Bare trees in the winter

Listening in Lent: Invitation to our Lenten Book Study

By Matthew W. Humphrey, Director of Theological Education

Just after his baptism in the river Jordan, Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days – a time of testing, and trial, temptation and difficulty.

Just as Israel went 40 years in the wilderness after their escape from Egypt – a time of false starts and focus, of formation and learning.

And so every year in the 40 days leading up to Easter the Church enters Lent – a wilderness time, a formation time, a testing time.

As we number our days in this long winter and anticipate Spring…

As we grow weary of this long time of waiting in loneliness and isolation in Covid-19…

As we see signs of the world cracking apart – unsettled by the effects of an unjust economic system, white supremacy, climate change, and the exploitation of land and labour…

We are invited to turn once more to consider Creation.  To consider this life and the God who gives life.   In this time and place, to let ourselves slow down and listen more closely – with the faith and hope, however small, that God might meet us.

Think of Lent as a tree in wintertime.

Here in Victoria I am paying more attention to the trees these days – thanks to having a good friend, an artist, who has helped me learn to slow down.   The trees are mostly all barren and grey – set against the often barren grey winter skies… or even amidst the bright blue skies they signal to us a time of waiting, of stillness.

And yet, just beneath the surface, they are fed by this miraculous subterranean web of creatures living in the soil.  Just beneath the surface, the sap has stalled, yes, but it is indeed alive and waiting in anticipation of the fullness soon to come.

Lent is a time of looking beneath the surface – of all that is often overlooked or hidden in our world or in ourselves.   You can give up chocolate if you like – but better if you considered your sweet tooth.  You can fast from fish on Fridays – but better if you knew the real hunger that lives inside your uniquely human soul.  You can recommit to times of prayer or worship – but better if you could still yourself for one moment and stand quietly before the God who is pursuing you for every moment of your life.

This Lent I invite you to join a book study reading “The Blue Sapphire of the Mind: notes towards a contemplative ecology” by Douglas Christie.   Christie draws on the riches of the Christian tradition, particularly the contemplative and monastic traditions to inform a very moving dialogue with contemporary concerns around ecology and the health of our planet.

How might the practices of contemplation – of really paying attention to the work of God in our lives and in our world – inform our care for Creation?  And how might the study of Ecology – as we know ourselves as creatures existing within a broad ecology of other creatures, whose lives and livelihoods are so interconnected – inform our life of faith in God as Creator?

The closer we look at this planet we call home the more we see both its amazing wonder-filled beauty… and its pain and brokenness.  And so part of Christie’s book is a plea for us to engage both the grief of living in a broken world and the joy and wonder that it still speaks to us such peace and beauty and delight.

I hope you will join me for this time of reflection.  We will read Christie closely but use this as a jumping off point for our own Lenten journeys – as we enter into this wilderness expectant that it is not our ultimate destination, rather it is life in the good land; indeed, as our faith informs us that death does not have the final word, but life everlasting.

We will gather on Zooms on Thursdays. NOW TWO GROUPS meeting at 3:00 PM and at 7:00 PM. More information below. 


Join the Lenten book study

Prepare your heart for the upcoming season as we read “The Blue Sapphire of the Mind: notes towards a contemplative ecology” by Douglas Christie.