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A Lenten Sojourn

In the last congregation I served, we sent out a post card to everyone who lived in our local neighborhood inviting them to join us for worship. The front of the card showed a roadside billboard with the phrase – “Faith is a journey, not a guilt trip.” It was a way to encourage people to join us even if they were struggling with their faith, and especially if they had experienced church and faith in a negative way in the past. I am not sure how many people decided to join us for worship or even membership because of that card, but I kept it on the bulletin board in my office for years to remind myself of it for my own journey.

We have been using the term journey a lot this year, especially as we each were called to reflect on our Stewardship Journey this past fall – the journey to greater engagement and investment in our community life and work.

We are also going to use the language of journey for four Saturdays during Lent as we gather in the Chapel for worship together at 4:00 p.m.

We walk the metaphorical Lenten journey every year alongside Jesus of Nazareth. Some of us have walked it so many times it would seem as though we could do it with our eyes closed. Some of us will walk it intentionally for the first time this year and do so with eyes wide open, taking in the sights, sounds and psalms that lead us from Ash Wednesday to the Cross and the Empty Tomb.

In preparation for these Saturday afternoon services, Rachel and I have been imagining together what it is like to walk this journey together as a congregation– interactively and inter-generationally; providing both familiarity and newness; using old spaces in innovative ways; and connecting with one another through worship in actions that don’t fit our traditional Sunday morning worship traditions.

The problem that I have personally in my own faith journey with journey language is that it implies movement - metaphorical movement – but movement none the less. But what I am often craving during the season of Lent each year is the language of stillness instead; the language of silence; the call to sit rather than the expectation to walk.

Everything in my life seems to be moving all at the same time – schedules, meetings, obligations, family, celebrations – and so I need my Lenten journey to be different than that. I would imagine that many of us feel the same way.

If I want my heart to be moved in the season of Lent, I need to find a moment to step away from all of the other endlessly moving parts that fill my days.

If I want my faith to grow in the season of Lent, I need to plant my feet firmly in the practice of prayer.

If I want to hear God’s direction for my life, I need to intentionally sit down in moments of silence.

These Saturday Lenten Vespers services will give all of us a chance to experience the movement of Lent and the movement of God in these ways, and I hope you are able to be on this journey together with us.

We have included in the services each week a Prayer for the Journey which will be our refrain for the Lenten sojourn together:

PRAYER FOR THE JOURNEY

God who on foot
Leads through unknown terrain,
Teach us the trail head, the sharp turn, the thorn.
Teach us the fade of the path in the bramble;
Make us to know your true face when we stumble.
Remember to find us.
Remember our name.
Remember your promise to walk with us home. Amen

(Sing the Journey, 2007)