Author Archive for Daniel DeBlock – Page 16

St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

As a boy growing up in Savannah, Georgia, I knew St. Patrick’s Day as a major event. The city went all out for a day of great celebration … parades, center lines of the route painted green, the Savannah River dyed a deep green, concerts, festivals, and worship services in all manner of churches. And watch out if you did not have on a green item of clothing! Never mind that the day almost always falls in the season of Lent, my home town was a party town.

Other than that, I knew little about the Patron Saint of Ireland. Over the years, I’ve learned a bit more about him and why he seems to have captured the imagination of so many people around the world. Born in the late fourth century on the northwest coast of Britain, at sixteen he was captured and sold into slavery by Irish slave-traders. Five years later he escaped, returned to Britain, was educated as a Christian, and took holy orders. In his early forties he returned to Ireland, this time as a missionary bishop, laboring for thirty years to convert the pagan Irish to Christianity.

Patrick serves as a symbol of forgiveness and reconciliation for all of us. Like King David, he was called from being a shepherd (Patrick’s duty as a slave) to being a leader of a nation. Like Joseph, he went from slavery to leadership, caring for those who enslaved him and those who had sold him alike.

Whatever else you do on St. Patrick’s Day this year, spend some of your time forgiving those who have wronged you and seeking reconciliation with those with whom you are estranged.

Lenten Discipline

Lenten Discipline

Lent 2013 began on Ash Wednesday, February 13. Each year, the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer invites its users “to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.” As Jesus puts it, we are to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow him.

As Christians ponder what you will “deny yourself” this Lent, or what “cross” you will take up, don’t make it just another rehash of your already broken New Year’s resolutions. I would love to deny myself about 20-30 pounds – and might even consider it a “cross” to take up the diet and exercise program that would make that happen. Alas, such an exercise would be all about ME, and not about discipleship. Several other options ran through my mind, but all with the same conclusion … a good Lenten discipline really needs to be about Christian discipleship, not about self-improvement.

So, I then thought about putting my self-denial and cross-bearing in the context of the Baptismal promises, the Great Commandments and the Great Commission, and lo and behold, came up with some possibilities that might actually make this Lent holy:

  • Deny myself the pleasure that comes from reading great novels, biographies, and histories … and take up the cross of reading an equally great spiritual and/or theological book
  • Deny myself the uncommon comfort of a regular time of prayer and reflection … and take up the cross of going on a Lenten retreat
  • Deny myself the “pleasure” of thinking about the splinter in someone else’s eye … and take up the cross of a rigorous self-examination
  • Deny myself some grudge or grievance … and take up the cross of reconciliation
  • Deny myself a few private hours during the season … and take up the cross of spending time with someone who is lonely or lost
  • Deny myself the comfort of believing that a neighbor or social friend is free to stay home on Sunday morning if they want … and take up the cross of inviting that person to know Christ and his Church

I will also spend some days fasting, not so much to lose weight, but to make myself more aware of the millions in our world who hunger physically as well as spiritually. I will also send some money to Christian causes, but not because I am uncomfortable with my own tithe, but because there is so much need in the world and I have been blessed with so much that simply begs to be shared.

So what will it be for you this Lent? Will you give up chocolate, movies, or refined sugar? Or will you give up those things that really do keep you from answering the Lord’s call to discipleship? Open your hearts to God’s grace and truth that you may be filled with his holy and life-giving Spirit. Then make good choices about self-denial and cross-bearing in your Lenten discipline that you may follow the One who has called you to new life.

Lent 2013

Are you ready for Ash Wednesday and the Christian season of Lent, that 40 day period of self-examination in preparation for Easter Day?  If not, you have less than one week to make your plans!

Perhaps my all-time favorite Lent was 1973. First, I was not sure when it began and initially had to calculate from the phase of the moon when it was likely to begin. Since Easter is the Sunday follow­ing the first full moon following the vernal equinox (March 21), and since Ash Wednesday is 40 days (plus Sundays) before Easter, it takes a little math and astronomical knowl­edge to figure it all out. Since I was living in a prisoner of war camp in Hanoi, North Vietnam at the time, the task was complicated ever so slightly. But it was very important to us young men to be able to estab­lish a “free-world” routine in order to help us resist the enemy; and it was also important to us to know whether we would be home for Eas­ter. We knew we would be released on March 29 and be home by April 1, but when was Easter?!

Since we were never quite sure about the date; and since the full moon is not always visible, we did make a mistake in our calcula­tions. However, I was blessed to be in a cell with another Episcopalian, whose mother sent him a Book of Common Prayer in a package from home. I knew the BCP had a table of Easter Days, so I quickly looked it up. Easter would be on April 22 and Ash Wednesday on March 7. So, we solemnly marked our heads with ashes from coal dust on Ash Wednes­day and selected some very tiny, but enormously important, prison “luxury” to give up for the remainder of our time in captivity. That year, Easter would truly be a celebration of the Resurrection for each of us as we returned to our new lives of freedom and restored relationships back home.

Our captors never understood why we did what we did. We were men of Christ, whose Lord had paid the ultimate price for us – a price spared us. Giving up a cigarette a day or an extra bit of cabbage soup was a small but significant remind­er of the blessing of life and liberty that Christ had won for us so many years earlier.

I hope that your experience of self-examination and repentance; of prayer, fasting, and self-denial; of reading and meditating on God’s holy Word this Lent will bring you the same joy and sense of over­whelming blessing that I experi­enced during my all-time favorite Lent.