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Goodbyes for Lent

The Rev. Dr. William Rich
February 28, 2019

“What are you giving up for Lent?”  Every year about this time, I hear folks asking that question.  With her signature winsome humor, lately I’ve been hearing Rainey say, “This year, I’m giving up my salary for Lent.”


As we embark on our yearly Lenten journey next week on Ash Wednesday, Rainey is setting off on her journey into that next chapter of life we call retirement.   And so, there is much sorting to do: deciding what to let go of, to give up, as we start off on these new roads.  Along with Rainey, as she throws out no-longer-needed detritus, we know that some letting go is relatively easy.  But giving up some things is much harder.  As you, and Rainey, and I sort through dearly-loved things, it is hard work to discern which ones to keep, and which we should give away because they are in the way.  Is this something to hold onto, or something we just don’t need anymore? 


But hard as those outer-lettings-go are, even tougher are the inner-giving-ups.  Just as one example: that beloved book, with its memorable marginal notes, is not just an outer thing.  It carries within all sorts of inner attachments: associations and memories, both emotional and spiritual.  To say goodbye to the book means one may also have to bid farewell to our inner attachments that attend to it. 


Such inner letting go is, of course, the deeper purpose of the spiritual discipline of “giving something up for Lent.”  The good news is that there is a hope embedded in the hard work of letting that beloved “something” go.  Our hope is to discover with deep joy, once again, that we can survive this letting go – this “little death” – because deeper down there is something more solid and life-giving, something undying to hold onto: the wellspring of the constant love of God, that we need never let go, and that will never let go of us.


And so as we bid farewell to Rainey and hello to Lent, there are many things – both inner and outer – to let go of.  Sweet memories, shared moments of meaningful ministry, “things done and left undone,” disappointments, and dreams unfulfilled – and deep gratitude for all the good years that God has given us to share.  Just as Lent is a journey which leads all of us into the new life that Easter embodies, so Rainey’s journey to Richmond and retirement leads her into yet-undreamt-of-possibilities.  In this, we can trust – remembering that the word goodbye originally meant God be with you – that through God we will remain joined in close communion with one another, even as miles and months seem to separate us. 


For Rainey and for us, I pray in the words of Dag Hammarskjold:

For all that has been – thanks!

And for all that will be – yes!           


With blessings for the journey ahead,



The Rev. William W. Rich

Interim Rector




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