Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Thoughts from Bishop Jake

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Lent is rapidly approaching. Ash Wednesday falls on February 13. Just one week away. Many of you have already made plans for the Lenten journey. Some will add a Bible study. A few will take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Giving alms and doing works of mercy will be a part of your Lenten devotion.

The early Christians prepared for Baptism at the Easter Vigil during Lent.

In keeping with this ancient practice, I invite you to reflect on the Baptismal Vows that you have made and that you renew each time we baptize someone. Turn to page 292 in The Book of Common Prayer and spend time at some point during Lent contemplating the Covenant that guides your walk with Christ.

The Baptismal Covenant begins with the Apostles' Creed. Reflect on your relationship with God. Is it personal? Or does God seem like an idea or a philosophical principle? How does the Creed help to map out your experience of God? Where does it confuse you or confound you?

After the Creed, we make a series of commitments about how we will live our lives:

* Following Jesus is a group project, not a solo performance. We will participate fully in the devotional life of a Jesus-following community.

* We never promise to be perfect. But we do say that we'll fight the good fight against evil and let our failures become the occasion for growing and stretching. In other words, we aspire to the spiritual courage to admit our failings and to accept the gracious do-overs that God gives us.

* Proclaiming the Gospel is what followers of Jesus do. Words are important, but they only really work as clarifications for what we are actually doing. We are committed to doing the Gospel.

* And speaking of doing the Gospel, we understand ourselves as servants. We serve Christ, and the way we serve him is to serve each other.

* Finally, following Jesus means that we are weavers. We weave relationships of respect and nurture and love between people. We don't promise to feel deep affection for everyone we meet. Instead, we strive to remember that Jesus loves them enough to die for them and to do our best to act like it.

Schedule some time this Lent to reflect on how God is helping you to fulfill these promises. Ask yourself how you might cooperate even more fully with the gracious work that Christ has already begun in you.

Several congregations and groups have invited me to speak at their Lenten series, and I will be at St. James, Alexandria, on Ash Wednesday. Whether I am present with you in body or absent in body but with you in spiritual devotion, I look forward to spending this holy season with my Western Louisiana family.

Blessings for a holy Lent.

In Christ's Love,

The Rt. Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, PhD, DD
The Diocese of Western Louisiana
P. O. Box 2031, Alexandria, LA 71309