Lent is a 40-day season to slow down together. In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, I doubt if slowing down will be a problem. The Lenten slowing-down is a time for Christians to more intentionally consider who and whose we are as beloved children of God. By slowing down, looking within, and engaging some form of daily prayer and meditation for the season, spiritual growth is bound to happen. In Lent, we can experience new beginnings, realize new blessings, take on new practices, and benefit from transformation bound to make us better.
The Ash Wednesday liturgy invites Christians to observe a holy Lent by “self-examination and repentance; prayer, fasting, and self-denial; reading and meditating on God's holy Word.” Devotional books like Steadfast Love: Inspiration from Henri J. M. Nouwen are great resources (peek inside; available via mail or pickup from the church offices or on Sundays when present for worship). Other resources include the weekly virtual 20-minute series “Come, Pray” of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (ssje.org) and a subscription to the Lenten Meditations from Episcopal Relief & Development (www.episcopalrelief.org/church-in-action/lent). If you have a devotional practice or resource that you plan to use, feel free to share it with me. I always like to expand my spiritual formation opportunities.
I look forward to daily time with the Steadfast Love booklet, which I understand is designed to enhance relationships with Jesus through contemplation of his personal and infinitely loving devotion to all children of God. Daily meditations are excerpts from the writings of Father Henri Nouwen paired with original reflections and prayers. I also am reminded of an invitational poem “Slow me down, Lord” (by Wilfred A. Peterson), which I encountered in 2003 at the start of my service as Episcopal campus minister at the University of Mississippi and assistant to the rector at St. Peter’s Church in Oxford. Before entering the worship space, those arriving pass by the beautifully framed words on the wall next to the doorway. When stopping long enough to pay attention to the words, the person immediately receives them as words for meditation.
“Slow me down, Lord.” Slow me down, Lord. Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind. Steady my hurried pace with a vision of the eternal march of time. Give me amid the confusion of the day, the calmness of the eternal hills. | Break the tension of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of the singing streams that live in my memory. Help me to know the magical restoring power of sleep. | Teach me the art of taking MINUTE vacations, of slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to pat a dog, to read a few lines of a good book. | Slow me down, Lord and inspire me to send my roots deep into the soil of life's enduring values that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny. Slow me down….”
Lenten blessings as we try to slow down and embrace the steadfast love of Jesus,
The Rev. Ollie V. Rencher, Rector
16 February 2021, Shrove Tuesday
901.252.6320 | orencher [at] gracestlukes [dot] org