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Lenten Reflections

Welcome to our Shaped by Faith Lenten Reflections! Each day in Lent we will publish a reflection written by a member of our diocese. These short meditations will focus on key themes in the mission of Shaped by Faith — Discovery, Experiment, Collaboration, Creativity, Change, and Faith. We hope that these meditations will help you dive deeper into your own Lenten journeys and into the community of participants in this diocesan initiative.

This week we are focusing on change.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020. This reflection was written by The Rt. Rev. Dr. Audrey Scanlan.

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 

2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12: 1-2

I have been praying this portion of Paul’s letter to the Romans for months now-  each day as I begin the day-  asking for the ability to hear God’s will for my life, asking for God give direction to our diocese as the Body of Christ, and asking for the courage to follow.

To live according to God’s will is to be responsive, discerning, and willing to change.  Like Peter at the Transfiguration (Mt. 17:1-9), we are eager to capture and freeze moments of glory… and to do everything that we can to stay there- even when Jesus has moved on, and is headed down the mountain to the next blessing, the next wondrous deed.  We need to keep up with Jesus- to be responsive to his leading and know that change is often the vehicle that brings new life.

What in your life is a vestige of former days that is keeping you back from living into the fullness of life that God has for you?  What change might uncover a new vitality for you, your family, your church?

2/27/2020
This week in our Shaped by Faith Lenten Reflections, we are focusing on change. This reflection was written by The Rev. Grant Ambrose.

One of the most powerful arias in Handle’s Messiah is “The Trumpet Shall Sound”. The aria is preceded by the Recit: “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). At the heart of the verse we find, “we shall all be changed.”

Change – for many the word sends chills down their spines; yet, change is essential in our walk with Christ. A well-lived season of Lent will challenge us to examine our lives and see how we need to change to be closer to Christ and more Christ-like in our relationship with others. While this examination is certainly a challenge, the greater challenge is being willing to change. When Jesus healed the sick person at Beth-zatha, Jesus first asked, “Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6). In other words, do you want to be changed? After all, ultimate change is up to us.

As we walk our Lenten pilgrimage this year, let us seriously consider not only what we need to address and change in our relationship with Jesus and our neighbors, but also really, truly consider, first and foremost, our willingness to be changed by Christ. May God give us a heart that strives for change – change that leads us closer to Christ and our neighbor.

Listen to this moment from Handel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rQYv8EsGSQ #sbflent2020 #diocpa

2/28/2020
This week in our Lenten reflections, we are focusing on change. This reflection was written by The Rev. Canon Chris Streeter, Canon for Mission Development and Innovation.

During our staff Bible study last week, we spent time discussing the difference between transfiguration and transformation. We borrowed the BCP definition of a sacrament (pg. 857) and suggested that transfiguration is “outward and visible”; transformation is “inward and spiritual.” Canon Dan, our resident Greek scholar, pointed out that the same Greek word – metamorphoó – is used for both. Scripture makes no distinction between the two actions.

I thought about this non-distinction in regards to the work we are undertaking through our Shaped by Faith initiative. I find that some of us are comfortable talking about the outward and visible changes that may result from this process (often related to our buildings and people). Others have energy around the inward and spiritual changes we are called to enact, both individually and communally. Faithful change, the kind of change modelled by Jesus, is not an either/or. It is a both/and. We are asked to hold both aspects of change together.

David Whyte, an English writer and poet I like, wrote this poem in 1994 to mark the introduction of the Boeing 777:

Working Together

David Whyte

We shape our self to fit this world

and by the world are shaped again.

The visible and the invisible working

together in common cause

to produce the miraculous.

I am thinking of the way the intangible

air passed at speed round a shaped wing

easily holds our weight.

So may we, in this life trust

to those elements we have yet to see or imagine,

and look for the true shape of our own self,

by forming it well to the great intangibles about us.

I appreciate how he paints the process of shaping, of changing, as two-fold: a giving and receiving between the visible and invisible elements of this world. When working together, they produce the miraculous.

What unexpected, miraculous place are we being called to this Lent? What visible and invisible elements might merge to transform and transfigure? Are we willing to invite such change in our own hearts, and into the spirit of our church?

2/29/2020
This week in our Shaped by Faith Lenten Reflections, we are focusing on change. This reflection was written by Carolyn Joy Patterson, Assistant to the Bishop and Human Resources Administrator:

So, last Sunday my husband and I drove our oldest baby to Newark to put him on a plane to Spain for his gap year adventure. Of course, as a good 2020 Mum, I posted a couple of photos on Facebook; my caption was “There he goes…heading off into the world.” It’s his first big trip on his own. It’s the farthest away from the nest he’ll be for the longest time ever. It felt kind of momentous – a change of season of sorts.

In the days that have followed I’ve felt the change more acutely than I thought I would. I knew I’d miss him, but this is the era of texting and messaging and Facebook and Instagram – you’re never too far away, right? But it does feel different. Even as I’ve been cleaning his room (believe me — this trip is worth it to get that done alone!) and doing the bits of laundry he left behind, I could feel the change begin in my role as Mum. How I parent this, my first born baby boy, will never quite be the same again. Even as I get used to cooking less food at dinner and not buying the kool-aid packs he likes to flavor his water, I know times are changing. He’s now my adult son. When he returns from this adventure, he’ll be my college-bound son. I have to remember that how I parent will have to change. But then, looking back, it’s changed all through his life. I’m not the same parent who fed her newborn in the NICU, or rocked him to sleep in the middle of the night because he was fussy, or who read his favourite Tigger book for the millionth time (or memorized the Stuart Little movies for that matter). That parent had no idea what it would be like loving and guiding the teen-aged high schooler and all the laughter and angst that brings.

How we parent necessarily changes. But how we love is constant. I’ve always told my two boys that they better remember that, no matter how big and important they get in life, I am the one who has held them, and loved them, since they were tiny helpless babies, so I know who they are (I brought you into this world….etc!) But seriously, no matter how big and important they get in life – or not – I have loved them and will love them with the same fierce, constant, unconditional love.

That’s what God does for us. No matter what. His love is constant and unconditional. No matter how far we travel – no matter how far we fall or how high we rise – no matter how we change in who we are or how we see God – our Heavenly Father loves us fiercely and with undying constancy.

3/1/20
This week in our Shaped by Faith Lenten Reflections, we are focusing on change. This reflection was written by The Very Rev. Dr. Amy D. Welin.

We begin Lent in St. Stephen’s by praying the Great Litany. We pray for mercy and deliverance from evil; we pray for others; we ask to be healed and transformed.

None of this is comfortable.

We chant this long litany on our knees. It is very different from our usual pattern of worship. We ask forgiveness for sins. We intercede for those we do not know or may not like. The simple tones of the chant echo in the sanctuary with a melancholy rhythm.

We implore the Holy One to change our life, to change our vision, to change us.

Our hunger for transformation, so often suppressed and invisible, emerges fiercely in early Lent. We know our inner famine for wholeness and holiness. We know the shame and anguish that come from our weakness and sinfulness. Only God can offer us the deep change we need. Only faith can shape our hearts and souls anew.

O God, Holy One, come quickly to help us and let us find you mighty to save.

This week in our Lenten reflections, we are focusing on Change. This reflection was written by The Rev. Canon Ken Wagner-Pizza

Even youth take time to adjust to change! This past fall the
Williamsport Youth Group was formed (still working on a cooler name). It
was formed by youth leaders and youth from Trinity Pro-Cathedral, New
Covenant UCC, First Church of Christ Disciples, and St. Luke Lutheran
Church. The pictures show new LED lights shining on the steeple at Trinity
on a snowy night and youth inside on a steeple bell and clock tower tour,
which was during a gym night in Trinity’s gym. This weekly gathering ended with a faux fireside compline in the youth room. The leader was a young lady from the UCC church that had never before prayed compline. Bringing these youth together has changed the shape of youth meetings. It brought energy and a bit of chaos, but it has been a joy to have a greater number of youth and blend our traditions together as we create new traditions. We have already re-shaped this Winter by having “small” group time at our individual churches on the third Sunday of the month. May the light of Christ lead you to being open to changes and willing to let Christ’s light continually re-shape your faith! Amen.

3/3/20
This week in our Lenten reflections, we are focusing on Change. This reflection was written by The Rev. Veronica Donohue Chappell.

The Lenten journey will culminate in the acts that changed the world forever—the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Ponder the changes that Jesus’ life brought for all of eternity—a new way of looking at ourselves, our societies, our very world. This new way emphasizes other before self, love before law, forgiveness before retribution.

How are you living into the new world? Have you accepted the changes that following Jesus requires—holding up the other, loving when it’s difficult, forgiving even when you can not forget?

3/4/2020

This week in our Lenten reflections, we are focusing on the theme “Experiment.” This reflection was written by The Rev. Canon Dan Morrow, Canon for Congregational Life and Mission.

My twin brother teaches high school science back in Oklahoma. A few years back, I visited his classroom (at the same school we graduated from) and was transported back in time to those days of beakers and Bunsen burners. I remember our teachers spelling out how the scientific method works. First, you ask a question, then you research and construct a hypothesis. After these preliminary steps, you test with an experiment. If the results of the experiment align with the hypothesis, then they are communicated. If they don’t align, then the experimental data becomes the background research for new experiments, new questions, or new procedures.

There’s wisdom here for the church. First, in this new age for the Church, God may be calling us to try new things, new experiments in reaching out to world, new ways of worshipping, organizing or being church. God may be asking us to examine new questions, new ways of being community, new ways of preaching the Gospel. Lent is a perfect reminder that repentance is actually a process of learning new ways of being, asking new questions, and examining old assumptions.

Second, there is a high tolerance for failure built into this process of experimentation. Again, isn’t Lent in some ways about recognizing failure and committing to try again? Churches often put all their eggs into a new program, a new staff position or a new service. If it doesn’t work out, then energy and commitment are low, followed by a reticence to try new things again. What if, instead, we were committed to low-cost, low buy-in, easy to reproduce experiments for reaching out to our communities? Our Bishop Out of the Box program is dedicated to offering an example of just this kind of thing. If our experiments don’t work, then we learn from our mistakes, ask new questions, wipe the dust from our feet and experiment again. 

So, ask some questions, do some research, experiment, evaluate and repeat. All for the Glory of God. Amen.

3/5/2020

This week in our Lenten reflections, we are focusing on the theme “experiment.” This reflection was written by The Rev. Eric Hillegas.

Experiments are exciting because the world is both ordinary and extraordinary, foreign and familiar, magical and reliable. They harness the mundane and launch us into mystery. Experiments plunge us into the familiar and reveal the unknown. 

Our family has a basket of Legos that invites our toddler (and her parents) to experiment with our imaginations. Part of the fun, especially with a toddler, is pushing the limits of possibility. So it’s no surprise when our fanciful, wobbly experiments come crashing to the ground with peals of laughter. It’s all part of the fun. After all, they’re just experiments.

But not all experiments are the same. Some experiments invite us to push the limits of possibility. Others invite us deeper into reliable truths. Lent is an experiment that invites us deeper into the truth of divine love. 

Lent begins when the God who names Jesus “beloved” at his baptism also leads him into the wilderness. It’s a grand experiment; not for Jesus to push the limits of possibility, but to embrace the deeply nourishing, sustaining, and reliable truth of God’s love. As we follow Jesus into the grand experiment of Lent this year, let’s allow ourselves to be drawn deeper into the same divine love. The good news is that our journey into God’s love is an experiment that never fails.

3/6/2020
Faith Neece

Six months ago I moved from Knoxville, Tennessee to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to participate in the Sycamore House, our diocesan Episcopal Service Corps Program. I started a new job at our diocese. I researched these positions as best I could before committing to them. But ultimately, there were still many unknowns. I had never visited Harrisburg before. I didn’t know what living in Pennsylvania would be like. I didn’t know any of the people I’d live or work with. I didn’t know what my job or co-workers would be like. This year has been an adventurous experiment. And it’s ongoing. The program ends in early August, and I don’t know what my future holds after that.

It seems to me that the church is in an adventurous experiment too. We are having to change, grow, and adapt. It’s difficult because we don’t know how these changes will pan out. We don’t know what the future will hold.

But the thing is, none of us do. There is no such thing as a steady future. We can plan all we want, but tomorrow is always outside of our control.

I can’t know my own future. I can’t know the church’s future. But I know what it is to be present. And I think that’s really the will of God. I typically conceive of God’s will as some future thing. Something I will discern and accomplish some day. But it’s right here and now. The will of God is whatever is in front of me at any given moment. As it’s been said, the mission field is between your feet.

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. As Jesus said, we have to let tomorrow worry about itself. But we can still commit to the task given to us when we don’t know the outcome. We can trust that we have enough for today. In faith.

3/7/2020
The Rev. Janis Yskamp
When we speak of an experiment, we are often thinking about experiencing something new, something different from our everyday thoughts and concerns.  We want things to change; we want things to be more enjoyable; we want something to bring more satisfaction into our lives. We want to discover a new way of being. But, we also want to control how things are, to manage how things will be.  

We consider experimenting with a new kind of food, exercise, activity.  But, these things are fleeting because they usually bring us back right to the point where we started. 

Perhaps, what we really need is to experiment with a new relationship with our Creator and the gift of all Creation.  How do we create this new relationship?  That may seem like an overwhelming task. I think the most important thing for us to do is to let go of our preconceived ideas and let go of our need to be in control.  Let go, and let God lead us into that new relationship. 

The following prayer struck me as a good way to begin to this experiment.  

The Welcome Prayer by Fr. Thomas Keating

Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me in this moment, because I know it is for my healing. 

I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for security.
I let go of my desire for approval.
I let go of my desire for control.
I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person, or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and the healing action and grace within. Amen.

3/9/2020
The Very Rev. Robyn Szoke-Coolidge, Dean of the Stevenson School for Ministry.

How is this season of Lent impacting your faith?  Are you experiencing any trials or temptations to recall this day?  Our reflection word for today is experiment.  The ancient scripture uses the Greek word peirasmos, which often translates as trial or temptation but can also mean experiment. It is found in the Lord’s Prayer where Jesus taught the disciples to pray, “Lead us not into a time of trial.” Imagine if this prayer, which we pray every day, asked God to lead us not into a time of experiment, or a time to make discovery, or a time to test our way of life? The greater context of the meaning of trial or “experiment” in the Lord’s prayer is a challenge to gain total dependence on God even to take away that which could lead us away from God.  And that is the way of Lent.  There are trials and temptations and, of course, experiments, but the prayer teaches us the depth of our relationship to God that guides us through.

Remember how the life of faith in Pennsylvania began as a Holy Experiment. There was a time of trial, a test to discover if it was possible that people of all different religious persuasions and beliefs could build community together. If we reach back into our history the founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn put his Quaker beliefs and practices into action by engaging in this Holy Experiment.

The desire was to rebuild the persecuted church in a new location. It was designed to repair divisions and begin again in a welcoming, inviting location where diversity and change were sought from the beginning.

This Lent, let us consider our own Holy Experiment, how our faith in God takes us more deeply into and through a time of discovery, a time of temptation, and yes, even a time of trial to allow God’s will be done.

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