Ash Wednesday is over, ashes duly administered and received (2 services) -- next year we'll likely try "Ashes to Go" (Google it -- there are hundreds of articles) -- but not a drive-through, though our church has a lovely circle drive that would be perfect for it! I'm forming a worship planning committee that might help me decide where would be a good location to distribute early-morning ashes -- I wonder if McDonalds would let me stand at the drive-through?
For those of you not familiar with Lent, it's the 40 days (excluding Sundays -- those are days off!) preceding Easter. It has traditionally been a time of fasting, penitence, and self-examination in preparation for Holy Week (the week prior to Easter, when the Last Supper, Jesus' trial, and his crucifixion took place). When I was a kid growing up in the Episcopal Church, my Lenten practices were giving up candy and (when I remembered) stuffing coins into a "mite box" that was placed on a big cross on Easter Sunday morning and the money given to charity. I've always found that observing Lent makes the glory of Easter and the Resurrection even more -- well, more glorious! And sometimes some of the Lenten "new habits" actually stick.
Sometimes I've fasted during the day on Fridays, and this was always a pretty amazing experience, spiritually speaking. Because of my abstinence and eating program, I've not tampered with my diet these last 2 years.
This year my Lent is packed, with a parish study of contemporary Islam as lived out in the US as well as my own study on the Rule of Benedict. I'm using Jane Tomaine's book called St. Benedict's Toolbox (mine's on Kindle), as well as a couple of others: Esther DeWaal's Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict, and the Rule of Benedict itself. The study is in conjunction with a religious community for which I am a Companion: The Worker Sisters & Brothers of the Holy Spirit. We are actually spending the whole year on this study, and Jane Tomaine will be featured at our retreat in April in St. Louis.
I'm really excited about this study (I know, I know, it won't set everyone's heart on fire), especially since a lot of our Episcopal Book of Common Prayer and our own particular approach to spirituality and spiritual formation are based on Benedictine monasticism.
Here are my sermons for both Ash Wednesday and Sunday:
I hope you are all thinking about Lenten practices, whether giving something up or taking something on! I'm avoiding what I should be giving up (television and the computer) by taking on something very virtuous (see above).