-Rev Jamie Brame-
Let heaven celebrate! Let the earth rejoice! Let the sea and everything in it roar! Let the countryside and everything in it celebrate! Then all the trees of the forest too will shout out joyfully before the Lord because he is coming! He is coming to establish justice on the earth! He will establish justice in the world rightly. He will establish justice among all people fairly.
Psalm 96:11-13 CEB
Lent is not a particularly joyful time in the church year. Many of us think of it as a penitential time, a time of quiet, of reflection, of sacrifice.
I’m reminded, though, of two stories, one of my own experience and another from the Desert Fathers and Mothers. The first happened to me on a retreat at a small Trappist monastery (Roman Catholic). Trappists are known for their simplicity and silence: monasteries often have reminders in hallways: “Silence, Please.” I joined the five monks and other visitors for lunch, the only meal that the community shared each day. At my surprise at the feast of fried chicken set before us (during Lent; and the monks are mostly vegetarian), the visiting nun sitting next to me said, “They love visitors during Lent, because the rule of hospitality trumps the rule of self-denial!”
The other story comes from Desert spirituality. A group of monks were in a season of fasting. During fasting periods, the monks ate only a small bit of food and water daily. However, one day a group of visitors came, and the old head monk was seen preparing a big meal of cheese, bread, figs, and wine. The younger monks complained to him after the people left, saying, “We can’t believe you partook of that sumptuous meal while your brothers ate only bread and water!” He replied, “The One who taught us to fast also taught us to love our neighbors.”
During Lent, it is easy to get so caught up on our sacrifices that we forget to hold on to joy and love and all the good things that our faith wants us to offer to those around us. So, let’s keep our sacrifices between us and God, and let’s hold our heads up and offer a greeting of love and joy, gifts of God, to those around us!
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God, bless us with a spirit of joy in the midst of this season of sacrifice, that we might not take ourselves so seriously that we fail to be infected with the joy that comes from a life lived with you, in Jesus name, amen.
Rev Jamie Brame is the Program Director at Christmount Conference and Retreat Center, located in Black Mountain, NC. He has served there for over 27 years, working with both youth and adults. His interests include the study of spirituality and prayer, with an emphasis on eastern spirituality and its application in a Christian context. In addition to his ministerial vocation, he is also a musician who performs with his wife, Renae. He holds an M. Div. from Duke Divinity School and B.A. from Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College.)