Pastors Need Their Own Lenten Experience
Ash Wednesday comes very early this year. February 10 seems to be arriving before we are finished getting some rest after the exhausting Advent/Christmas season. It is easy to feel weary already.
Of course you are engaged in planning the multiple activities that enable your congregation to have a meaningful lenten experience. For most pastors, Lent is a hectic five-week season prior to an even more hectic Holy Week that culminates in the celebration of the resurrection on Easter Sunday. You work hard to provide quality experiences of worship, Lenten devotionals, and other events that will encourage Christians to deepen their faith and experience a renewal of their lives.
Be honest. As a pastor, you pour out your energies on behalf of your congregation and look forward to it being over—not because you lack faith but because the events of the season are so demanding that you do not have time to nurture your own faith. Yet the Lenten journey is your journey as well.
I want to invite you to adopt a different perspective that can interrupt and refresh you on your journey.
A PASTOR’S PERSONAL LENTEN JOURNEY
Consider a personal Lenten discipline that you could practice in the midst of your exhausting schedule and be nurtured in the Spirit. You are invited to take out your calendar and identify one-half hour each Wednesday from Ash Wednesday until Easter that you would commit to opening yourself to the presence of God in your personal life. More specifically, you are invited to experience a series of Lenten reflections on the meaning of God’s call in your life.
Take advantage of your sanctuary as the location for your weekly half-hour retreats. The sanctuary is filled with the symbols of the faith, and it is where you engage your people on a regular basis. (If you are not active as a pastor of a church, seek out neighboring church sanctuary or chapel for your retreat.)
Makes use of the psalms offered in the Revised Common Lectionary for the season. The focus of your time of prayer and reflection, stimulated by the words of the psalm, is on deepening and renewing your sense of God’s call in your ministry and life.
I will provide you the reflection for this Ash Wednesday today to begin your experience..
The psalm for Ash Wednesday is Psalm 51:1-17. If ashes are available, take some with you into the sanctuary. Sit about halfway back on a center aisle so that you have a clear view of the chancel area. Think about your sense of God’s call, your current ministry, and how you are feeling about your ministry at this time. Then slowly read the psalm, noting any words or phrases that jump out at you, and pray that God can cleanse you of any negative feelings and renew the “joy of your salvation and sustain in [you] a willing spirit” (51:12) as you enter into this season of reflection on your call.
You may want to read the passage several times. If it feels right to you, you can apply ashes to your forehead at the conclusion of your time as a sign of your commitment.
YOUR SPECIAL HALF HOUR
Now, each Wednesday during Lent, look up the Psalm for that week. Read the Psalm while thinking about your call from God and your current ministry. Read it several times and reflect on what God might be saying to you. Then, take at least ten minutes to write in a stream of conscience fashion on what you are hearing.