Bishop Hughes suggests a simple Lenten practice, based on Jesus' actions in Mark 1:31, that is particularly suited to the times in which we're currently living. (Time: 4:17.)
This is Bishop Hughes in the Diocese of Newark. I'm taping this after the end of a long day on Sunday, full of good worship and full of conversation and full of all the things that excite and trouble churches. And one thing that is staying with me, after all that conversation and all that spending time together, is a sentence – one of the verses in the reading that we had from Mark today. It's Mark, first chapter of Mark, and verse 31. Jesus and the disciples just go to Simon's house, they discover that Simon's mother-in-law is sick with fever, and fever could be a life-threatening thing at that particular time. Jesus takes her by the hand, lifts her up, and she is healed.
There is something that stands out to me, and that picture in my mind's eye, of Jesus taking someone who is sick by the hand, lifting them up. I don't even think of him as lifting her as in making her stand, but cradling her up, holding onto her, and she is healed.
I've been thinking about this all through the evening, as I know that when you see this piece of tape, it will be the seventh of February, and we will be a week away from Ash Wednesday. And I know my Episcopalians, we're starting to think already, what is it I want to do as my spiritual practice for Ash Wednesday. And your churches are giving you all kinds of great activities to take on. And most people I know want to think about giving up something, even though you hear us clergy saying, instead of giving up that chocolate, or instead of giving up that fattening food, but if you need to do that, you go ahead. But instead of making that the focus of Lent, take on a spiritual practice.
And that's what I want to ask you to do. I want to ask you to do three things. One is to pray. The other is to take a look back at the end of the day, and confess anything that you have done wrong. And third is to forgive. All of this for me is coming out of that notion of Jesus, lifting something up and healing it. And so when I say pray, it can be simple, it can be easy, and it actually can be that verse I just gave you. The thing that is worrying you, the person that you're hopeful for or afraid for, the rift, that someplace in this world or in your life or in our country, whatever it is it has you worried or has you complaining or has you suffering, whatever that thing is, take that thing and offer it to Jesus. Even with these words that are right from scripture, "Jesus, take my worry, by the hand, lift it up and heal it." Let's put it in the hands of Jesus instead of our constantly worrying, fidgeting hands that leave us overwhelmed and feeling bereft.
That's one practice. The other practice is at the end of the day, instead of nursing the thing that we didn't do the way we wanted to do and feeling bad about it and taking it to bed with us, take a moment before you get into bed even and say, "God, please forgive me. I confess my sins. I confess my shortcoming." Ask for God's forgiveness and trust that it is forgiven and you can let that go. At the same time when we ask for forgiveness is also the time to think of who do we need to forgive, rather than nursing the hurt? Who do we need to forgive and let that go? And these things, both the things we're worried about, the things that we need to confess, the things that we need to forgive – any of them that we need help with. We can go back to that picture of Jesus, taking what is on our hearts and minds and spirits, lifting it up and bringing it healing. This is a Lenten practice, that will give us peace and help us face these days that we are in.