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A Lenten Message by Bishop Susan E. Goff



Lent blows in like a strong March wind, just when I need it the most. Lent blusters its way into my life, interrupting a long, wet After-the-Epiphany season during which my soul grew a little flabby and my heart a little faint. Lent comes late this year, but it comes decisively. 

Maybe, like me, you indulged during the cold and dark of winter in temptations you might easily resist when it's light and warm and dry.   Maybe it was eating too many holiday sweets, binging on TV, buying stuff online that you don't really need, bickering mindlessly with loved ones, skipping the gym, neglecting the volunteer work that gives life. The earth lies fallow in winter, and we human beings need some fallow time, too, but that need can tempt us into habits that break relationship with God, with other people and with our deepest selves. 

And so Lent comes offering us a chance to recall what's really important, to reconnect with God and others, and to recalibrate habits for the sake of health - our own, our community's and our world's.   

This Lent, I invite you to join me in practicing a Lenten discipline in one or more of the three focus areas I described during the Recall and Reconnect Listening Tour. 

1. Telling our Story. Some say you should never talk about politics or religion in "polite company." Jesus said something different. He told us boldly to proclaim the love, the healing and the goodness we have known in relationship with God. StorySharing materials on The Episcopal Church website invite us to share our stories with simple prompts like: 

When have you felt God really alive in your church? Describe that moment.  

Or, share a story about how you made use of your sufferings, difficulties, or hardships in order to help someone else facing similar troubles.          

Explore these and other questions alone in journaling or in small groups, so that you may become more and more comfortable in telling your story to others. The StorySharing Guidebook tells you more. 

2.Building Community. We Christians proclaim that all of humanity is created by God and that all are in the image of God. By the power of the love of God, made known to us in Christ Jesus, there are no "others" in the human family; there are only brothers and sisters. Yet we separate ourselves from one another based on race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, language, culture, political affiliation, religion and other factors. Sacred Ground is a new film-based dialogue series from The Episcopal Church that explores race and faith and invites us into the hard and holy work of overcoming our divisions for the healing of communities. I commend this program to you.  

3. Honoring God's Creation. We human beings were created by God with a unique role as stewards of God's creation. Yet our lifestyles often leave us disconnected from the power, the wonder and the beauty of God's creation -- to the harm of the earth and ultimately to our own harm. As people of faith, we can act in concrete ways for the healing of our planet. The Presiding Bishop and the Task Force on the Care of Creation will soon post a Pledge for the Care of Creation and invite people across the Church to reflect with it throughout Lent. Those who feel so called may then sign on during Easter Week. The goal is to have 1,000 people sign the pledge by the first Sunday after Easter, and to partner for the sake of lasting change in our church, our communities and God's good earth. We will send a link to this Pledge as soon as it is made available. 

Lent blows in like a strong March wind, just when we need it the most. 

May God bless you with the all the hope and courage you need to live a full, transforming and holy Lent for the sake of your own soul, for the sake of community and for the sake of God's creation. 

Your sister in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff
Bishop Suffragan and
Ecclesiastical Authority
Episcopal Diocese of Virginia

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