"Lent: A Time to Rejoice?!" (Lent 4)

Lent 4, Year C, March 6, 2016
The Rev. Greg Foraker

Who remembers Latin class? It turns out many members from St. Luke’s studied Latin in school and many of our youth are studying Latin now. There is one Latin word we would do well to learn today: laetare. Laetare is the Latin word for "rejoice" and today is Laetare Sunday.

Laetare Sunday is named from the traditional opening Introit from this day based on a passage from Isaiah 66: “Rejoice Jerusalem! …though we have been in sorrow …we shall go into God’s House!” This tradition began as early as the 8th century. From the beginning, Laetare Sunday was lifted up as a time to remember the joy at the center of our Christian faith, even in the midst of Lent. This is a day of hope, for Easter is in sight! Hope, joy and inspiration this day are reflected in liturgical color of the day: rose or pink. Also known as Rose Sunday or Mothering Sunday, this day offers a break from the rigors of serious Lenten disciplines, a time to come up for air as it were, and even a day to make a special effort to visit mothers.

These days we may not bring the same rigor to our Lenten practices that were probably the norm in the 8th century, but Laetare Sunday offers a timely invitation to check in with the progress of our Lenten efforts. If we find we have gotten a little too intense or serious about things these day, this can be a day to slow down, relax and recall the joy-filled hope at the center of our faith. If we discover that we have not been very intentional about looking our stuff, that which holds us back from deepening our journey with God and our relationships with other people, Laetare Sunday could be a day to find balance, deciding to commit to practice that will foster our spiritual deepening.

Today it is fitting that we celebrate and commission the ministry of our Altar Guild. These dedicated ministers are inspiring examples of finding a sacred balance between the reverence they offer in the preparation of the altar, vessels and vestments for worship, and the joy they experience in the celebration of the Eucharist. This balance of reverence and joy is at the heart of Laetare Sunday. May we be inspired by the balance our inspiring ministers demonstrate through their sacred work in the Altar Guild.

Reverence and joy permeate a new ministry here at St. Luke’s as well. On Wednesday evenings we gather silently in the chapel here at St. Luke’s, finding joy as a close-knit community gathered around the altar to celebrate the Eucharist. In the darkness, we find the light of Christ. In the bread, we find food for the soul. As we share in the bread the Body of Christ, we offer the words, “the Body of Christ: Food for the Journey.” Our spiritual food fills us with hope. This Laetare Sunday may we be filled and nourished, awakened to a deeper, reverent faith and may we realize the joy at the center of our faith that is Christ. Amen.

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