Sunday, February 26 Lent Calendar* Invite: Attend worship. Contemplate Jesus’ invitation to rest, to remember the Sabbath. Find time to rest.
Lent is 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday - if you don’t count the Sundays. Put in the Sundays, and you have 46 days. Each Sunday of the Lent calendar invites us into two practices: worship and rest.
First, “attend worship.” It would be more complete to say “attend a worship service.” Attendance at weekly worship services has declined in the United States, especially since the pandemic. This includes when calculating online worshippers. There are good and valid reasons for online worship. That being said, Christians follow an “incarnational God.” We believe that God came to be with people, in the flesh, incarnate, in the person of Jesus. Being in person, in the real, with people is central to who we are. There are things that just can’t happen via a screen. Worship is also mulitsensory. If you’re not in person, you can’t smell the candles or taste the bread or hear the various voices around you in song or shake the hand of your neighbor as an expression of peace. Worship is something Christians do. I also find it intriguing that worship has been shown to increase our longevity. According to a study from Vanderbilt University, middle aged people “who attend church or other houses of worship reduce their risk for mortality by 55 percent.” If you have been remiss about attending weekly worship in person, then perhaps Lent is the opportunity to to get into this rhythm. If this is your rhythm, keep going.
Second, “remember the Sabbath.” In Exodus 20, the people of Israel are told to remember the Sabbath, for six days you labor, but on the seventh day you rest. It is the rhythm that takes us back to the creation story of Genesis, of God creating and then God resting. Jesus invited all who were weary and tired to come find rest in him. Sabbath rest was made for us. In her book Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, Marva Dawn lays out four aspects of Sabbath: ceasing, resting, embracing, and feasting. We cease from things like frenzy and productivity and worry. We rest our bodies, minds, and hearts. We embrace wholeness and simplicity and intentionality. We feast on the goodness and beauty around us, things we can better see when we take time to stop.
In a society that is big on productivity and constant activity and non-stop access to information, finding that place of rest can be challenging. But just as studies show that people who worship live longer, so do people who rest. So on this first Sunday of Lent, make a list of things that you find restful. Then do one of those things.
May you have a blessed Sabbath, a blessed day of worship and rest!