Farch. This is what a teacher friend of mine named February and March—Farch. It’s the time of year here in the upper Midwest when clean snow gives way to mud, the robin’s-egg blue sky turns gray, and even if it looks like it could—should—be warm, one’s fingers still need to be covered with clumsy mittens. Farch is the perfect word for this time of year, because the word itself sounds like the misery it intends to invoke. Farch is old ground…stale energy…a candle about to die. And with Farch comes Lent.
As a kid, Lent was always really depressing to me. Lent meant somber hymns, dark decorations on the altar, and the super-depressing Good Friday worship—the one in which we stripped the altar of its cloths and read about Jesus’s darkest hour. I was always struck by Jesus' response: "Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.' And they divided up his clothes by casting lots." Luke 23:34
In the words of my eight-year-old self, What a downer! How could I ever measure up to Jesus and his forgiveness? I could hardly forgive my big sister for her “torture,” which consisted mainly of refusing to play dolls with me and making me help her with her chores at the farm next door.
Last December, during another season of preparation, the Red Wing Community of Christ congregation explored this very idea of unconditional forgiveness as modeled by Jesus. They brought in Mary Hayes Grieco, a highly respected spiritual teacher and the Director of the Midwest Institute for Forgiveness Training in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to address that question: How can we forgive as Jesus forgives? Mary’s workshop on Unconditional Forgiveness drew in over thirty church and community members. The congregation applied for a Mission Center grant and invited the whole community to join them in their work to grow closer to one another and to God. Here is a bit of what they learned:
"Forgiveness changes us physically and emotionally, dissolving the stagnant weight of resentment and flooding our bodies with fresh new energy. It mends our tattered personal boundaries, and empowers us to move forward with more hope and creativity in operation than when we were holding our grudges. When we do the thorough and gritty work that goes into releasing the trauma from the past, we reestablish our connection with our spiritual Source, and that Source gifts us with a palpable sense of light and lightness. We find ourselves on new ground.”
--from The New Kitchen Mystic
Grieco says that forgiveness is “thorough and gritty work.” If we put in that work, we can reestablish our connection with God. If we put in that work, we can find ourselves on “new ground.” If we put in that work…
In the Community of Christ resource “A Guide for Lent,” we are reminded that Lent does not need to be that depressing season we put up with during Farch just to get to joyful Easter. Instead, Lent can be “a time of blessing, confrontational to that which keeps you distant from God, and [can] lead you to fuller life in Christ.” Holding on to past grudges, holding anger for those that have hurt us, and withholding forgiveness to our selves all keep us apart from God. Forgiveness, it seems, is an integral part of Lent. That gritty work is part of the process to draw closer to God, preparing us for Easter.
Members of the Red Wing congregation, in opening the workshop to the community as well as attending the workshop themselves, are in a position to find themselves on new ground! How wonderful it would be if we strived to forgive as Jesus forgives, and to love unconditionally, as Jesus loves! What a better time to start than now, as we approach Easter, new ground.
For more information on this event, contact Red Wing pastor Becky Turner or Mary Hayes Grieco's website at www.maryhayesgrieco.com.