Showing Up Honestly
Beloved in Christ,
On Sunday evening, I attended the Lenten hymn sing hosted by St John’s in Onigum. For many, many years, our Ojibwe congregations have gathered every Sunday evening in Lent for a prayer service that centers on singing from the Ojibwe hymnal. A different community hosts each week. We enjoyed a lavish meal together, then spent nearly two hours singing hymns and sharing informal, extemporaneous stories, testimonies, and reflections about the gospel for the day, people’s own experiences of loss and finding new life, and how God is at work in their lives and communities. It was one of the most spiritually nourishing and uplifting few hours I have spent in some time.
The format is very simple: a meal, some hymns, a few prayers, and open sharing. The power comes from a willingness for people to show up with their full, real, and honest selves. It was a little glimpse of God’s kingdom, as disciples loved and cared for one another, and offered their lives again to God’s loving care.
Most of us, if we are honest, spend most of our time putting on a polite facade for the world. When asked how we are, we say just fine whether it’s true or not. Our days can be a series of superficial encounters where we struggle to put on a good face, while we silently carry on with all our struggles and sadness. We can often bring that same impulse to our interactions at church, and we can imagine that our job is to impress God and others somehow with our goodness.
Lent is a season when we are invited again to be real, open, and honest with God. We’re called to bring our failures, our shortcomings, our anger and longings, without shame or fear, to the God who beholds us forever in a perfect gaze of love, whose grace is inexhaustible. Church, at its best, offers us an invitation and a safe and nourishing community to be real with God and one another.
Sunday night in Onigum was a glimpse of what church can be, what church should be, and a sustaining drink of the water of grace in the desert that life can often be. I’m so deeply grateful to that community for their faithful witness, and hope your Lent offers its own magnificent encounters with God’s amazing grace, touching and healing the very real pain you carry, always offering the promise of new and abundant, deeply joyful life.
Grace and peace,
The Right Reverend Craig Loya