[Episcopal News Service] Instead of seeing this Lenten season as a time to do without, you can approach it from a more plentiful perspective: an opportunity to grow closer to Jesus, with more resources than ever.
That’s how Presiding Bishop Michael Curry sees it. Lent can be a chance to deepen your intimacy with Christ, he said in a video about helpful Lenten tools, including the Good Book Club.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which falls on Feb. 14 this year – coinciding with Valentine’s Day – and it lasts through Thursday, March 29, when the Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday begins.
Typically, Lent involves fasting and abstinence of some sort, inspired by the 40 days and nights Jesus fasted in the wilderness, according to several Bible passages, including Luke 4:1-13. Christians are invited “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,” according to page 265 of the Book of Common Prayer.
There are more ways than ever to accomplish these aspirations.
For the first time, Forward Movement presents the Good Book Club to the Episcopal Church and other interested people as a comprehensive resource to observe Lent. The program is a partnership with more than 25 organizations in the church, Richelle Thompson told Episcopal News Service. She’s the Forward Movement deputy director and managing editor.
“One of the reasons we tried to build this is because in one way, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure; we have resources from so many different organizations,” Thompson said. “We really tried to add a lot of variety so people can find what best suits their needs, and so they can find it the way God is calling them to engage in scripture.”
The Good Book Club begins Feb. 11, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, and continues through Pentecost, May 20. Forward Movement has created a set of daily readings to divide Luke and Acts into 50 days each. Each day, participants will read a few verses of Luke through the end of March and then Acts beginning on Easter Sunday and running through May 20.
The club features everything from a podcast from Episcopal Migration Ministries to a downloadable booklet to encourage a spirit of gratitude created by United Thank Offering. Parents will find tools to engage their children. A Good Book Club app for iPhones and Android phones has daily readings, a coloring page and a journal for those on the go.
There’s a good reason to study Luke and Acts together.
“Scholars tell us that the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts are part 1 and part 2 of the same story, probably by the same author,” Curry said in his video on the Good Book Club.
Luke tells about Jesus while he lived among us, and Acts describes what his followers did afterward, as they put his teachings into action, Curry said.
“Reading scripture individually and collectively can change our spiritual life,” Thompson said. She laughed. “And only God knows how we will be all changed by the end of this.”
- “Set Free by Truth” – Curry has joined the leaders of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to offer a series of Lenten devotions. They begin with Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, and continue for each of the Sundays in Lent, along with Palm Sunday and the Triduum. Each segment of “Set Free by Truth” presents scripture citations, a reflection and a prayer. They are available in three formats here.
- Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday – Falling on Feb. 18 this year, this churchwide tradition is marked with special prayers, materials and a dedicated offering to support the organization’s worldwide programs. Special resources and a planning guide for Episcopal Relief & Development Sunday are available at on the organization’s Sunday page. Churches can download copies Episcopal Relief & Development’s 2018 Lenten Meditations booklets in English and Spanish by visiting the organization’s Lent page here.
- Lent Madness – The Rev. Tim Schenck created this ministry in 2010 to combine his love of sports with his passion for the lives of saints. It’s a fun way for people to learn about the Episcopal Church’s Calendar of Saints. The program starts with 32 saints placed into a tournament-like, single-elimination bracket. At the championship, the winner is awarded the coveted Golden Halo. The first round consists of basic biographical information about each of the 32 saints. Subsequent rounds include quotes, quirks, legends and more saintly kitsch. Learn more at Lent Madness here.
- Art Stations of the Cross – Feb. 14-April 1, visit the 14 stations for reflection, worship services and discussions in New York. Learn more at Art Stations here.
- Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John – A six-week study of the gospel of John starting Feb. 11 is available, including a downloadable journal and facilitation guidance for groups. Learn more from the Society of Saint John the Evangelist here.
Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for the Episcopal News Service and a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn. She can be reached at email@example.com.