The hard work of spiritual growth

Almost daily emails and other ads come before our eyes declaring a new health or weight-loss program in only a month or six weeks. Even if we follow these plans rigorously, fitness and wellness experts tell us there's no magic bullet. Even if we get the desired goal it’s hard to maintain our gains and we quickly lose heart.

We sometimes think of Lent as a "40 days to a new spiritual you" program. That's not what it’s about, and like most diet and fitness quick-fixes, after we go through Lent, we tend to go right back to business as usual. At the same time, if we want long term results for practices resulting in spiritual growth and health, we have to make a start, and it often requires engaging in spiritual practices that may set us on a path continuing beyond the Lenten season.

Lent starts this coming Wednesday. This year at St. John's we again have some concrete things you can participate in that will address the three core areas of spiritual growth and conditioning given to us in the church's ancient wisdom: prayer, self-denial, and alms-giving.

Engage the practice of daily prayer using the time-honored discipline of the Daily Office. We help you jump start this practice with a Lenten booklet including an order for daily morning and evening prayer and the appointed readings for each day of Lent (available here). Join others on Tuesday evening at 6:30 for evening prayer. On Wednesdays, walk the way of the cross, listen to the wisdom of Anglican women writers and gather around the Lord's table to gain strength for the journey.

A simple and direct practice of self-denial and alms-giving comes with a small "mite box." What is it you spend money on daily or weekly that you could do without? Really think about it. Now literally take that money and place it in a box we will have available for you to take home. Use it frequently during Lent, whenever you don't give yourself that extra treat you normally enjoy. When you add money, pray the prayer from the Psalms on the side of the box. Then at the end of Lent bring it back to church. All of that money will be used to buy fresh produce for folks in our food pantry who can't afford fresh fruits and vegetables. That's a direct link between denying ourselves to give to others.

So, let’s start. Come together this Tuesday as we celebrate and then turn our eyes to the Lenten season ahead of us. Our season starts with writing down things we want to change in our lives, then throwing them into a fire along with last year's palms from Palm Sunday and ends with the fire of new life at the Great Vigil of Easter. The 40 days in between will not complete a new spiritual you, but it’s a great beginning.

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