~ Pathways in Lent ~
“ God has put a sense of the past and the future into their minds,
yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the ending.”
~ Ecclesiastes 3:11
Dear Members and Friends,
Have you ever walked a prayer labyrinth? It’s not the same thing as a maze. A maze has dead ends and false trails. In a maze, your goal is to get out the other side, and you usually have to retrace your steps a few times to get there. In a labyrinth, you come out the way you went in. It’s impossible to get lost because the whole thing is just a single coiled pathway leading to the center. Prayer labyrinths started appearing on the floors of European churches in the Middle Ages. The most famous one was laid out in flagstone in the cathedral at Chartres, France, in the 1200s. You’re supposed to walk a prayer labyrinth slowly, letting its turns and contours empty your mind. It’s a rhythmic practice, lulling, and strangely hypnotic.
It seemed like a good idea to make a prayer labyrinth to use with my confirmation class. I thought it would be easy to create one on the floor of the chapel. And so, I chose from among the many possible designs, printed a picture off the Internet, did my measurements, and started laying out the labyrinth in blue masking tape. If I hadn’t been bald when I began the task, I’d have pulled out all my hair by the end of it. Something was amiss. My “coiled pathway” looked more like a plate of tangled spaghetti noodles. I followed the design as best I could, but the end result was nothing like the thing in the photo. Oh, it was a labyrinth…of sorts. Fit for a Minotaur. The single path did eventually reach the middle, but unlike the best labyrinths, its twists and turns weren’t elegant. They didn’t take you to unexpected places; they held no subtle surprises. And yet, I have to say that my defective labyrinth still does what it’s supposed to do. It empties the mind. It strips away distractions.
I’m glad I spent two hours in the chapel, creating a labyrinth. The end result wasn’t the thing I’d planned, but it was still worth the time. That’s the way it is in this journey of faith that all of us are on. The path isn’t always what we expect. It’s not always a thing of symmetry and beauty. But if we apply ourselves to “the path,” “the way,” then it ends up doing what we ask of it. As Lent folds in around us once again, I would encourage you to choose a path. That’s to say, find a meaningful “spiritual practice” that you can repeat each day in Lent. Sit in silence for twenty minutes every morning. Memorize a prayer or a poem that speaks to your soul, and recite it regularly. Abstain from all gadgets and electronic devices between 5:00 and 10:00 p.m. Read a Psalm both morning and night. Maybe even create a labyrinth in your basement and walk it daily. The variety of paths is nearly limitless, and whichever one you choose, it will end up doing things for you that you didn’t expect. I’m glad to be making this journey beside you.
In Christ’s Peace,
THANK YOU! Back in November, I put out an urgent appeal. The church lost a profitable tenant, and we faced a significant gap in the 2018 budget. In response to that need, member pledging has increased by 14%! Thank you for your generosity and your faithfulness to the ministries of Bower Hill Church!
ASH WEDNESDAY is February 14, with a communion service in the sanctuary at 7:30 p.m.
LENTEN COMPLINE SERVICES (1946 Book of Common Worship) take place each Wednesday in Lent at 7:30 p.m. in the chapel. Come see the labyrinth! Each service includes an interview with a member of the congregation, singing together the hymns that he or she chooses.