I take communion I am refreshed. I am restored. I am washed anew in the reality of what is possible through Christ who conquered all.
May the truth of communion be with you as you engage your hope for Lent this season. I hope and pray that as you design a Lenten experiment of abstinence or engagement – you would do so out of a profound encouragement that the power that conquered death is available to each and every one of us.
We ended our liturgy with the song, ‘Everything’ by Tim Hughes – which in some ways, was one of the first songs that tuned my heart to understand lament. There is a verse that has ministered to me many times,
God in my laughing
There in my weeping
God in my hurting
God in my healing
These words affirm that there is a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3). There is a time for joy and laughter, but also a time for weeping and hurt. It is my profound desire that you would learn through out upcoming engagement with lament, to pay attention to what time you are in. Are you in a time for laughing? Are you in a time for weeping? Are you in a time to take up or engage something new? Or are you in a time to abstain or give up something painful?
If I am honest with each of you, it was hard for me to be at The Practice last night. I was sad. I still feel sad. I have been hurting. I have been weeping, and I am yearning for healing and new life to spring forth out of rotting places in my daily living. It can be so hard to be sad in a place we associate with worship and thanksgiving to God. Yet it was so healing and so safe to realize that God was with me in the lament, in the bread and in the juice. God is there in our weeping. He is there in our hurting. And He will be there in our healing. I hope you can take the risk with me, to keep showing up this Lenten season as we experiment and lament together.
Like Aaron said at the beginning of the night, as we engage the painful realities of our life and bring them before God, “God doesn’t always fix the issue, but He does something more profound: God weeps with us. And then invites us to join His work of healing.”
Will you join us in God’s work of healing both your soul and the world? I can’t wait to dive into the good, hard work ahead.
Grace and Peace to you,
Jenna Perrine and The Practice Team