A Time for Reflection and Better Connection

Lenten Reflection, Sunday, March 29, 2020

By: Macon Moring, a 9th Grader at St. Christopher’s School

When I was younger, I mainly thought of Lent as a season when I was supposed to give up something for forty days. I heard friends and family speak of giving up unhealthy foods so I did the same. As I have gotten older and more involved with my church, I have come to realize that Lent is about much more than just giving up an unhealthy habit; it is a time for reflection and a time to better connect with God’s holy Word.

Giving up a certain habit or food is a fairly common tradition of Lent that symbolizes Jesus’s sacrifice in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. I used to participate in this tradition as my only understanding of Lent, but now I look at Lent as something greater – a time for self-examination, reflection, and strengthening my relationship with God. However, I have learned valuable lessons through my experiences of giving things up for Lent. Eight years ago during Lent, I gave up eating McDonald’s. I haven’t eaten McDonald’s since. Four years ago, I gave up drinking soda. I rarely drink soda any more. Another year, I gave up chocolate. On Easter morning that year, I could not wait to open up some chocolate eggs. Looking back on these experiences, I realize that there are many things in life I do not need – fast food and soda for instance. Even though I may not need chocolate, I enjoy it enough that I want to continue eating it; however, I appreciate it much more now than I did before I gave it up for Lent.

The season of Lent this year feels very different to me as I assume it does for many people around the world. Many of us are giving up far more than we planned before COVID-19 became a part of our lives. We are giving up attending church, school, work, time with friends, travel, and, sadly, far too many people are giving up their lives. My hope is that this difficult time will bring us all together, make us truly appreciate what we do have, and allow us time to reflect on God’s holy Word and helping others instead of focusing on what we may be giving up.

God Be with Us

Lenten Reflection, Sunday, March 22, 2020

Shared by Robin Lind; Reprinted with permission from Rives Carroll

[As we begin to commemorate the anniversary of VE-Day, the end of the World War II in Europe, 75 years ago, it is fitting to remember the service of not only the soldiers, sailors, and airmen but also the pastors, priests and rabbis who accompanied them, shared their tribulations and ministered to their needs. The following excerpts are taken from “Chaplain, The World War II Letters of Army Air Corps Chaplain Paschal Dupuy Fowlkes,” edited by Rives Fowlkes Carroll; © 2018, reprinted by permission.]

March 16, 1945:
Writing to his wife, back home in Richmond, Virginia with their two small children, the young U.S. Army Air Corps Chaplain in Chalons-sur-Marne, France, expressed his innermost concerns for mankind:

“When we realize that a man’s wealth consists not in what he possesses but in what he does we’ll have taken a first step toward the cure of our universal disease. But the real cure is, I fear, something that requires more heroism than can be faced by most of us.

“Sometimes I feel like two people in the same job. Half of me is, I suppose, taken in by government propaganda and tends to equate the cessation of hostilities with peace. The other half sees that wining the war will, of itself, solve no world problems and may only introduce a new stage that is worse. Between them I don’t know what I’d do — I suppose I’d go crazy — if I was not fighting for ideals that the average G.I. either doesn’t understand or repudiates. It is sadly true. I can’t understand why a man fights for the freedom of the Jews or Czechs or the Filipinos thousands of miles away if he doesn’t believe in freedom for the Negroes or Jews in his home state…*

March 23, 1945:
A week later, preparing his men of the 3rd Battalion, 507th PIR, for an air drop the next morning into Fluren Germany, he exhorted them to prepare for the combat:

“I am particularly anxious that you should see your participation in this struggle in its proper perspective, in relation to the total significance of the struggle itself and in relation to your life. For the struggle itself we can say only that it is a heightened and more violent phase of the battle that went on between good and evil in this world before war was declared and that will go on after the war is past. … The battle for the preservation of decency and of freedom and of justice is a battle that never begins and never ends; it just always is. This makes life, your life and my life, a kind of warfare in which we are ever constantly engaged… Peace, therefore, is never mere absence of war. True peace is that knowledge that comes to us that in the midst of the warfare we are doing out duty. …

“We do not know all the future holds for us. What we think and hope is that it holds high adventure, What we fear is only fear itself. What we know is that if God be with us, as we pray He is, no one can stand against us, and none can keep from us the Peace which comes with knowing that we do His will.”*

March 24, 1945:
This morning, seventy-five years ago, — six weeks before the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany — Army Air Corps Chaplain Captain “Pat” Fowlkes, 29, former rector of two rural Fairfax County parishes, (St. John’s, McLean, and Church of the Holy Comforter, Vienna), was killed by enemy machine-gun fire after parachuting into enemy territory with his troops.

He was survived by his wife and two small children, and a host of aunts and uncles and cousins, many of whom are today members of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.

Living Water and the Bread of Life

Lenten Reflection, Sunday, March 15, 2020

By: Kitty Williams

Is Lent about food and drink?

Some of us view food literally during Lent. We give up a favorite food or drink, or we fast on certain days. But if you’re like me, it gets complicated. Pesky unwritten rules confuse me. Giving up French fries or sugar is healthy, as well. Can I get credit for fasting and wise choices at the same time? The “two-fer” is so tempting — and my own motives get so mixed.

Happily, scripture offers spiritual food and drink that’s good and good for us. In Sunday’s Gospel, for example, Jesus asks a woman for a drink of water, but immediately turns things upside down and offers her Living Water to drink. Naturally, she’s interested, and puzzled. Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus, after feeding the 5000, tells the crowd that he himself is the Bread of Life.

Living Water and Bread of Life. If you eat living bread and drink living water, says Jesus, you will never be hungry or thirsty again. Sounds good to me. Sometimes I echo the Samaritan woman, saying, “Sir, give me this water so that I may never be thirsty…”

Mostly, though, I forget about Living Water and the Bread of Life. Then Lent arrives to remind me to seek the food that matters.

Some years ago, I found Bread and Wine, a book that has enriched my Lenten practice ever since with Lent and Easter essays by ancient and modern writers. Every Ash Wednesday I open it again. It’s familiar and new every time, and throughout the season I am challenged and nourished. So far this year, phrases like these have spoken to me directly:

• Thomas à Kempis: “…wherever you go you take yourself along.”
• Thomas Merton: “We can deny ourselves rigorously for the wrong reason and end up by pleasing ourselves mightily with our self-denial.”
• Søren Kirkegaard: “[Christ] never asks for admirers, worshippers, or adherents. No, he calls disciples.”

And because it’s close to my heart – and St. Mary’s – check out Christopher Brookfield’s Irreverent Relevancies for nourishment in Lent (and the entire church year)!

Taste and see!

An Important Message from the Rector on Coronavirus

Dear Friends in Christ,

Today, in light of the growing coronavirus outbreak, our Bishop Suffragan and Ecclesial Authority, the Rt. Rev. Susan Goff, held a Zoom call with some 185 clergy of the diocese. In the call, the Bishop announced that all public worship services of the churches of the diocese should be cancelled for the next two weeks, specifically for Sundays, March 15 and 22. This is a highly unusual decision and, in my opinion, the right decision to make. We have all been trying to find the right place to land between healthy and unhealthy fear. I think this decision provides time to consider with some thoughtfulness how we will be a worshiping community together going forward.

The principal concern is the risk of the spread of the virus in gatherings of people. So, for these next two weeks any gatherings larger than 10-15 people or so will also be cancelled. Our staff gathered this afternoon to brainstorm these different gatherings at the church and to make plans for communicating directly with each group or committee. The staff has also begun to think about how we might gather virtually for worship. I hope to be able to let you know more about this over the next two days. I also want to make clear that the church office is opened. The staff will continue to come to work and you are certainly welcomed to come by if you like. I am also making plans for a called meeting of the vestry over these next days to discuss and pray about how God is calling us to be the church in the midst of current uncertainties. We are all committed to communicating clearly and perhaps frequently with you over these next days and weeks.

Please be assured that you are in my prayers, and I urge you to keep one another in your own prayers. Please pray as well for all those affected by this outbreak wherever they may be, for those who are sick and for all those caring for them. Please pray for all those who hold the public trust of elected office that they may be given wisdom to make decisions for the welfare of all people.

Though we may not be meeting for worship together, we are still God’s Church in this world and with and for one another. Remember that Jesus said, ‘in this world there will be tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world’. And so, we always live in hope.

Your brother in Christ,

The Reverend David May

More in my Heart to Reflect God’s Love

Lenten Reflection, Sunday, March 8, 2020

By: Sarah Hogeboom

“Let other people love you. The nature of love is reciprocal and relational, so love is incomplete when we don’t let it to come to us.” –Amy Julia Becker

Our kids are each about two years apart. Charlotte was born in 2011, Russell in 2013, and Colin in 2015. So for about eight years there, I was blessed to have a baby on my hip. Now that our youngest is four, even he is getting too big for me to carry him (though I still try!).

Now that my hands are a little less full, I was able to participate in the lovely weekend St. Mary’s hosted last month with author Amy Julia Becker. That was where I found—among many other gifts—my Lenten practice for this year.

During Amy Julia’s adult forum talk she explained that as human beings, we are created in God’s image to receive and reflect God’s love. She offered many practical ways to receive God’s love, and I was especially moved by one idea: “to use your spiritual imagination to envision yourself as a beloved child, climbing up onto God’s lap, being welcomed and received just as you are.”

So far this Lent, each morning before the kids wake up, I have spent a few minutes doing just that. I close my eyes and take a few deep breaths. I try to imagine I am about three years old, and I am being held by God.

To do this I draw on memories of being held as a child myself—in my mom’s arms, snuggled up on my dad’s lap, and passed back and forth between aunts, uncles, and grandparents. (My Papa Frank was an especially good hugger.) I remember what it felt like to be wrapped up tight in a warm towel after a bath. To be carried half asleep to bed after long day of playing outside. To be read to. To be loved just the way I am.

It seems simple, but it is so profound to really try to be open to God’s love in this way. As His child.

The love that I feel for my own children is so big and all-consuming, that if God loved me that much, that would be enough. But I think what John is telling us in this week’s reading is that God loves us even more than we can possibly imagine. And the reading from Genesis about Abram helps me understand that God’s love is so abundant, so full of grace, that we can trust it to sustain generations.

If I’m honest, it feels a little uncomfortable to make time in my day to receive God’s love. And if any of you think it’s little “out there” that I am spending my mornings pretending I’m three, I would understand. But I’m finding already with this Lenten practice that I have more presence, more patience, and more space in my heart to reflect God’s love.

And just when I am fully immersed in prayerful contemplation … someone makes their way downstairs, so I put down my coffee and pull him onto my lap – even if he is getting too big.