Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.Matthew 11:28-30
Lent is not a season for mourning; it is a season for renewal. Look at the land around you at this time of year. It is resting under a blanket of snow, but just beneath the snow are powerful stirrings of life—renewed life—making ready to burst into a glorious and fruitful spring. Indeed, in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, this season is known as the Lenten Spring.
Lent is a fallow season. It is a time when we look inward to the state of our soul. Even our souls need renewal, and the season of Lent calls us to introspection and self-examination so that we may see the work that needs to be done to make us again whole, complete and fruitful in our faith. It is a season to open ourselves to the powerful, healing love of God through Christ Jesus.
Lent is a season to repent—literally to “turn around”—to see where we have been that we may better know where we are headed. It is a season to turn to Jesus and offer up all that weighs us down: our grief, anger, isolation, self-pity, dissatisfaction, envy, un-forgiveness and resentment. Jesus invites us to give him these burdens to bear so that we are freed to take on his burden—the burden of a discipleship filled with love, faith and hope.
Lent is a season for letting go, that is, of letting go of what stands between the way we have been going and the way Jesus bids us to go. This Lent, start to let go of the concerns and burdens that we have taken upon ourselves. Turn off the TV or get off the web for a little while, and in those quiet, fallow moments, think about what is truly important to you. Think about where you have been going, and think about where you would like to be going. Then pray that the Spirit will guide you to new paths and new ways of living.
Look in your hearts and souls for those first stirrings of new life. Then, nurture those stirrings and give them the time, space and food that new life needs to become vibrant, strong and fruitful. Nourish your rested souls with the renewing waters of baptism and the life-giving food of the Lord’s Supper. Be regular in prayer, and be regular in silence. Open yourselves to the new venues God has prepared for you, and with renewed commitment, ask Jesus to give you the courage to follow where he leads you.
Then renewed, forgiven, healed, offer your very best to God in the glory of Eastertide. Resurrect your spirit and your soul to new life in him who rose on Easter that we might live forever in his loving grace. Set aside your old self and embrace the new life you have received through your baptism into Christ’s death and mighty resurrection. Be reborn into the Baptismal Covenant and renew your promises to love and serve God as we love and serve others. Let us go forth into the world in the power of the Spirit!
Almighty and everliving God, who in the Paschal Mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.Book of Common Prayer, page 223
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Psalm 1 Blessed are the man and the woman who have grown beyond their greed and have put an end to their hatred and no longer nourish illusions. But they delight in the way things are and keep their hearts open, day and night. They are like trees planted near flowing rivers, which bear fruit when they are ready. Their leaves will not fall or wither. Everything they do will succeed. Translation by Stephen Mitchell
Gardens have been much on my heart and in my mind of late. Perhaps this is because our Sunday worship is in a garden; perhaps because of the vibrancy of the colors of the late summer flowers; perhaps because of the lushness of the fruits and vegetables of the summer harvest. Whatever the reason, I know that gardens are important to our understanding of God and our experience of Christian faith. Human existence begins in a garden. Jesus prayed in a garden the night before his crucifixion. The empty tomb of the Resurrection was in a garden.
Like a garden, our souls need tending and nurturing. Prayer, meditation, the Sacraments and the word of God in Scripture all nourish our souls. We are created beings who are more closely linked with creation than we often realize.
We are fortunate at St. Mary’s to be in the midst of magnificent gardens and amazing natural beauty. The historic Afton Town Square Park, Carpenter Nature Center, Afton State Park, St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park and even our own Memorial Garden offer beautiful trees, flowers and landscaping to reconnect us to God and creation. And I know that many of you have attractive yards and gardens at your own homes.
Take some time this summer to “stop and smell the roses.” Explore the gardens and landscapes of the St. Croix Valley, or the natural beauty of the state and regional park system. Turn off the air conditioner and open the windows of your home or automobile to let in the sounds and smells of creation. Tend your soul so it too may grow and flourish in the love of God and the glory of God’s creation. Store up the energy of the sun for the fallow season of winter that is all too close at hand.
As you enjoy the created beauty of the world, take a moment to reflect on our relationships with the whole of creation. Below are some reflections on those relationships by others. Perhaps you will be able to add your own experience of nature to the list. Enjoy, and God bless you.
“The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden.”— Thomas Moore
“There is a little plant called reverence in the corner of my soul’s garden, which I love to have watered once a week.”— Oliver Wendell Holmes
Grant me the ability to be alone, May it be my custom to go outdoors each day among the trees and grasses among all growing things and there may I be alone, and enter into prayer to talk with the one that I belong to. Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav
“I thank You God for this most amazing day; for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes.”— e.e. cummings