Reprinted from the newsletter of Fr. Michael Morse, Priest-in-Charge of All Saints’ Anglican Church in Amesbury, Massachusetts.
The gift and goal of Lent is to grow in holiness. Last week, I mentioned spiritual disciplines of prayer, alms, and fasting. The keynote of all spiritual disciplines is joy. The purpose is liberation from ingrained habits of sin. I am indebted to the Rev. Peter Moore, former Dean and President of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, for his insights about another trio of spiritual disciplines – each leading to joy.
GOD’S GIFT OF THE TITHE: to free us from slavery to money. The tithe is an act of worship and trust, gratitude and honor. Money is an enslaving spiritual power. Sacrificing our material wealth to God – not to charity, church, hospital, missionary, or relief fund – is an act of spiritual power by which God (not ourselves) frees us from the tyranny and anxiety of money. Offering our substance to God releases God’s joy in us.
GOD’S GIFT OF THE FAST: to free us from slavery to appetites. The idea of a fast goes beyond food. All the passions and appetites, rightly ordered before God, are wondrous gifts from God. But disordered passions and appetites become addiction and affliction. We must rightly order our passions. Our first order of passion is for God. Jesus said, “the kingdom of God.” Willingly disciplining our appetites in order to seek God first is an act of spiritual power by which God (not ourselves) frees us from bondage to our appetites. It releases God’s joy in us.
GOD’S GIFT OF THE SABBATH: to free us from slavery to busy. In a harried, hectic world, the Sabbath is God’s gracious gift of Holy Rest (which is different from “R&R”). The Sabbath principal is to hallow time, to honor God by marking of time in our lives that is sacred unto him. The day is not primarily for me. The day is for God. God’s gift of Sabbath does begin to heal us of stress-filled living, but the point is not our therapeutic stress reduction. The point is “Holy Rest” that honors God. Offering our time to God is an act of spiritual power by which God (not ourselves) frees us from its tyranny. It releases God’s joy in us.
The keynote of all spiritual disciplines is joy. Let this Lent be a new beginning.