Jesse

JOHN 21:1-19 BREAKFAST AT SEASIDE WITH JESUS

By Ms. Barbara Mansfield

I suspect that most of us have experienced being outside walking or hiking or just driving around when we were suddenly struck breathless by the sheer beauty of nature.  Especially in spring time around Easter.  That happened to me a couple of weeks ago, when everything seemed to be at its peak.  I was walking along Redland road, a major thoroughfare in Rockville.

It was early in the morning, and there was a line of blossoming trees.  Now I only know two kinds of flowers— alive and dead.  These weren’t cherry blossom trees, but whatever they were, they were in full, knock your eyes out, bloom.

They had softball sized bundles or clusters of flowers.  When I got to the last tree, there was a branch within reach, and I stood on tiptoe and held it in my hands. 

Honestly, I felt like I was holding the face, of something precious, and I couldn’t help but kiss it. 

It was right after that, when I heard a horn honk. 

I turned and realized it was morning rush hour and I was at an intersection where a string of cars was stopped at the red light. 

And most of the drivers were looking at me.  Thankfully, some of them were smiling and waving, but some looked, well, just kind of “concerned.”

I didn’t care!  I was enjoying that wonderful nature high that spring and Easter can bring. 

And I am determined to hold onto Easter this year with both hands.

You know how the joy of Christmas can get lost after the gifts are opened and winter kicks in to stay for a while?  I think the same thing is true of the joy of Easter.  The promise it gives of new life and the power of love to break through darkness can fade as we slide back into our routines. 

So how do we keep the lifegiving message of Easter in our hearts long after Easter day?  The passage from john that we heard today has a lot to say, but I want to start closer to home, with two things I experienced right here on Easter Sunday.  One was from Javier’s sermon, and the other from nan’s reflection on the front page of the bulletin for that Sunday.

You may remember what Javier said at the end of his sermon.  “I have seen the lord” (quoting the words of Mary Magdalene).  Javier, I saw so much emotion in your face at that moment, and you seemed to gather yourself together.  Then you said, “I have seen the lord in the faces of each of you!  See him in the faces of each other!”

That was a really powerful moment.  I felt surrounded by love and hope. 

And then there was nan’s reflection in the bulletin for Easter Sunday.  Her message was, “do not despair, we are Easter people, sing alleluia!”  If there is anyone who radiates hope and joy, it’s nan! 

I’m still absorbing these two messages, and I see them as an anchor that can keep us connected with the goof news of Easter. 

But I also struggle with it.

I have talked before about the fact that my family was far from being Easter people.  We were good Friday people, and we tended to get stuck there.  Our default mode was darkness, and we were always turning out the light, hunkering down, and expecting the worst. 

I got confirmation of that family tendency to lean toward disaster this Easter, when my sister sent me a text message with a series of photos from the 1870’s that she found in an old family bible.  Among the photos there was a really old greeting card with a small picture of a farmhouse on the front.  Under that, in large print, was the following message:  

“behold! Thy days approach that thou must die!”

I mean, really, what kind of card was that?  Obviously not a get-well card!  A birthday cards?  “you’re fifty!  It’s almost over!”

How much better to drop the darkness and trust this anchoring thought instead:  it’s a combination of what Javier and nan expressed:

Jesus is truly with us and in us and in one another.  Therefore,

Despair doesn’t win, remember Easter, it’s time to sing alleluia!

Now let’s look at the gospel passage and see what it has to say about staying connected to the Easter message. 

To put it in context, it’s the 4th time after his resurrection that Jesus has appeared to people who love him.  And all 3 of the previous ones were filled with intense emotion.  We have been reading about them the past few Sundays.

First, Mary Magdalene at the tomb goes from gut wrenching grief to great joy when she recognizes Jesus.  Next, the disciples, huddled in a small room, afraid that they will be found by the authorities, are stunned to see Jesus come through the locked door. 

Then, the disciples again, this time with Thomas present.  Thomas, who must have felt so ashamed for having insisted on concrete evidence that Jesus was alive.

All of these were so filled with feeling! 

And now we have Jesus appearing at seaside.  I love this story!  It has a softness, a sweetness to it, starting with Jesus calling out, “children, you have no fish, have you?”  Like a loving parent who already knows that his children need and is ready to provide it.  Such a caring intimacy! 

But underneath the serenity, there is something else.  If you wanted a brief synopsis of who Jesus was and is and what he did, this story of breakfast by the sea might do it. 

It hints at earlier events without actually naming them.  For instance, it takes place at the sea of Tiberias, which actually had several names.  One of them was the sea of galilee.

We’ve been there in scripture with Jesus before.  It was where he gathered the first of his disciples saying “follow me.”  It was also where the story of the loaves and fishes too place and where Jesus calmed a stormy sea. 

The fact that this breakfast is at that same place calls up those events for us.  We are also reminded that this is not the first time that Jesus has told his empty-handed fishermen where to throw their nets to find a lot of fish.

In this story, he’s not only showing them where to find sustenance, but he’s actually feeding them.  Jesus was always feeding people.  Sometimes with actual food.  Think of the loaves and fishes, and the bread and wine of the last supper.  But he also fed people who were hungry for hope, for healing, for being included, and for being loved.

And when he tells peter, “feed my lambs,” “feed my sheep,” I think he’s urging peter and you and me as well, to provide more than food.  We are to care for each other, and particularly for the most vulnerable among us. 

Jesus the loving parent, the nourisher, the shepherd, is also the one who forgives.

When Jesus asks Simon peter three times “Simon, son of john, do you love me,” we can’t help but remember the agony of the crucifixion and the fact that peter denied Jesus three times.  Somehow, it feels like Jesus, in asking peter these questions, gives him an opportunity to be redeemed, to turn his denial back into love. 

So, we can see that this account of Jesus with his disciples at Tiberias is packed with subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, reminders that there is so much in the life of Jesus to sing alleluia about!

But the Easter message doesn’t claim that life is going to be without pain.  The last part of this gospel account is very clear about that.  Our lives are made up of both joy and sorrow, sin and redemption, crucifixion and resurrection. 

Jesus tells peter:

“when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished.  But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will taste a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”

There’s a lot of truth in that, isn’t there?

When we’re young, we feel like we are in charge, we have the car keys and can go anywhere.  As we get older, we end up letting go of things—a lot of things.  That sounds like bad news, but maybe it’s not.

When my 91-year old dad was no longer able to take care of himself in his Florida home, I felt like I was the one putting on his belt and taking him where he didn’t want to go, to come up here.  But I knew he needed to here. 

When we surrender to another hand and allow it to guide us, maybe where it takes us is where we need to be.

In fact, maybe that’s where we’ve always been.  Totally dependent on the source of our being, the one who made us. 

We have never been the one in control.  We only thought we were.

But we can be the one willing to follow. 

The reading today from acts also speaks to this.  Paul who had been “breathing threats and murder” had to be knocked to the ground to get the message of how blind he had been in persecuting the followers of Jesus. 

And both he and peter suffered painful deaths. 

Jesus said, “follow me” to his first disciples, and they came with him into his ministry.  When Jesus says “follow me” to peter at the end of this account, he is telling him to come to a very difficult place. 

Let us hold on to the fact that we know that Jesus has already walked that path and that he is not only in front of us but with us and in us every step of the way. 

As the psalm says: “weeping may spend the night, but there is joy in the morning.” 

Amen

Ash Wednesday

By The Rev. Nan Hildebrand

As Ash Wednesday approaches, I always feel a little behind.  I’m never quite ready for Epiphany to end with its extended period of the gifts of awe, adoration, revelation and Thanksgiving and the joy that those emotional states bring to the hard winter months. Given this, I find it ironic that Epiphany is paired with winter with its gray skies, sleet, snow and cold temperatures and that Ash Wednesday is paired with spring and its lengthening days and burgeoning plants.  In Spring, the flower bulbs are peeking through the ground, camellia flower buds are formed and tree branches are waking up.  The ashes we carry on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday mark our recognition not only of our mortality but of the ashes of our lives.  For forty days, we fast, we pray, we confess and face the truth of ourselves and we give thanks for the presence of God through Christ who will be with us through it all.  Our 40 days is a time in the wilderness examining the detritus of our lives and our need for repentance, which requires a level of personal honesty and humility so that we may grow from that rather humiliating task. The humility and truthfulness of the time demands more concentration from us than we are usually willing to apportion to our sprirituality on a daily basis.  We embark on this journey of truth to rebuke our sin and to turn towards a full relationship with God and our neighbor.  The contrast of the seasons belies the fact that rising above all, the celebration and the fast, stands Jesus Christ. Epiphany’s joyousness with deep winter and Lent’s somber introspection with light and growth of spring both reveal the fact of the living Lord among us.  The beauty of it all tis that winter and spring we share with Jesus always leads to summer, the full fruiting of our lives.   

The first few lines of T.S. Eliot’s poem, The Waste Land, nurtures our reflection on Lent and spring. 

“ April is the cruelest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain. 

Winter kept us warm, covering

Earth in forgetful snow, feeding A little life with dried tubers. 

Summer surprised us.  “

Our extended period of Epiphany thanksgiving was like winter as a warm blanket covering earth in forgetful snow.  As the snow melts, memory and desire emerge stirring dull roots with spring rain feeding a little life with dried tubers.  The things that are buried in our hearts and our hurts are alive and have power over us. They have more power over us hidden rather than examined and offered to God.  As spring arrives, the weeds emerge from barren ground just as do the things that we wish to see and to nurture.  The weeds of sin and hubris in our lives always emerge into the open sometime, so what better time than in a period of self-awareness, prayer and confession. It is the weeds emerging along with the lilacs and dried tubers of tulips that we pay attention to during Lent. It is gardening season outdoors and inside ourselves.

With lent and with spring, we are about the wild things and the way they can thrive in the wildernesses in our earthen gardens and in the labyrinthine folds of our psyches and souls.  Ash Wednesday reminds us of the beginnings of our dust and to the dust to which we must return. In Lent, we are about wilderness experiences.: Jesus and ours.  Jesus’ wilderness story is all about Satan and hunger and faithfulness and it is our story too. Jesus’ story of temptation in the wilderness is the best place to begin to examine our own wilderness experience in Lent. Lent mirrors Jesus time in the wilderness.

I depend on Matthew’s story  in chapter 4 of Jesus and Satan and hunger in the wilderness.  Satan has insatiable hunger for power and Jesus’ hunger is rackingly physical.  Here is a synopsis of Jesus meeting Satan in the wilderness.  We will link it to our own encounters with Satan in the wilderness of our souls. Some important facts are:

 

  • Jesus’ time in the wilderness included not only hunger, most certainly thirst, but a 40 day encounter with Satan.
  • Satan, the tempter, waited to tempt Jesus until he was hungry.
  • Satan tempted Jesus to turn stones to bread.
  • Satan tempted Jesus by encouraging him to test God to see if God would truly save him if he threw himself off the highest point of the Temple.
  • Satan tempted Jesus with every known luxury and power from all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would submit to Satan.
  • Jesus ejected Satan from his presence, “Away Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’
  • The devil left Jesus and Jesus was attended to by angels.

The linkages of our liturgies to the creation are strong throughout our entire year.  Jesus’ wilderness is a facsimile of the Garden of Eden, made so lovingly by God for Adam and Eve and the animals.  The Garden’s neglect is now a wilderness currently with a terrible tenant of evil.  Jesus revisits and replays the failure of humankind in the Garden transforming Adam and Eve’s failure into victory for humanity by Christ. Jesus threw the devil out of the wilderness and began the process of recreating the Garden of Eden always promised to us, and now also known as The Kingdom of God.  Jesus always reminds us that we cannot talk about God without being reminded that God created the earth, the heavens, the animals and us and, now, we believe with credible scientific assumptions, also the other forms of life out somewhere in other universes.  The ephemeral of the divine in our contemplation always connects to our bodies, to our mortality, to the mystery of our beginnings and endings and to an examination of the limits of our powers in the face of divine power.  The wilderness story plays the story of humankind forward into a victory story over evil and a victory story that is resonant with the overpowering love of God and the ability of humanity to love others before themselves. 

With brother Jesus’ victory over evil in the wilderness and with his presence the victory of The Kingdom of God on earth, we are able to enter the Lenten season unafraid.  Our wilderness experience is designed for our victory over our own evils.  Christ’s story teaches that the wilderness is the place that evil and the victory over evil can be made. God is always present and God’s angels always attend.

Our Lenten observance requires us to pray. The Lenten prayers in our Prayer Book are the basis for our Lenten spiritual and physical goals.  We are first to speak of the confidence and faith that God hates nothing God has created.  No matter what God does not hate us.  God forgives the sins of all who are penitent.  We can be confident that in our penitence and rejection of sin, perfect remission and merciful forgiveness arrives.   We can be assured that joy arises from our period of self-examination and confession, from our prayer and fasting and self-denial, and by our reading and meditating on God’s holy Words which is no less powerful than the joys of Christmas or Epiphany. 

The birth of Jesus and the season of Epiphany revealed to us the gift we have in Jesus.  We were given a flesh and blood example of the will of God in Jesus and we were given a picture of what we could be in Christ with the invitation to be like Christ.  With this invitation and with the knowledge of Jesus through the Gospel and the lives of the Disciples in The Acts we are given a measuring stick of how far we have to go to be all God intended for us individually and collectively. 

We are given the opportunity to enter our period of fasting and self-denial of the things of which we are overly attached and which separate us from God and from each other.  We are offered the opportunity to refuse the temptation to test God, to bargain with God, and to seek power and luxuries that have nothing to do with God.  We are offered the ways we harm our relationships and the chance to seek God’s help in a cure for sin.  We are offered the period of introspection to see the ways our own self-regard tempts us to over-reach our powers in a way that tries to emulate God rather than emulating Jesus’ humanity. We are offered an opportunity to kneel before God and to refuse to kneel before Satan.  There is nothing less than the drama of the victory of life being played out in all our souls in every day of our lives. From Ash Wednesday to Easter, we have a special opportunity to take a journey away from the blanketing snows of forgetfulness of our unproductive ways and transform the dead roots in dead land into thriving lilacs of a fruitful and blossoming living.  Lent is meant to transform the winter of our souls into the liveliness of springtime in our souls filled with the visions of extraordinary living in perfect harmony with God, with creation and with all that lives on this fertile plain. 

May God bless you during this time of Lent all the way through Easter.  May this be a time of courage, of faithfulness, of truthfulness, of forgiveness, of reformation and, most of all, a time of joy.

Amen

The Rev. Nancy Hildebrand 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart”

By The Rev. Javier Garcia

For centuries Christians have read the story of Jesus’ temptations on the first Sunday in Lent, the season of repentance, a time to take stock of our lives and the direction we’re headed, a time to concentrate on renewal.  But too much emphasis on temptation can deform our sense of repentance.  Temptation talk limits our understanding of repentance to its association with sin. 

Lent is a time to deal with our sin, our separation from God, how we’ve missed the mark, but it’s a lot more than that as well.  Lent is not just for moralists. Repentance means more than being sorry that we’ve drifted and succumbed to temptation.

 The gospel writer St. Mark summarized Jesus’ basic message as God’s kingdom, his rule of love has arrived. Repent. Believe the gospel. But we notice as we read the gospel that Jesus hung out with a lot of people whether they repented from their sins or not. 

 While Jesus called on people in general to repent, he never told individuals to repent.  Never.  Jesus hung out with sinners and criminals, but he did not condemn them, or scold them, or criticize them.  Some of the sinners repented after they had been part of Jesus’ circle, but not because Jesus ordered them to repent.  They belonged first, felt accepted, close to Jesus, and then they changed.

 The gospels suggest that Jesus enjoyed the company of sinners, possibly more than the company of religious folks. 

Let’s do an exercise, close your eyes and think of someone you disapprove of.  Think of a group of people you disapprove of.  Now think of Jesus hanging out with them, laughing with them, enjoying their company.  He didn’t tell them to change their ways or reinforce their shame.  Instead, he identified with them, became friends with them. 

This is an example to the church, that people don’t earn their way to God, that it’s a gift, that Christians might try to widen our own circles.  It tells me: lighten up, reach out, appreciate every person you meet, accept people as they are. 

I bet that Jesus never told any individual to repent because that would have been drawing a line, implying that some people need to repent and others don’t.  The deeper truth is that we all need to repent: not repenting merely about succumbing on occasion to temptation, but a fuller repentance. 

I don’t want to give a Greek class, because I I don’t remember that much now, but the word “Repentance” implies seeing in a new way, seeing beyond convention, beyond what we think we know.  There’s an element of learning in it.  Repentance, the season of Lent, places less emphasis on sin and contrition, and more emphasis on change, growth, seeing in new ways, going beyond where we are now.

The value of reading the temptation story in Lent is not merely Jesus the great moral example, the one who can put Satan in his place, quoting scripture to stick it to him.  Perhaps more exciting, Jesus’ responses to the devil helps us see God in new ways, to raise our sights.  Jesus helps us see God’s way more clearly.

 If Jesus had succumbed to any of the temptations, he would have diminished human dignity, his vision of us as children of God.  Instead, the good news: by refusing the devil, Jesus affirmed that we are capable of caring for each other and sharing what we have; that we are capable of working together and being close to each other; that we are capable of growth and learning. 

This is a great way to see the Gospel and the season of Lent today that we are having our annual meeting.

It has almost been a year since I started as your Priest in Charge. I have to admit that this year has been a bit challenging but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t enjoyed it. This experience has changed my life in many ways. For example: I have read a lot of e-mails way way more than I had to before, I have learned many new words in English and surprisingly a few more in Spanish, I have gotten to know many of you on a more personal level and I have learned many many things some good some not so good but all in love, and I have grown in my spiritual life beyond what I expected.

One of the Goals that set at the beginning of the searching for a priest in Charge was to become One Ascension. We have been working together organizing The 1A Sundays with great success. There is one challenging experience that has happened to the church that has helped us live up to the saying One Ascension. I am speaking about the incident that happened to one of our parishioners that was detained. The Church and the Diocese came together in prayer in support to bring him home to his family and his 1A Family. Much support was shown by the overwhelming number of letters and well wishes that were sent to the court on his behalf and I want to thank you for becoming 1A when it really really mattered.

I really believe that if we continue working together, helping each other and growing in our spiritual life we can be a great congregation. You can see all we have accomplished! We are the only church in the diocese that has all these bilingual services, that means we are the only church that is really supporting each other. We still have a long way to go but I believe we are in the right path.

I invite you, during this Lenten season, to pray for each other, to support each other and to continue working all together for God and His Church. Today, Annual meeting AND First Sunday in Lent, is the best opportunity to start something new something different. We need to let the past be in the past and let’s start something new, a new Ascension that is preparing to be resurrected on Easter Day. Let’s grow together in Love, Faith and of course
in numbers. But… Let’s do it together. This is not one person’s job it is Ascension’s Job.

You know I like to give you homework. Well, at the end of the service, the Welcome Team will give you a little present. You will take this present, “that reminder” home and that way you’ll remember what the preacher for that Sunday said. (like your cover letter explains). But, you also can give that present to a friend or a family member with a note saying something about what you heard during the sermon that you like the most. That way we all are going to be preaching the Gospel and helping others to grow in faith.

May God keep giving us the straight to make this Lent different and having less emphasis on sin and contrition, and more emphasis on change, growth, seeing in new ways, going beyond where we are now. Amen.

 

 

While he was praying, the appearance of his face changed

By The Rev. Javier Garcia 

As Episcopalians, we live in the overlapping seasons of liturgy and nature, each of them sharing a common theme. This should not surprise us, given that our liturgy is always a hymn of praise to this world’s Creator.

Think about the Epiphany season we are now concluding. What began with the Feast of the Epiphany, with its star in the heavens pointing shepherds and wise men to a baby, now ends with the Transfiguration, with Jesus’ own face shining like the sun. In marking the season between these events, we saw how the light of God’s revelation in Jesus becomes clearer and clearer to the disciples, until on a mountaintop it became obviously clear.

So, I’m not going to preach the standard sermon about our gospel story this morning. The one about the significance of Moses and Elijah who first appear with Jesus on the mountain as they discuss His coming passion and departure in Jerusalem, and then disappear before the disciples eyes, leaving only the dazzling presence of Jesus behind to confirm that he is the Son of God and the fulfillment of God’s promises in the Law and Prophets (whom Moses and Elijah represent).

Rather than repeat the whole story I would like to talk about on what happens to both Moses and Jesus when they subject themselves to the transfiguring light and love of God in prayer. What happened to them – especially Jesus — that applies to us?

We just heard how Jesus went up the mountain to pray with Peter, James and John. By the way, prayer is a constant theme in Luke’s gospel, where we see Jesus frequently getting away to pray. While on the mountain together in prayer, the appearance of Jesus’ face changed, and everything about him was transfigured and dazzled with light!

Moses also went up the mountain, as we heard in our first story. When Moses came down, the skin of his face shone because he had been praying and listening to God. His facial expression was radiant because of the radiance imparted to him in the presence of God.

Moses may have been unaware of this at first, but everyone else could see it plainly, so plainly that Moses had to wear a veil in talking to the Israelites! Peter, James and John could also plainly see the radiance that shown in Jesus face and eyes, too.

Just like we can see it plainly in each other. We can plainly see the difference, whether our co-worker or friend or spouse (Spaus) or child’s facial expression is dull, or whether it is bright. Our face and eyes tell the story of the health of our bodies and souls. And when the soul’s fire has cooled and needs to be restarted, the eyes are the windows that tell of the need. (Practice of look at the people close to you on the eyes, what do you see? We have forgotten how to look at people in their eyes but they can tell us a lot of things)

How do we go about restoring the light of our facial expresion? What practices do we have? What form of prayer transfigures us?

That seems like a crucial question for all of us who get weighed down at times by the pace and the challenges of life. We put out a lot of energy trying to live our lives of commitment in a complex world and do the right thing, but we tired out, simply move through the paces with disinterest, or become we are so self-absorbed that we think it’s all about us. So, it’s important to know when our energy and purposes have dissipated, when our fires and passion have cooled down, when a spiritual intervention is needed. When that happens, it’s extremely important to know what works to restore the light of our facial expression. Because knowing it, and practicing it, makes all the difference.

We all need to know what spiritual practices work for us in our everyday lives. What works for you? What do you do to restore the light of your facial expression? It doesn’t have to be exotic or difficult…just reliable.

For instance, Jesus didn’t talk much about the spiritual value of exercise like walking (he didn’t worry about getting his ten thousand steps a day), or getting fresh air. He didn’t have to because he and the disciples got plenty of it in those days as they walked throughout Galilee, but I bet he’d recommend it today!

This shouldn’t be too difficult for us who are blessed to live here where is very easy to find a  beautiful hill and some woods… we have the possibility to take a bike path and do other kind of outdoor exercises. I’m always amazed at how the light of my facial expression and good humors are better after some exercise like walking with friends or Gambit. I had a meeting with the bishop some months ago. I got to her office (you know, very nervous) and the first thing she said to me was: Let’s go for a walk. You don’t know what a beautiful walk we had!! First, I felt more relax and second, I have never walked around the Cathedral, have you?

No doubt why Jesus and his disciples were walking all over Palestine, they probably slept pretty well, too. But getting good sleep, getting Sabbath rest, taking your days off, getting vacation time, or retreating to the wilderness or mountains (as Jesus did) are all reliable ways to restore the light of our facial expression.

What transfigures you? Is it eating healthy, breaking bread and sharing with friends, or our beloved communion as the Body of Christ? Is it reading scripture, or poetry, or some other inspiring works? Is it enjoying human creativity through art and music and theatre?

All of these practices can transfigure us in body, mind and spirit. But among this busy world, there is really nothing quite like some form of prayer, meditation, quiet, and stillness to transfigure us and restore the light of our facial expression.

Before I go to bed, every night  I have my moment of prayer, which then ends with 5-8 minutes or more of silent meditation: Sometimes a form of centering prayer reflecting on a brief passage from scripture. Sometimes just a silence that deepens beyond passing distractions to become an encounter with God’s real loving presence.

What about you? Are you one of those who read the day by day? Or, do you read Compline on P. 127 in the Book of Common Prayer each night to help put the day behind and embrace the night in peace? Do you have a bible app that allows you to pray as you wake or go to bed? Are you one of those who loves to take home a Lenten daily meditation booklet like the one our welcome team can give you today at the end pf the service?

Prayer helps us integrate our religious experience and beliefs about the world in daily life. Daily prayer in its many forms reminds us of our principles and convictions and gives us inner strength and grace to face life’s challenges. It reminds us about the importance of compassion, forgiveness, faith, hope, and love.

Prayer makes us less self-centered and happier people, and as a result, it makes the world a better place. When we quiet the mind and subject ourselves to daily prayer, it is easier to release those negative states of mind like anxiety, fear, anger and  hatred.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the things we’ll notice in reading Luke’s gospel is how often Jesus prayed for spiritual direction and renewal. All the critical moments in his life are followed by prayer. All his powers come through prayer, and it almost seems that he’s the only one with a practice of prayer in Luke’s gospel. But if you continue reading both books of Luke: the gospel and the Book of Acts, you can see that after Jesus has departed, the disciples finally get it!

As we turn now from Epiphany towards Lent, beginning this week with Ash Wednesday, I invite you to take up a practice of some daily form of quiet prayer and stillness that can enlighten our souls, restore our countenance, strengthen our hearts, and embolden our ministries. Just a little in the morning or a little at night can make a big difference! And always pray when you’re facing a challenge!

If you’re uncertain about where to begin, try the brief daily devotions for individuals and families on p. 137 of the BCP that helps us center ourselves in prayer.

Remember, too, that beginning one week from this Ash Wednesday that means on March13, many of us will gather here each Wednesday evening at 6:00 p.m. for a meditative Eucharist as we reflect and discuss our Lenten theme this year: The Woman of the Passion.

So as we prepare to walk with Jesus towards Jerusalem this Lent, let’s get ourselves to the mountain in prayer! AMEN.