The Lenten Journey
Standing at the precipice of the waters, those about to be baptized are asked to renounce the forces of evil, the powers that defy God, and the ways of sin that draw us from God. The catechumen responds, “I renounce them!” Here at Phinney the initial renunciation is followed by those affirming their baptism and then a third time by the entire assembly. The tenor of the final renunciation is so wonderfully loud and spirited that it feels like we are raising the roof.
The season of Lent is about getting ready for Easter and the pivotal moment of Baptism. Surrounded by the community, women and men are asked to publicly claim their allegiance to Christ. Once the newly baptized emerge from the waters they are prayed over and anointed with the gift of God’s Spirit. One way our candidates in the WAY prepare for the Easter Vigil is to ask: “What do I need to learn to risk or renounce in order to accept what Jesus is offering?” All of us are invited to pray the question with them. The scope of this discernment is both personal and communal. What are we asked to renounce?
This Lent we are making a greater space for this kind of discernment. The Adult Forums on Sunday morning will include honest reflection upon some of the systems that seek to tear us away from holy love: racism, sexism, neglect of the environment, and consumerism. These forums will include testimony from those who have experienced these realities firsthand, and an exploration of what a faithful response looks like.
The lectionary readings for Lent will serve up rich images for such discernment. Look for it, too, in the preaching. Like we do every year in Lent, we will pray over those in the WAY process as they journey toward Easter. This year, the 8th grade confirmation students will be among those for whom we pray because they, too, will renew their baptismal vows at the Easter Vigil.
These questions around renouncing are in service to a greater question: “What is Jesus offering to you, to us, and to all the world?” God’s invitation in Lent is return to God afresh and to the free waters of grace to discover life and love.