Leaning In
Pathways through Lent

Leaning In

Psalm 119:49–72 Genesis 37:25–36 1 Corinthians 2:1–13 Mark 1:29–45

As we enter this Lenten season, you are invited to stop and reflect upon your
own life and all that is truly important to you at a deep level.
Each year I do so by picking a theme that embodies the way I want to live
my life. This year it’s leaning in. To me, leaning in means engaging, moving
toward, participating consciously in whatever I do rather than avoiding,
disconnecting, or checking out.
Are you leaning in?
Is there something that you have been avoiding? Something that’s important
that you really want to do but for whatever reason you haven’t made it
happen? Perhaps this Lent can be your opportunity.
Can you work on relationships, rekindling and building new friendships? In
the end, these make the true difference in our lives.
Can you take your business to the next level, positively and significantly
impacting people with your work?
Can you lean into your intellect, reading more and engaging in thoughtful
discussion? Or can you lean into your body, making your life more healthy?
I’ll be leaning into all these, as well as St. John’s, by deepening my service to
the church, my involvement within the community, and my spiritual life as a
whole. It’s the core of my life if I allow it to be.
As we proceed through this Lent and preparation for the joys of Easter, I
invite you to join me. What can you be leaning into this Lent?
–Lisa Kirchenbauer

Leaning In

Pathways through Lent

The Challenge of a Gift

Psalm 45 Proverbs 9:1–6 1 Timothy 4:6–16 Luke 4:14–21

Do not neglect the gift that is in you . . . –1 Timothy 4:14

This verse sounds deceptively simple. God blesses each of us with unique
gifts; we are in turn expected to use them. Yet how often do we lack followthrough?
The daily grind can be our biggest adversary to becoming who God intends
us to be. Our problems can seem insurmountable; our gifts can feel like
weaknesses. To use our gifts in this world requires courage and hard work.
Today the Episcopal Church commemorates Anna Cooper and Elizabeth
Wright, who fought uphill battles to express their gifts as African-Americans
in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They were both blessed with wisdom and
Elizabeth Wright dreamed of opening a school to teach African-Americans
in South Carolina. One school was burned to the ground, but she simply built
another through fundraising. She ultimately founded and ran what is today
Voorhees College.
Born to a slave mother and white father, Anna Cooper graduated from
Oberlin College to become principal of the only African-American high
school in D.C. Though she lost her job when she refused to lower her
educational standards, she continued her work, rallying for the Episcopal
Church to do more for African-American education. At 65, she earned her
doctorate from the Sorbonne, becoming the fourth African-American woman
to earn a Ph.D.
These strong teachers who overcame adversity remind us, especially in Lent,
that no matter the challenge we cannot neglect the gifts given to us by God.
–Kathryn Pharr

Anna J. Cooper, PhD
Anna J. Cooper, PhD (DC resident)


Pathways through Lent

Finding Our Way

Psalm 23 Exodus 28:29–30 Philippians 4:4–9 Matthew 5:1–10

It is a secret still, but already your tree is chosen.
It has entered a forest for miles
and hides deep in a valley by a river.
No one else finds it; the sun passes over not noticing.
But even while you are reading
you happen to think of that tree,
no matter where sentences go, talking about other things.
The author tries to be casual, to turn from the secret.
But you know exactly what is out there.
You set forth alone.
–William Stafford’s original dedication to Who Are You Really, Wanderer?

The poem above may seem an unlikely submission for this year’s collection
of Lenten meditations, and I certainly can’t speak to the writer’s intent. But to
me it touches on an important part of our journey in faith: that it is unique to
each one of us, as is our relationship with God.
I love the idea that there is a tree out there that waits for us, quietly, peacefully.
To me this is a reminder that with God there is a place for each one of us in
this life and a place for us beyond. When we feel ourselves wandering, unsure
of where to go or what to do, lost in a forest for miles, God is with us too,
aware we are out there even when we do not hear Him.
And when we are compelled to set forth alone, in whatever form that may
take, our faith reminds us that seeking a place to dwell in quiet discernment
and in peace is something God might just understand. Faith is, after all, about
finding our way—to God and with God in our hearts, again and again.
–Audrey M. Wood


Pathways through Lent

Developing a Life of Prayer

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Psalm 30, 32 Ezekiel 39:21–29 Philippians 4:10–20 John 17:20–26

Some time ago, I recognized that, while I built intentional prayer into my day,
I wasn’t always great at meeting my intentions. So to help, I decided to begin
my morning run with singing the Doxology. Very simple, yet it allowed me to
begin each day by thanking God for all the blessings in my life. For years now,
this has set the tone for my day.
Lately, though, I’ve noticed that tone quickly fades during my Metro ride to
work as I become focused on what is in store for me at the Pentagon.
So during my Metro ride, as the train surfaces from underground, I look
out the windows of the Metro to spot the beautiful spires of the National
Cathedral—and now I find that sight on my ride is a great opportunity to be
in a moment of silence and reset.
My hope is that Lent provides you the opportunity to find prayer in the
everyday things of life at any time—and all it might take is a good look
Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
–Marilyn Jenkins


Pathways through Lent

With the Throw of the Dice

St. Matthias the Apostle

Psalm 15 Acts 1:15–26 Philippians 3:13–21 John 15:1, 6–16

All that we really know about St. Matthias is found in a few short verses in
Acts. Here we learn that, sometime between the Ascension and Pentecost,
the remaining eleven apostles determined that they should find a twelfth,
the replacement for Judas Iscariot. There were in fact two candidates for
the position, but Matthias ended up with the job not because he was better
qualified or elected but because the apostles cast dice and they fell in Matthias’
How different this is from our own elections, where candidates tout their
achievements in speeches, receiving applause and public admiration (or
disdain). We scrutinize every aspect of their lives before determining their
suitability to the job. Imagine basing our choice on a throw of the dice!
God chose Matthias not for whom he was but for the apostle He knew he
could one day become. God chooses us in the same way—for the apostles we
can become, not for whom or what we are now.
In Lent, it is helpful to remember Matthias, who is the saint of those willing
to answer God’s call no matter where it takes them. They are not looking for
fame. They do not require applause, special titles, or public admiration. Their
only desire is to serve the Lord. They do this quietly, without fanfare. They,
like St. Matthias, demonstrate the courage and the heart to bear testimony
to Jesus’ resurrection, and they do so in the face of adversaries and hardship,
without complaint or protest.
May we do so also.
–Patricia Cookson


Pathways through Lent

My Strength and My Song

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Psalm 37:1–18 Habakkuk 3:1–18 Philippians 3:12–21 John 17:1–8

If you’re like me, you see music as a path to the divine. When you listen to music with a fully open heart and mind, a tunnel opens to transcendence.
Consider the music we hear every day. Movie scores heighten the drama of the stories and can even change the viewers’ perceptions and understanding. A simple pop song can reassure the brokenhearted that they are not alone and that others have felt that same feeling.
The power of music is especially strong in Lent. Songs for this season often draw from one common set of texts, but putting those texts to music and performing them invests them with a greater power. The setting in a minor key, the discordant sounds, the anguished words—all work together to evoke a certain sense of pain.
These emotions take you back to the composer and the author of the text, where you share in their pain over the centuries. In sharing this pain with others, you are taken back to when Jesus cried out on the cross. Through music, we feel this pain to the root of our being and acknowledge its significance to our lives.
During this Lent, I urge you to listen to the music that surrounds you in the church—and allow it to connect you to the heart of this season as we prepare for the joyful noise of Easter to come.
–Robin A. Pennington

(The Tallis Scholars sing William Byrd’s Kyrie from the Mass for four voices)

Pathways through Lent

Ash Wednesday: The First Step

Psalm 103; Joel 2:1–2, 12–17; 2 Corinthians 5:20b–6:10; Matthew 6:1–6, 16–21

I first stepped foot into St John’s church on the morning of Ash Wednesday
one year ago. I work nearby, so maybe I saw the church on one of my walks?
Or perhaps I recalled that the president sometimes attended here? Neither
of those reasons would have compelled me to get up early, Google the St
John’s website, and then set out for a church service on a weekday morning.

Something else was at work.

Ash Wednesday

At the time, I had been walking different paths for a while. I was like
Goldilocks on a spiritual quest—one religious faith was too rigid, and another
was too soft. I was searching for the church that felt just right.

The energy inside St John’s was palpable that morning, and I was moved to
tears. Luis’ sermon seemed to be directed to me personally. “Lent is a process.
It is not about what you give up but about what you take on.” Although I am
paraphrasing Luis’ sermon on that Ash Wednesday morning a year ago, the
words ring true and challenge me still.

The path to God begins with awareness, and I am grateful that my spiritual
path brought me here. And once again this year, I am aware that Lent is not
about what you give up.

I freely give my time and resources to the church, but I am also aware that
I have scant interaction with the poor. So this year I am stepping from my
comfortable distance and taking on service to others during this Lenten
process—once again taking another first step.
–Sandra Hackworth