Dear Family of St John’s

This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday and marked the start of Lent. Even before Lent started, I was hearing the question, “What are you giving up for Lent?”

I, like many of you I’m sure, have given up a number of things over the years. The two that I remember being the most difficult in the past were coffee and my cellphone.

Yes, coffee. Those of you who know me will understand how difficult this was! Coffee is, as far as I’m concerned, essential for life! It’s the basis around which so many social interactions take place. And yet, I managed without it for the full season of Lent.

The year I gave up my cellphone was a little trickier. It wasn’t a complete ‘do not touch the phone’ scenario. Instead, I only picked up my phone when I had to make or receive a call or send and respond to a message. I didn’t go onto social media on my phone, I didn’t play games on my phone, I didn’t check emails on my phone. This was also really difficult for me. It was an eye opener though, I realised how much time I spent on my phone, and it wasn’t healthy.

People choose to observe Lent in many different ways. Some choose to deny themselves in some way, others choose to adopt a new habit.

The most important thing is that Lent is about our attitude – an attitude of honesty and humility as we confess our sins to God. Lent is also about an attitude of relief and joy, knowing that our sins have been forgiven, that our slate has been wiped clean as we seek to serve our God with our lives.

Lent shouldn’t be viewed as a legalistic or compulsory act. Why not see it as a fantastic opportunity to set time apart for spiritual cleansing, for renewal, for preparation? Although there is no specific mention of Lent in the Bible, time set apart for repentance and mourning in ashes is referenced several times.

Lent is supposed to be a time where we explore where we haven’t gone yet, journey to new dimensions in God, experience more and more of an inexhaustible God who wants to show us just how much He loves us.

If we’re going to observe Lent with the right attitude, maybe it’s about more thanjust giving up chocolate, or coffee. Maybe it’s about more than adopting a new habit.

“Giving up” for Lent is doing whatever it takes to get rid of those things in our life that keep us from focusing completely on our relationship with God, our Loving Father.

I believe that God is calling us to the observance of a holy Lent where we relearn what it means to be loved, what it means to be redeemed, sanctified, empowered, strengthened, cherished. Where we relearn what it means to be forgiven.

Because, when we relearn all of that, then we will give up other things naturally. Things like trying to please everybody around us to make us feel worthwhile and loved. Because we’ll know how loved we are by the One who truly matters.

I want to share these words from Pope Francis, they were his guide for Lent a few years ago:

“Fast from hurting words and say kind words

Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.

Fast from anger and be filled with patience

Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.

Fast from worried and have trust in God.

Fast from complaints; contemplate simplicity.

Fast from pressures and be prayerful

Fast from bitterness; fill your hearts with joy.

Fast from selfishness and be compassionate.

Fast from grudges and be reconciled

Fast from words; be silent and listen.”

I encourage you consider how you will be observing this Lenten period, how your ‘giving up’ will draw you closer to God. May we each experience a relearning of His love this Lent.

With love

Your friend and rector,