Friends in Christ -
The season of Lent – the 40 days (minus Sundays) leading up to Easter – began yesterday on Ash Wednesday (also VaLENTine’s Day)! We had a few folks show up for “ashes-on-the-go, and then Pastor J.P. Kang and I went downstairs to the basement and offered “ashes for Lent” to the Shelter guests. “Oh, yes, I know what that is!, said one woman, and stepped right up. “What’s Lent?” asked another person. I explained it’s a season before Easter when we’re honest with ourselves and with God about how we’ve messed up, that we made mistakes; we don’t hide from God, but tell the truth, we repent, and God forgives us. “Oh, that’s good,” he said, “but I think I’ll just save ‘mine’ for somebody else who really needs it.” That kinda cracked me up. I went through the women’s dormitory area, and adminstered the ashes to 3 or 4 women chillin’ in their bunks. One woman seemed particularly fragile and sweet. I said to her, “The ashes remind us of how fragile we are – we are dust, and to dust we shall return. But remember, God doesn’t hate anything God has made. When we mess up, or find ourselves in a mess, God loves us, and forgives us. God never gives up on us. I want you to remember that.” We were looking at each other eyeball to eyeball: “I want you never to forget that God loves you very much, OK?” “Yes…” she said.
I’ve always been a little ambivalent about giving up something for Lent. It just seems like we end up focusing on the thing we are giving up, and feeling deprived, rather than making space for God or experiencing spiritual growth or life. But the point of spiritual practices like prayer, fasting, works of love, simplicity, and reading and mediating on the God’s Word is to connect us with God. We’re not just giving up something, we’re giving up ourselves to God.
A couple days ago I came across a list of Simple Lenten Spiritual Practices written by Annie Corson Lambert, a member of a church I served in Tacoma a few years back (Trinity Presbyterian, on the Hilltop). I really liked her suggested spiritual practices because, well, so many of them seem so practical. I asked Annie if I could share her list with you, and she eagerly gave permission, so I’ve attached it. Please take the time to open it – I think you will find it to have some really creative and helpful suggestions for your Lenten journey.
Sunday’s sermon text lands us back in Mark 1:9-15 (again!), which starts with Jesus’ baptism (check), and ends with Jesus at the beginning of his ministry in Galilee “proclaiming the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near” (check). But sandwiched in the middle is the shortest Gospel version of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Just. Two. Verses. Gonna be short sermon, right? Ha! Well see! Read through this passage and see what you think is going on and let’s talk about it together on Sunday.
Be the church!