A Word From Our Bishop

On March 1st, the Bishop participated in Pew & Beyond, a video series on Facebook, hosted by the Rev'd Dr. Neil Mancor and the Rev'd Canon Lisa Vaughn. The topic of the discussion was the ever evolving situation in Ukraine.

In the dim recesses of my memory I have a short phrase, (perhaps wisdom from my family, perhaps not) which is a profound statement of human nature. It comes as two connected statements: 

  1. “It takes three weeks to start a good habit, and three days to break it. 
  2. It takes three weeks to break a bad habit, and three days to pick it up.” 

We have been at this Lent thing about 4 weeks now, and there is just under three weeks to go at this point. What stretches out in front of us is the road that takes us to Jerusalem, to the judgement hall of Pilate and ultimately to the cross. It is easy to weary of the long walk of Lent. Like well meaning, hopeful folks in January, we began the year with resolutions about the changes we need to make in our lives. You remember those: “I am going to eat better!” or “I am going to the gym every day!”. Our new years resolutions are about making new and healthy habits stick. If you believe the above wisdom, it takes three weeks to make the habit part of you, and only three days to break it. 

Just like the beginning of the year, a few weeks on and the gym is no longer crowded, and the bad habits are creeping back in. Lent is similar. We begin with the best of intentions, repenting of the false starts or of the failures which hold us back. Ash Wednesday in its solemnity finds us thoughtful and thinking clearly about what needs to be done. 

And then….and then….we find ourselves back in the same position. Slacking off or wondering what we were thinking by giving up chocolate, or coffee, or junk food; or by taking on that extra discipline for Lent. This is hard work! 

The message of Lent, and of the discipline that goes with it, is not that God is pleased with acts of self denial around sweets or coffee, but something much deeper and more important. We are not our urges. We are not our appetites. We are not our wants. Denial of self is the realization that the power which urges, appetites and wants have in us. In any way that those urges, habits or desires break our relationship with one another, or with God – we are being controlled by them, rather that mastering them ourselves. Lent is the spiritual time to take stock of the desires, urges and appetites and wants which may be ruling our hearts before Christ can. 

At the same time, while disciplining ourselves, we are meant to take those urges, desires and wants and make our wrestling with them to be an occasion on which we might reach out in an act of mercy, or in charity. 

Like well meaning students, some begin Lent like some begin a new semester at school. Doing all the work and never slacking off – but that lasts only for a time, before the real work of temptation starts deep within us. Letting our emotions run riot, allowing our wills to be ruled by desire is the constant temptation. We would rather not allow them to be pruned a little in the lenten season. No one wants to let go of their pride, but that is what we are called to do. No one wants to deny themself anything – but that is the very problem with the consumption culture in which we live. 

This year especially we are all living with the anxiety of the war in Ukraine, the receding pandemic and the worry and concern over the return to some form of normal. You maynot have the capacity to take on heavy lenten discipline right now. Simply being present to the unfolding humanitarian disaster may take all you have or can muster spiritually. There too is a temptation to wall ourselves off from the horrors of the world and the war and the suffering around us. The cross teaches us that we must face head on what our humanity truly is: broken and in need of help. 

You, as you stand before God, are more than your urges. You are more than your desires. You are more than your wants. You are more than the depression that overcomes you when you see the news. You are more than the powerlessness you may feel in the face of the terrors which this world has unleashed. 

You are a child of the most high God, who has called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light. This means that you must allow your will to be pruned a little. You must allow your heart to be broken a little because it goes with the road to the cross, and you must allow your heart to be opened a little because it is a hard road, and our brothers and sisters need us to help. The road ahead is all these things, and it may seem daunting, but then again, we are preparing for eternity. 



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