Renew, Wednesdays, February 17-March 23, 2016
Led by Father Bill and Felix Rogers
Lent is a time to give something up. We give up chocolate, or sweets, or the afternoon cocktail, or red meat, or something else we relish. Standing behind this self-denial is the belief that, by fasting, we will be reminded of our greater desire for God – a desire that makes these little desires, and the subsequent cravings they create, appear small by comparison.
This venerable tradition goes back at least to the medieval period, and I believe it still has a role to play in our spiritual lives. To receive anything usually means we have to let something go, to give it up, in order to free our hands to accept the gifts God is waiting to give us.
However, instead of focusing on giving up something material, this year’s Lenten program explores what it means to give up whatever keeps us experiencing God’s presence in a powerful way. This process is more complicated than the physical act of giving up, say, the daily glass of red wine. It is a spiritual exercise in naming and setting free what keeps us from living fully so that we can receive anew God’s goodness and love.
Ironically, what keep us from growing spiritually is not over-attachment to some physical object or material desire, but things which we often spend a lot of time and energy hiding from ourselves – a loss unnamed, a grief unobserved, a broken relationship, a career ended, a sickness or infirmity, the death of someone we loved.
It is difficult to name these losses and acknowledge the power they have over us. Because doing so requires us to acknowledge that we are powerless and vulnerable – attributes that everything in our culture trains us to fear and resist with all our might. However, it is only by letting go of these illusions of power and control that we become able to find the new life and healing that God brings.
Working with Henri Nouwen’s Turn My Mourning into Dancing (2001), we will trace this process of letting go so that we can let God work in our lives more powerfully. Copies of the book are available from the church office and at the class.
The evening will begin at 6:00 in the church for prayer, worship, and the introduction of that night’s theme. Then we will break for a dinner followed by small group discussions facilitated by Pastor Manisha, Felix Rogers, Pastor Joyce, Ronda Johnson, and Father Bill. The evening ends with a final gathering for a short prayer promptly at 8:00pm.
“Healing begins,” Nouwen writes, with “taking our pain out of its diabolic isolation and seeing that whatever we suffer, we suffer in common with all humanity, and yes, all creation.” Our “healing and dancing begin with looking squarely at what causes us pain.” May this course provide each of with the opportunity to grow, and heal, together this Lent.