Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday 2007

Got an email from someone yesterday asking me what was acceptable to “give up” for Lent? That’s the usual question isn’t it? What am I going to give up this year?

The better question may be to ask why do I want to give up whatever it is I am going to sacrifice. Well, I could give up eating dessert. Besides, by giving up dessert I could kill two birds with one stone – make a sacrifice and lose weight all at the same time. I’m going to give up eating chocolate, or stop smoking, or quit drinking. All good things to stop doing and all for good reasons.

At some point, though, it almost sounds like a New Year’s resolution. Of which, I recall, few of us ever wind up keeping.

What I pray is that the season of Lent is more meaningful than making some temporary sacrifice. My hope is that Lent can be a place where we can lay some things aside so that there might be some space in our lives for God to create formation within us. Let me offer three suggestions for creating space in our lives.

First, simplicity. The spiritual life is best lived in simplicity. But, living in our world in a simple manner is really difficult. Most of us would probably like to live simpler lives but we also have to acknowledge that that might not be possible. I don’t have any easy answers.

A few years ago, a friend suggested to me that every day I leave the house with either something to throw away or give away. It does make me mindful of the amount of just “stuff” that I have. Simplify, my friend told me.

Slowing down, taking time to breathe, taking a long slow walk, cleaning out the garage, all things that can help us simplify our lives.

Simplifying my life can create space in it for God to do God’s work of forming me and molding me into a useful vessel. A vessel that can serve others.

Second, solidarity. Besides being a time of “giving up,” Lent can also be a time of giving. Being in solidarity with someone or a cause that needs our help. It might be an organization that could use some of our time. Maybe a neighbor needs us to fix them dinner or mow their lawn. Possibly someone in our family needs our attention. By being in solidarity with someone in need, we are ministering to our Lord Jesus. Jesus tells that when we minister to least of these we are ministering to Jesus.

Finally, community. When we gather in community we strengthen and encourage one another. We all need the community to come along aside us and walk with us as we journey through the season of Lent. Walking by ourselves is lonely and we can lose our way, but by joining hands with one another we can be assured that we will make our way out of the desert of Lent.

What’s acceptable to give up for Lent? That’s a really good question that takes some time to ponder and pray over. Whatever you decide, I pray that you can create a little extra space for God to do some work. The Lord be with you and those to whom you serve and love.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Saint Brigid

February 1st is the celebration of the feast of St. Brigid. Second only to St. Patrick, she is one of the most venerated saints of Ireland. She lived in Kildare in the late 5th and early 6th century. Many legends and tales have emerged from this era which has little documented history. Some have suggested that much of what is known about her is the blended stories of Celtic Christianity.

As best as can be known she was someone who cared deeply for the poor. She started and led a monastery for both men and women; something obviously quite rare. She also may have the first female bishop. Though, possibly ordained as such by accident, she still managed the monastic community with the authority of a bishop.

What is important for the community around which many of us gather here in Tempe, Arizona is that we hold up St. Brigid as someone to model. A woman who led a monastic community of women and men. She provided episcopal leadership for her community that existed to serve and care for the poor of Kildare.

It is this model that reveres and respects the leadership of women in communities of women and men that we admire. Especially Christian communities that exist to serve others. We seek to emulate her Celtic understandings of prayer and practice. And we desire to call others into this experience with us.

In the next few months we will begin reaching out to create St. Brigid's Community. It will be a group of people who may meet regularly to worship, prayer and serve together - as well, it will be nourished by those who can not meet regularly with us but instead are a part of internet community.

St. Brigid's Community will be Benedictine and follow the Rule of Life. We will pattern ourselves after St. Brigid's monastery of women and men. We seek to worship, pray and serve.

If you're interested in such a community check back here and then let me know and I will send along more specific information. The Lord be with you.

Oh yes, how could I forget - St. Brigid said, or at least some believe she said, that paradise would be to find God and all the saints in a huge lake of beer. Well tonight, celebrate as a saint with Brigid and all the saints and have a cold one.