One of the gifts of being a part of a community of faith is the ability to situate ourselves in a larger story. Human relationship is a network of community. I am a friend. I am a sibling. I am a spouse. I am a parent. I am a citizen. I am a teammate. I am a beloved child of God. It could be almost anything—we are always placing ourselves within a larger story. This is good during times of struggle, challenge, division, or frustration. It’s a gift to know that we are not alone in this life and that our story is beautiful on its own, but also deeply a part of something more than ourselves.
As people of faith, as followers of Jesus, we are invited to find ourselves in God’s love-life story in the Bible and the world around us. Sometimes, it is so very easy to find ourselves there; at other times, it’s a real challenge. Since I have begun as the new priest of Epiphany I have started to find myself in the larger story of our parish--our history, both old and new.
Last week I found myself looking through the parish register of our church from 1918. I was looking for something in particular. And I found it. It happened on September 29th, 1918 and lasted till October 13th, 1918. Just three weeks. I was surprised by how brief it was. Considering that the event cost the lives of nearly 50 million people worldwide. What I saw in our parish register was that the Parish of the Epiphany closed its doors to worship for three Sundays in the fall of 1918. And the reason: “because of Influenza” (see photo). That is all that was noted. We know that there was much more to the story. It was just one part of a larger whole.
Even now I am thinking with the staff and leadership or our parish about how we can do more than “mark our parish register” to remember and commemorate this pandemic. We have stories to tell, grief to express, lives to remember, and gratitude to share.
As we enter this week, observing Ash Wednesday together on Wednesday, February 17th, I invite you into a Holy Lent. The phrase in our liturgy is to “observe a Holy Lent”, but I’m thinking, since we all have been “living Lent” for over a year now, we might do best to observe our life and the world around us. What are you noticing in yourself? What do you see in this world of ours, so full of beauty and companionship, as well as despair, division, injustice, and violence? If we can observe rightly, we may begin to see an invitation into something more. We may begin to see ourselves as part of a larger story. We might begin to see that the antidote to our deepest anxieties is to let our inward gaze turn toward our neighbor in love, empathy, and service. That would be a truly Holy Lent—a holy living.
God’s peace is yours,