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  • Writer's pictureThe Rev. Beth Knowlton

New Hearts

“Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen”.

- Collect for Ash Wednesday


It may seem a bit ironic to have Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday converge. If one takes some of tales of the martyred St. Valentine seriously, there is little to suggest that he should be primarily associated with chocolate and romantic love as the commercials would indicate.


Love is worthy of celebration; it is a precious gift from God, and to reduce love to only encompass that of the romantic sort is limiting. Even the greatest of romances at some point transition into practices of care and fidelity that transcend pure emotion. If God is love and our desire to love God is a lifelong practice, Lent is a wonderful opportunity to pause and imagine how we might do that in deeper and more intentional ways.


I do think love should be at the center of our spiritual journey. We ask God to break down all that would prevent us from loving fully. Presiding Bishop Curry has become notable for saying “If it’s not about Love, it’s not about God.”


Lent is a time to look at our lives with seriousness; to recognize the places we feel most connected and find the places where separation exists. The Book of Common Prayer invites us to observe a holy Lent inclusive of, “self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word.” (BCP 265)


George Spencer, our senior warden, and I had the chance to present some insights from our Spiritual Life Inventory this past Sunday. We were encouraged that so many of you were present ready to hear what we learned about ourselves and where God is calling us. In many ways, the inventory affirmed things we already know about ourselves: we are a healthy congregation and grateful for the gifts of our community.


When we imagine how we can build upon the strengths of St. Mark’s, fully committing to being a community which values spiritual transformation is one of the ways we can grow. There won’t be a one-size fits all solution for this. It is about setting the stage to encourage us to engage more deeply in regular spiritual practices.


Enriching our lives through scripture is one characteristic of healthy congregations. Depending on your background, that may feel obvious or in some cases, off-putting. Our RenewalWorks team had the most animated conversations around scripture and what it did and did not mean for us. This is good news! Because it means that this is an area we want to wrestle with together. 


This Lent, I invite you to intentionally read and meditate on Scripture. We will even make it easy for you! Each week we will suggest a passage of Scripture to live with; read it, reflect on it. If it comforts you—wonderful. If it challenges you—great! Allow it to be part of your Lenten journey and see how Scripture transforms your life and affects your spiritual journey.


Peace, Beth +


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