Lent comes from the French lentement, which means slowly. In Lent 2020, when COVID-19 was still new, I saw a social media post about how, “this is the Lentiest Lent I’ve ever Lented.” Little did we know!
As we mark a full year of COVID-19, a year in which far too many have died, the words of the Ash Wednesday liturgy are all too real: “remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
We often think of Lent as a time for restrictions and ask one another, “What are you giving up for Lent?” However, at its core, Lent is a time for expansion and growth. Most of us have, by necessity, given up so much this past year, and so this year, of all years, I hope that instead of giving something up, you have taken something on. Lent is a time for adopting or going deeper into those practices that enhance our connections with others and with God. Lent is a time for self-examination, penitence, prayer, fasting, generosity and hospitality.
Straight-talking Benedictine nun Joan Chittister says in her book, The Liturgical Year, that Lent is a continual cry across the centuries that life is transient, and that change is urgent. She says, “We don’t have enough time to waste on nothingness. We need to repent our dillydallying on the road to God. We need to regret the time we’ve spent playing with dangerous distractions and empty diversions along the way. . . We need to get back in touch with our souls.”
Every Wednesday in Lent, as part of discerning the Renew portion of our diocesan vision, I will be offering a two-minute sermon. I hope these sermons are helpful as a way for us all to take care of ourselves and one another as we continue the long and arduous journey that is COVID-19. You will find these sermons on our Facebook page and Twitter feed as well as on the diocesan website at www.bc.anglican.ca.
My pre-consecration retreat in January, which I shared with the recently installed, new bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster, John Stephens, was very ably led by retired bishop, Barbara Andrews, who reminded John and me that “Self-care is never selfish; it’s simply good stewardship of the only gift we have.” We need, in Lent, to renew ourselves so that we can be prepared to join in the work of renewal that God is already doing in the world. Soon it will be Easter and we will go to the garden, to the tomb, only to be told that Christ is not here, and that he has risen and gone on ahead of us out into the world (Matthew 28:6). As people of God, we are always doing our best to catch up to Christ and to join in the work of renewal, rebirth and resurrection that God has already begun. In Lent, we renew ourselves so that we can be prepared for that work.
Eventually, this Lentiest Lent, this pandemic, these restrictions, the grim death counts, will end. We will be able to gather, to sing, to rejoice. We will be resurrected. Between now and then, let us allow ourselves to be renewed.