Today was a good Lenten day. As I explained to each of my churches, as I left the driveway and headed into town for a regular day of church, I felt relief. I was joyous to see people again. And yet it was Lent 1, and I know that I take this seriously. I even enjoy the melodrama of Lent. I knew that the scripture was Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness and that I was going to ask them, early in the service, to confront their temptations. It was an odd juxtaposition of joy and gravity.
Preaching was easier because I had several people to make eye-contact with. That makes a big difference. I had prayer requests to negotiate. We had real tears to shed and wipe away; real joys to laugh at and share; real friends to reconnect with. We talked about disciplines, sin, Black History, oppression, salvation, Jesus (oh yeah!) and the Holy Spirit. I had fellowship with one of my churches and heard a lot of local black history. I got home in time to get in my chair before dark. I’m still here.
I started thinking how much I need worship. I need to pray and sing and talk about scripture and consider the life of Jesus. I can think of few other activities that I need a lot of. As I have journeyed with my churches, I feel a certain ease about them. I can be myself. I can confess what I want. I can be purposefully vulnerable, while being in control and leading effectively. I still struggle with organization and temporal church matters, but I get the spirituality and I know that is my ultimate worth. So with another day of sunshine came a sense of purpose.
I also got my name in the paper for speaking out against a matter before the WV state legislature. I heard several positive remarks concerning it.
As for disciplines, this was my children’s sermon topic. I asked parishioners what they are giving up and invited them to explain to the kids what purpose there is to their Lenten discipline. It’s not solely the pastor’s job to explain these things. As the church ought to be considered a training ground for Christian service, I thought it right to put them to practice. One of my parishioners talked about adding something: walking 40 miles in 40 days. Boy, I am tempted to add that one, too, so impressed I was.
After churches were over, I sat in the front pew of church #3. As my guitar was there, I played guitar for several minutes. I thought, I ought to play guitar every day for Lent. How nice it would be to have a Lenten discipline that is about adding a time of joy to my day. #7 discipline it is.
1a) Driving the speed limit–I did very well, except between churches, where I was very bad. 2::4
1b) Foul Language–I was at church all day, so by default, I did pretty well. 3::4
2) Fasting Lunch–I had 2 lunches. 1::4
3) Giving up Facebook–Home Run. 4::4
4) Reading–Had 45 minutes between stuff and went to the store and read black poetry. 3::4
5) God and Me–I really am doing well at this. 4::4
6) Visiting Parishioners–Had fellowship with one of my churches. 3::4.
7) Played guitar–Day one of this discipline, added because I did it already. 4::4
I know, I know, Lent is a 40-day season that does not count Sundays. But you know, it takes 21 days/times to build up a habit. And many of these disciplines ought to be permanent lifestyle changes. So indulging for even one day seems unwise. Monday is hard enough.Photo: “Burnside Church, Wairarapa, New Zealand 10 December 2005” by PhillipC