Lenten Goal: Healthy Souls
In these unprecedented times, we are understandably preoccupied with “staying healthy”. In addition to our daily regime of vitamins, pills, and exercise, we are (hopefully) abiding by public health advisories to manage the COVID pandemic. But what about our souls? What daily attention and care are we devoting to ensure a healthy and vibrant soul?
Lent 2021 offers us an opportunity to nourish our souls. Join Canon Laurette in this daily spiritual exercise drawing from the wisdom of scripture, poetry, and song. Your weekly dose will be sent through your electronic invitation to Sunday service and will be made available on our website.
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Week 1 - February 22 to February 28
“All we are is dust in the wind” [1977 song by Kansas]
Ash Wednesday reminded us that “we are dust and to dust we shall return”. It is a humbling, daunting, and inescapable fact, a stark reminder of our physical mortality. But what about the soul?
Lent invites us to deepen and intensify our relationship with God whose gracious gift offers us eternal life.
“Forty days and forty nights you were fasting in the wild, forty days and forty nights tempted, and yet undefiled” [Hymn 175 Common Praise]
The isolation we experience as a result of this pandemic gives us a taste of what Jesus must have experienced in the desert. In that quiet solitude, Jesus not only resisted temptations, but he also accepted his calling.
How can this time of isolation serve my soul’s calling?
“Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:20]
We are never alone. Whatever feeling of isolation we may experience, the presence of the Divine is with us always. We don’t always feel it. We are not always open to feeling it. We don’t always acknowledge it. But Jesus says it clearly, “I am with you always”.
How is God with you in this very moment?
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” [Ps 51:10]
God’s presence in our lives is as much active as it is passive. God invites us into relationship. Imagine God’s delight in hearing us call out for a “clean heart” and a “new and right spirit”! Couldn’t we all do with a “detox” of our minds and spirits?
What am I asking of God at this time? What is my soul’s desire?
“Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back, Guilty of dust and sin.” [George Herbert, Love 3]
As George Herbert (1593-1633) explores his relationship with God (Love), he shares his reluctance to engage, including his sense of unworthiness. Yet Love persists, rebutting all of Herbert’s arguments and rejecting his excuses.
God understands our reluctance to engage in this relationship, yet persists.
“For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” [Matthew 9:13]
We are all sinners. No exception. Yet, it is because we are sinners that Jesus sits with us, as he did with the tax collectors and sinners of his day, to bring us hope of redemption, to guide us in new ways, to deepen our relationship with God.
How does my soul respond to Jesus’ call?
Week 2 - March 1 to March 6
Welcome to our second week in Lent. Scripture is filled with references to the soul. As we read and “inwardly digest” each day’s offering, we are challenged to discern its relevance to our 21st century realities and to our own lives. The reflections are meant to prompt some thinking and questioning of your own, for each one of us has a different “reality”.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” [Deuteronomy 6:5]
These words are well-known to us. We find them on the lips of Jesus as retold in all three Synoptic Gospels [Matthew, Mark, and Luke]. It is the “first” and “great” commandment, one that carries through and unites the Old and the New Testament. To which, of course, Jesus adds that we must love our neighbour as ourselves
Body, mind, and spirit – we are called to love God.
“As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” [Psalm 42:1-2]
The metaphor of water flows through this psalm. Water is a life-giving element, essential for our survival. Creator of all living things, God bequeaths us this longing, this thirst for his life-giving waters. When our souls are thirsty, we know that our thirst is for God.
How will I quench this thirst, this longing?
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’” [Lamentations 3:22-24]
Written in the wake of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, these words attest to the power of hope. The soul recognizes that whatever the challenge, God’s love will prevail.
In these challenging times, do our souls hold out hope based in trust in God?
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” [Matthew 11:29]
As I read these words that Jesus offers all those who are “weary and are carrying heavy burdens” [and who amongst us isn’t?!], it brings me great comfort to know that Jesus “shares my burdens”. But the yoke of which he speaks is one that calls us to spiritual allegiance, wisdom, and social justice. It is in sharing the burden that Jesus carries for humanity that our own burdens are lightened.
My prayer is to be gentle and humble in heart and to share the burdens of others.
“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say – ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” [John 12:27]
Fridays remind us of that “Good Friday”. What moves me most in this passage is that Jesus refers to his own soul as being “troubled”. He knows what lies ahead and expresses his anxieties yet acknowledges and accepts that his destiny fulfills something much greater than his earthly passage. And so our salvation is realized.
If Jesus’ soul can be “troubled”, so can mine. But what is my reason?
“For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their soul?” [Mark 8:36]
The cost of discipleship can be great, but the opportunity cost of not becoming a disciple is equally great.
How do I live out my discipleship? How healthy is my soul?
Week 3 - March 8 to March 13
Entering this third week of Lent, WISDOM guides our reflections. Among the Old Testament Wisdom Books that focus on universal human concerns, we find the Book of Proverbs. Many of these snippets of “good advice” have found their way into our everyday language and culture. Essentially, they are designed to help us cope with life. Do they speak to you? [All are from the Book of Proverbs; chapters and verses cited.]
“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” [10:12]
Hatred can so easily lead to violence. It poisons relationships of all kinds. When we hate, we deny any opportunity for understanding. When we hate, we deny ourselves of the potential for love to flourish. When we hate, we are diminished.
What hatred lurks deep within me?
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace; but wisdom is with the humble.” [11:2]
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” [16:18]
Pride can be a virtue, but it can also be a fault. To take pride is one thing, to allow pride to take us is quite another. When pride displaces our regard for others, when it becomes all-consuming, when it comes at the expense of others, we pave the path for a fall from grace. Instead, walking with a humble heart assures our footing.
Lord, help me keep my ego in check!
“Those who are kind reward themselves, but the cruel do themselves harm.” [11:17]
“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teachings of kindness is on her tongue.” [31:26]
Kindness and wisdom are interwoven. In being kind is its own reward and is a sign of true wisdom. We could all do with a bit more kindness in our world. Imagine a social media filled with kindness. Speaking and acting with kindness is not about political correctness nor is it about abandoning a point of view. It is about respect.
Lord, help me replace my self-righteousness with kindness.
“Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” [16:31]
“The glory of youths is their strength, but the beauty of the aged is their gray hair.” [20:29]
OK. I just couldn’t resist these! To have the energy and vitality of youth and the wisdom of lived experience would be a perfect combination! But true wisdom lies in living a “righteous life” through each and every stage of our lives.
Follow in the path of righteousness and wear that crown of glory!
“The rich and the poor have this in common: the Lord is the maker of them all.” [22:2]
“Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself, and giving to the rich, will lead only to loss.” [22:16]
“Those who trust in their riches will wither, but the righteous will flourish like green leaves.” [11:28]
We are increasingly aware of economic and social disparities in our world. The pandemic has brought home this message dramatically. And yet, we are all God’s beloved children. Lent calls us to give to others and to rectify the injustices around us
In giving, we receive.
“Anxiety weighs down the human heart, but a good word cheers it up.” [12:25]
The prolonged isolation of the pandemic has taken its toll on our mental health. Many experience anxiety…about themselves, their families, the future and what it might hold. At times such as these, support and encouragement can help alleviate the anxieties of others, as well as those we experience ourselves.
May hope spring eternal with our human breasts!
Coming the week of March 15th
Coming the week of March 22nd