February 11, 2016

Practicing Lent: Introduction

A conversation about faith practices with my good friend Mike Angell.

Jason: Last year, Mike and I wrote a Lenten blog series on liturgy. We decided to write another series this year about spiritual practices. In her book, Living Faith Day by Day author Debra Farrington asks a simple question: What nourishes your soul? That’s what spiritual practices are intended to do, nurture your spirit. Sometimes the practice is about removing something from your life. At other times it’s adding something to your life. In any case, a healthy spiritual practice will your nourish your soul and, through you, others as well.

Mike: I’ve been thinking a lot about Religion the past few years: what exactly makes us religious people? I have so many friends on the spectrum of religiosity. Some are hard core church nerds (Jason and I fit that bill). Others stay far away from organized religion. Strangely, our points of view are often similar on “beliefs.” We may have the same discomfort with all-male language for God. We may agree that one of the best names for God is “love,” and our universe is oriented around love as a central ethic. Some of my least “religious” friends would actually say they believe Jesus is God, or at least spoke for God. It seems to me that belief isn’t the marker of religiosity, but practice. When someone tells me “I’m spiritual but not religious,” I often think “that makes no sense.” Religion is the practice of spirituality. Practice is at the heart of what we do, so we will spend some time this Lent with Christian practices that we have seen give life to individuals and faith communities.

Jason: Over the next few weeks during Lent, we will look at one practice a week. There are many practices to consider. We’ll only look at a few but we hope you will consider these with us and offer your thoughts as we go along. Here’s an outline of what we will cover in forthcoming weeks:
  • Thursday, February 18 - Prayer
  • Thursday, February 25 - Evangelism
  • Thursday, March 3 - Scripture
  • Thursday, March 10 - Service
  • Thursday, March 17 - Fasting
  • Thursday, March 24 - Obedience
Mike: We debated a bit about the list of practices. Coming from an evangelical background (Jason), and an Episcopal/Anglican background (Me), we sometimes start from very different places. We spent a lot of time talking about worship and liturgy last year. If you want to tune into that discussion you can click here. We decided to exclude public worship this time around (controversial, we know.) We wanted to discuss other areas in the Christian tradition, and learn from one another.

As I look at our list, I notice that each practice has a public and a private dimension. This Lent we’ll talk about how we have seen these Christian practices give life to some pretty diverse individuals and vastly different communities of faith. We also know that there are individuals and communities participating in a conversation called “Growing a Rule of Life” with the Society of St. John the Evangelist. They are thinking about the practices they want to weave together and tagging the posts with #growrule. I hope this conversation can be part of a wider conversation as well. I hope you’ll join us this Lent.