Archbishop Craig Bates, the Patriarch of the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church, released this pastoral letter on CEC Home this week in preparation for Lent, which begins on Wednesday.
In a few days, the Bishops and Priests of the Charismatic Episcopal Church will call us to a Holy Lent. They will exhort us to self-examination, prayer, confession, fasting, and the study of and meditation upon Holy Scripture. This is not only a season in preparation for our celebration of the Great Paschal Mystery but also a time in and of itself where we become more intensely aware of the awesome grace and mercy of God. We enter into the season aware not only of our sin but also the loving kindness of God.
The journey of Lent is a time to further press in to the love of God. This journey always begins with the recognition of our own mortality – from dust we come and to dust we shall return. This recognition draws us to remember that the God of all creation took on this mortal flesh. And, through obedience and suffering conquered sin, the world and the devil – those forces that war against us in our journey towards His love. And, He is restoring in us the human dignity that was always intended by the Creator.
Around us are constant reminders of man’s inhumanity. We enter the season with reports of a possible genocide in Libya. But this is just one example of the reality of hatred and evil. We think of the number of abortions that were committed last year. There are civil wars that are being waged in so many countries with the accompanying murders and rapes. We are aware of the increasing sex trade industry particularly as that industry impacts minors. We are aware of the vast poverty around the world that brings with it hunger, disease, and crime. And, so often poverty is a result not of lack of resources but greed, corruption, and the un-just distribution of resources.
We are called, as the season of Epiphany taught us, to be “salt and light” in this sinful and fractured world. We were also reminded that the call upon our lives is a life of vulnerability through rejecting violence, embracing love even of our enemies, of absolute truthfulness, and by finding our security not in worldly pursuit and pleasures but in the faithfulness of God – the rock on which we can build our foundation.
Lent then calls us to examine our foundation. We can build our foundation on money, prestige, self-indulgence, or even preaching, healing or wonder-working in Christ’s name. These are not a foundation for life let alone the Kingdom of God. Our foundation must be built on the faithfulness of the Father’s love given to us daily.
The disciplines of Lent are not to toughen us up spiritually. Prayer, Mediation on Scripture, and fasting draw us from the “stuff” of mortality and remind us of our immortality in Christ. They call us for a season to re-examine ourselves and determine if our perspective on life is one of eternity. We may fool others, but God cannot be deceived. He sees the heart as it truly is – with its motives, intentions, desires, and choices.
And, so I call each of us in the CEC to a Holy Lent. Because of the leading of the Holy Spirit we will all come to its conclusion ready to live out the Paschal Mystery in a deeper realization of His love.
Under His mercy,