closing thoughts on lent II

Throughout Lent, I am encouraging our faith community to explore the practice of pilgrimage -
and I am loving it. Each week, assisted by Fr. Ed Hays' guide (The Pilgrimage Way of the Cross), I share a few landmarks and related Bible stories as if we were walking from Jericho to Jerusalem towards the Via Dolorosa. Then, accompanied by a quiet jazz meditation, people are free to "pray with their feet" as they walk around the Sanctuary. We've set up five prayer stations for candle lighting. We've put together a "pilgrimage prayer book," too that can be used at each station. 

Two parts of this experiment interests me a great deal:

+ First, not only are we following the Common Lectionary readings for the Lenten season, but we are talking about the context in which Jesus made his decision to take up his Cross.  This pilgrimage give me the chance to explore the different ways that Jesus expresses his solidarity with the prophets of ancient Israel. Today we spoke not only of Elijah - making the Transfiguration Sunday connection more vivid as I retold his story - but also the parable of the Good Samaritan. In Luke's gospel, Jesus shares 24 parables and 17 take place on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem.

+ Second, this series gives us ways to link the practices of silence, solidarity and self-emptying - prayer, compassion and fasting - with the traditional Lenten disciplines. As I have noted elsewhere, I was so ready for Lent to arrive this year! I needed the encouragement of our pilgrimage to regroup and let my heart be saturated again with God's promise of hope. As we played a reflecting setting of "Passion Chorale" arranged by our musical director, people walked silently throughout the Sanctuary praying the Lord's Prayer as they travelled. As one person said to me, "I kept getting lost in the prayer as I walked." My reply? "Sounds like you need more practice, man - for that's ALL Lent is about - practicing ways to help us stay awake and present to God's love and acts of human tenderness."

After worship, my band mates joined me for a time of practicing for Good Friday. Their vocal and instrumental work is always moving and beautiful and today was no exception. And then it was off to Second Congregational United Church of Christ's 170th Anniversary. As the first African American church in the Berkshires, it was a blessing to join the gathered faithful for 2+ hours of great song, fiery preaching and sweet fellowship. And, praise God, then I got a chance to skype with my beloved Louie before supper. It has been a full and satisfying Lord's Day. Now its onward to the close of "Downton Abbey."

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