Ars Praedicandi: Reflection from the Thursday after Ash Wednesday

The following reflection was preached in the chapel of St. John’s School of Theology and Seminary at Midday Prayer on the Thursday after Ash Wednesday by Patty Weishaar, Director of Student Life. The scripture reading was Hebrews 10: 19-25.

The preacher preaches what she needs to hear.

LENT IS SO LONG!

It’s Day 2, and I’m aware once again that Lent is long.

There are many ways to approach Lent—
Happy Lent
Holy Lent
Slow Down Lent
Endurance Test Lent
I Have So Much To Do Lent

One thing that is kind of at the heart of Lent for me: How will I get through this Lent?
I have had wonderful, rich, prayerful Lents– and Lents that I just missed—missed opportunities, missed paying attention, missed a chance to start and sustain a new practice.

So as this Lent approached, I asked myself:  How will I get through this Lent?

I was inspired to think of it this way:
What do I need to see Jesus as the absolute center of my work, my efforts, my life?

As I have been listening and thinking and wondering and fretting –with lots of people — over the state of our nation and the trickle down to the state of our state, the state of this region and its cities, the state of our school, the state of me in the midst of all this—it has been kind of a rocky road lately.

There is so much to pray for.
There is so much to work for.
There is so much to worry about.

And yet, here it is—LENT.  And here are these words in Scripture to us today, the second day of Lent:
Let us approach with a sincere heart
Let us approach in absolute trust
Let us hold unwaveringly to hope!
Let us consider how to rouse one another to love and good works
Let us not stay away from our gatherings, but encourage one another.

Because he who made the promise is trustworthy.

Our God, who made the promise is trustworthy.

Jesus Christ is trustworthy.

Connecting to this Jesus is what Lent—and all of our Christian lives– is about.

Getting back to this very central thing is the call coming to us today:
–Jesus Christ, who has promised us everything
–Jesus Christ, who has won us life forever
–Jesus Christ, who has given all so that we can know God forever—

Jesus Christ is trustworthy.

This is true.  I know this is true.  My response is to say YES to this, and give thanks for this.

THIS LENT for me needs to be a Lent of giving thanks.

And so:  LENT.  It is as easy as one, two, three, four, five.

These traditional, time-honored, trustworthy practices and patterns for the heart:

Pray.    5 minutes, 5 extra minutes. Be still.

Fast:
From a stinky thought about myself.
From a stinky thought about another.

Give Alms:
Clean a closet, clean a drawer, clean out your wallet, and find a way to share these goods.
Find a cause, donate to our food collection box, donate to one of our scholarships.

Connect to Community Life.
Join in.  Open your door. Step out of your room.
Initiate something, if you are always the follower.
Follow another’s idea, if you are always the do-er.
Connecting to community life does not need to be big.

Here’s a story:  several years ago, on Ash Wednesday, our Abbot John Klassen shared in his homily his suggestions for three things for Lent:
–pray for 5 minutes a day, every day:  unplug and pray
–do some sort of service for another
–every week for the next five weeks, take a walk with one other person.  Explore our trails or just walk up the Prep School Road or out to the Interstate or out past the Cemetery.  Spend time one-on-one in an easy walk and a friendly conversation.
Once a week, five different people.

I love this.  I still schedule “Lent walks” every year—connecting to community with one other person once a week is easy, enriching, not taxing—and healthy!

Give Thanks.
Every day, in those 5 minutes or 5 extra minutes, after being still, GIVE THANKS.

One, two, three, four, five.

Pray, Fast, Almsgiving, Connecting to Community Life, Giving Thanks.

And so—the preacher preaches what she needs to hear.

Hold unwaveringly in hope.

God who made the promise is trustworthy….Jesus Christ is trustworthy.

And we give thanks.

Peace.

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