LENT AT INCARNATION
Lent is a 40-day season in which we prepare ourselves for Easter. Through reflection and repentance, we begin to clear away the dry brush and break up the hard soil of our lives so that Christ's resurrected life may grow in us. The season begins with dust on Ash Wednesday and culminates with flowers on Easter Sunday.
This will be our third pandemic Lent together, and most of us are entering this season weary and uncertain. Every headline from Kyiv reminds us that the world is so horribly broken. You may wonder: how can we possibly think about Lenten disciplines at a time like this? Isn't life hard enough?
I'd respond in two ways. First, yes, absolutely. Life is hard, news is bleak, and we are tired. Perhaps what some of us need most this Lent is simply to rest in the presence of God. If this is you, remember: every Sunday is a little Easter. Every Sunday we look squarely at the evil in the world and dare to proclaim this is not the end of the story. Every Sunday we taste and see the reality of resurrection through worship and feasting together. If a season of "little Easters" is all you can muster this Lent, that's okay; may your resurrection hope take root and grow.
But I would also suggest that perhaps Lenten disciplines are exactly what we need to face the hardship of life and the pain of the world with the abundant resources of the kingdom of God. Spiritual disciplines invite God to meet us, fill us, and form us. What do you need from God this Lent? What practices might help you receive it?
The traditional Lenten practices are prayer, fasting, and acts of charity, and there are endless creative ways you might incorporate them this Lent. Below are a few opportunities Incarnation is offering.
Prayer and worship
We still gather for midday prayer every Tuesday and Thursday at noon over Zoom; why not join us this Lent? The service lasts 15-20 minutes. Info and links to join on the Virtual Worship page.
We will hold a Lenten Prayer Retreat on Saturday, March 19, 9:30am-12pm at the Ortegas'. Join us for a morning of quiet contemplation.
Sing your prayers, laments, and hopes in a Lenten Worship Night on Wednesday, March 30, at 7:30pm at the Vicarage. If you have an instrument, bring it and play along!
Finally, this sung Ukrainian Lord's Prayer has been a welcome companion to my prayers this week, and I offer it for yours as well!
Fasting: setting down and taking up
The discipline of fasting is not about self-improvement, but about giving God access to more of our bodies, our calendars, and ourselves. We willingly set down one of God's good gifts so that God might fill that space with the gift of his presence. Common Lenten fasts include meat, alcohol, sweets, television, or social media (and as a congregation, we fast from the word "alleluia" during Lent).
Some people also choose to take up a new practice, rather than (or in addition to) setting down an old one. A "fast" like this may include reading a Lenten devotional (several people are reading Tsh Oxenreider's Bitter & Sweet - please join in!) or adding a time of scripture meditation, prayer, or other spiritual practice to your day. I also enjoy Art & Theology's daily Lent posts each year, as well as her curated Lenten playlist.
Acts of charity
Lent is also a traditional time of service, the kind of fasting described in Isaiah 58:6: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” This is a season to listen to the stories of the poor and oppressed, and to generously give our time and money toward loosening the "bonds of wickedness." (My blog from last week included some suggested resources and practices for engaging issues of racial justice over Lent.)
This week, we are collecting a special offering for emergency relief to Ukraine through Anglican Relief and Development Fund. Give online or by texting a dollar amount and "Ukraine" to 843-21. We will also collect a special offering during Holy Week to give away to an organization ministering outside our walls (we'll announce the recipient later in Lent).
HOLY WEEK SERVICES
Join us the final week of Lent for our Holy Week services remembering Jesus' journey toward the cross:
Palm Sunday procession of palms, Apr 10, 10am at Randolph.
Maundy Thursday footwashing and communion, Thursday, Apr 14, 7pm at Greenbrier Baptist.
Good Friday Tenebrae service with Greenbrier, Friday, April 15, 6pm at Greenbrier Baptist.
Easter Sunday celebration, April 17, 10am at Randolph. Please bring cut flowers from your garden!
NEW MASK GUIDANCE
Throughout this pandemic our aim has always been to love one another and love our neighbors, especially the most vulnerable. That has often meant that we have tended toward extra caution in our COVID protocols (masks, distance, limited numbers, etc). But living within those protocols has also created new vulnerabilities, taking a toll on the social and emotional development of our kids and on the mental health of us all. In the meantime, better tools for mitigating the virus have emerged — vaccines, boosters, and more effective masks — and the trajectory of the disease has constantly shifted.
We have been watching and praying about how we will begin to take steps out of this pandemic when the time comes. And it seems, at last, the time has come. Last week, Arlington transmission rates dropped to the “low” category and new CDC guidance was released. On Monday, Arlington Public Schools released their new guidance. Here are the latest changes and how they will affect us:
As a tenant of Arlington Public Schools, we adhere to their guidelines. As of March 1, masks are no longer required on APS property. This means that as of Sunday, March 6, masks will no longer be required at church.
If you are experiencing any cold- or flu-like symptoms, or if you have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID, we request that you stay home and Zoom to church. Pajama church from the couch has its perks!
We encourage everyone to use the space creatively. The chairs are moveable — take advantage! Prop open a door and sit near it. Move to a side aisle with a bit more distance from your neighbors. Find a way to make the space work for you!
Finally, respect the different caution levels of others. If you see someone masked, offer to put your own mask on before talking to them. Be courteous.
For some this is wonderful, welcome, liberating news. For others, it might be scary, worrisome, perhaps even angering. For parents of children too young for vaccination, we recognize this is an especially challenging time with so many variables to consider.
So I want to remind you again, as I said on Sunday: we are all weary, and we are all doing the best we can with the information we have. We are going to need to keep talking and listening to one another. Whatever we decide to do with our own masking habits, we will still need to be mindful of others' choices and help one another feel seen and safe and respected. Wherever you are in this, whatever you are feeling, please reach out to me or Liz so we know how to pray and care for you as we navigate changes together.
How are you feeling about masks? About Lent? What practices are you considering? Let us know — we love to hear from you!
As we enter this third pandemic Lent together, may we hold tightly to Jesus and to one another, longing for the renewal of all things and delighting in each "little Easter" along the way.