A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: A Deeper Practice
In my Ash Wednesday sermon this week, I talked about how the purpose of spiritual disciplines is to help orient our hearts towards God, to seek the treasure of our lives in God’s presence with us, and purpose for us.
The season of Lent, which began with Ash Wednesday, is traditionally a season of repentance and deepened commitment to practicing our faith, both as a means of preparing for the celebration of Easter.
Some Christian traditions emphasize the penitential dimension of the season by encouraging people to give up something that they enjoy to demonstrate the sincerity of their new direction (the word for repentance in New Testament Greek literally means “to change one’s mind or direction”).
This is where the tradition of giving up chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, etc. for Lent comes from. In the Reformed theological tradition, from which Presbyterian comes, the emphasis has generally been on the deepened practice of faith; we often say we take something up, rather than give something up, for Lent. Given our emphasis on faith seeking understanding (an “inquiring faith,” as we call it in our Core Values here at First Pres), Presbyterians have often fulfilled this call by taking up a deeper practice of studying Scripture or theology.
As Lent begins, I want to encourage you to consider something that fulfills both these dimensions of Lenten practice: joining the first event in a series hosted by the Discipleship Committee called “Constructive Conversations.” The first session is on ‘Engaging Our Faith in Public Life’, which I will be leading tomorrow, Saturday, Feb. 29, at the church from 8:30 a.m. – noon.
This program clearly fits into a deepened practice of faith, as we consider the crucial and challenging issue of how our faith informs and even compels our participation in public life, and how we do so in a way that is both faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ and constructive in the public discourse of democracy, especially in these highly polarized times. And it also counts as giving something up: a Saturday morning that could have been spent lazing around the house!
So whatever your reason, it’s not too late to begin Lent well and decide to join the conversation tomorrow. I hope to see you there!
Grace and Peace,
Please sign up if you plan to attend Constructive Conversations