A Lenten Homily by James Potts
“Let the arrogant be put to shame, for they wrong me with lies; * but I will meditate on your commandments.” (Psalm 119:78) “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind, and to things that should not be done.” (Romans 1:28)
It occurred to me that during Lent, it is important to think about how we can actively work on acknowledging God, and, to meditate on how God is seeking to direct our lives. I think there is a practice or an approach for acknowledging God and seeking direction, that can also fit within the framework of what we aim to do with our spiritual practice during Lent.
In Lent, we seek to give something up or to simplify our lives. I would venture to guess that your lives are very full, and if you are like me, or the people I know, your days are long and busy. Filled with distractions, busy with activities and tasks. Our days are filled with communication coming at us from multiple people; from family, from friends and colleagues at work, from the Government and the News Media. Communication that comes in multiple forms: from meetings and conversations, to emails and phone calls, radio, television, texts or instant messages, or postings from your connections in social media or via other methods that have multiplied over the internet.
All this amounts to a sea of distractions that call for our attention, and it’s hard to keep our train of thought or our focus. We often see people ignoring others who are in their presence, while they attend to the stray messages that pop on to their screens. Or we see people just seeking to remove the chance of interacting with someone, by scrolling through a news feed or checking messages on their phone.
When we keep this busy, it’s hard to know, or to process what is on our own minds and what we are truly feeling. We are continually responding the next interruption or task that demands our attention, whether they are important, or not. I think, it would not be too much of a stretch, to say that the level of distraction and busy activity that we experience, is in some way like having a “debased mind” If living at this pace with this level of distraction makes it hard for us to know our own mind or to process our own intentions, how much harder is it for us to acknowledge God? Or to connect in some way to God’s intention for us?
So here we are in a world that is over-filled with instant information, communication, and distraction, and all the demands of our busy lives. We are distracted to the point where we are probably failing to acknowledge God. As a result, we may be spending our time and attention on things that we have not chosen or thought through. It’s fair to ask, if we are being given over to doing, in the words of the Psalm “things that should not be done” Well, is there any relief from this condition?
I think there may be an approach that could offer some way to counter the situation and bring us some measure of peace. An approach, that as I mentioned earlier, can fit with our Lenten practice. It is a mix of giving something up, and of focusing on prayer. If we can follow a practice of taking just 20 minutes a day, during Lent, to give up our distractions, interactions and all other activity. And spend those 20 minutes in a form of quiet contemplation, or meditative prayer, we may be able to redress some of the balance that is missing. We may be able to let the distractions fall away and find our way back to a sense of ourselves, and then in a calm and purposeful manner, we can direct our full being to acknowledge God.
There are many possible ways to approach this practice; you will need a quiet space, free from interruption at some point in your day. From what I have read, and from the times I have tried this, 20 minutes is a block of time that is manageable, but also effective; it should allow us time to sit and calm our physical self, and our minds, to the point where we are open to acknowledging God. We can reach a point where an expression of gratitude is more genuine and where an appeal for God’s peace in our hearts, is more likely to be realized. After all, prayer is a conversation with God. A conversation that is best accomplished when we fully present and not through a form of rushed communication as if we were sending a text or email. In addition, in this conversation we should also be doing most of the listening.
I have tried this practice of quiet meditation over the past decade, maybe finding the time to meditate a couple of times a week. It usually helps in allowing me to be more present and patient, especially with my family. In fact, at times when I am stressed, my family tends to recommend that I spend more time in quiet meditation. The other effect that I notice is that this practice makes it easier for me to be, a truer version of myself, less wrapped up in striving and complications of identity, ego, and pride.
With meditation, I feel I might be closer to the version of me that God created, and less clouded by my own confusion. During Lent this year, I have set myself the goal of spending 20 minutes a day in meditation, every day. Of the two components to the practice, I think fasting from distraction is the easier part. More challenging is how to find your own way to an effective form of contemplative or meditative prayer. If you find it hard to manage, ask for advice from our community here at Epiphany. It takes some work to calm our minds and souls. It is not easy to do straight away.
It may be best not to expect too much of yourself in this regard, but just try to approach the exercise with the idea, that simply by slowing down, in a process of quiet prayer, and approaching your prayer without an agenda, you are opening a space. A space that may allow you to acknowledge God’s love and purpose in a quiet manner. Space in which we can meditate, on the path that God is setting before us.
On March 26th, at the 8:45am and the 11:00am services, the Rt. Rev. Michael Turnbull is preaching. The Right Reverend Michael Turnbull is a retired senior Bishop in the Church of England. Michael Turnbull was born in Yorkshire and was a student at Oxford and Durham Universities. After pastoral ministries in Manchester, Luton, and York he became CEO of an international charity on the front line of Christian compassion for the needy and homeless.
Michael became Bishop of Rochester, Kent, in 1988 and moved to Durham as a bishop with a seat in the House of Lords in 1994. In addition to his pastoral ministry in Durham, he campaigned for political recognition of deprived areas and also for a reform of the central structures of the Church of England. He was much involved in the House of Lords on the relationship of church and state, about which he wrote his latest book The State of the Church and the Church of the State.
In retirement he has lectured on cruise ships and led many pilgrimages to the Holy Land and other places. He is married to Brenda and they live in Kent, close to Canterbury. They have three children and seven grandchildren.
Get your Tickets Before They Are Sold out!
Gala Fundraising Dinner and Concert
Prominent musicians, Tekla Cunningham, violinist, Nathan Whittaker, cellist and Henry Lebedinsky, harpsichordist will get the evening started with a chamber concert in the Chapel. Next, we will move to the Great Hall for a catered, sit-down dinner. The evening will conclude back in the Chapel with the Epiphany Seattle Music Guild Cabaret.
$100 per Ticket * Limited seating
Funeral for longtime parishioner, Connie E. Gaines will held at Epiphany Parish on
April 1, 2017 at 1 pm in the church.
Be an Easter Bunny! Help YWCA shelter kids celebrate Easter by giving them an Easter basket!
You can purchase a pre-filled basket or fill one yourself with fun things like toys, candy, books, hygiene needs, socks, or learning supplies. Baskets can be for any age, boy or girl (range $15 – $20). Each basket will make a difference to a child in need.
Drop off by Sunday, April 9, 11:00 am service. Thank you!
Easter Egg Hunt – Fun for the Whole Family
April 15, 2017 – 9:30 am
We are having our Easter Egg Hunt on Holy Saturday! Invite your neighbors and friends to enjoy bagels and then scour the grounds for plastic eggs. Gather at 9:30 am in the Great Hall for bagels and activities, followed by the hunt. Separate parts of campus will be assigned to different age groups in the spirit of fun and fairness.
As we move through this rainy, rainy Lent towards a glorious Easter, we are also moving toward our next women’s retreat at St. Andrew’s. Every spring for years we have gathered as a group to share our Easter season joy and to come together, with new friends and old, to celebrate spring. This year we are joining together the weekend after Easter, April 21-23. While we may still need some fleece, think flowers and sunshine and, hopefully, a little less rain, or at least less severe storms.
For more information, check our retreat page on the Epiphany web site. Many of you already know Emily Linderman, formerly a cherished member of Epiphany’s staff and now leading her own spiritual direction practice. Our theme is “What is Trying to be Born.”
Celebrating Life in the Resurrection: A Workshop on Planning the Celebration of Your Life through Faith, Hope and Love!
Sat. March 25 – Bloedel Hall, Saint Mark’s Cathedral, 9:00 am-2:30 pm
“What sacred songs has the Holy Spirit written upon your heart? We’ll sing, pray, and explore this deep treasury of words and music together.” – Michael Kleinschmidt, Canon Musician, Saint Mark’s Cathedral.
Join Bishop Rickel and friends for pastoral perspectives and practical advice on planning funerals and memorials. Time for Q&A at round table discussions. All participants receive the Diocese’s Life Planning Manual. Cost: $20, includes lunch and many handouts. Space is limited, please register today at: www.celebratinglifeintheresurrection.eventbrite.com.
Standing Rock Legal Benefit Concert
Sunday, April 2, 2017, at 3:00 pm
Organist Sheila Bristow and friends present a varied music program to benefit legal defense of the Standing Rock Sioux. This concert is at Church of the Redeemer, 6210 Northeast 181st Street, Kenmore, Washington. Admission is by a free will offering. The program includes solo organ works, duet for trumpet and organ, and vocal and instrumental solos. Proceeds of this concert to benefit the legal defense of the Standing Rock Sioux. Make checks payable to Church of the Redeemer. For more information, go to http://bit.ly/COR-SRDF.
Sunday Lectionary Corner
Fourth Sunday in Lent