Homily – 1st Sunday in Lent

Dear Friends, 

Before I share the homily for today, a note about our liturgy next weekend. Robert and I will be away and Dick Dahl will be covering. This would ordinarily be our Saturday mass for the month, but due to spring break at WSU, Mugby Junction has very shortened hours next Saturday which would make it very difficult for Dick to do the liturgy. So we decided instead to have the Mass on Sunday, March 17, 2019 at 10 A.M. I hope this won’t inconvenience you too much but it was the only option open to us. So, plan on Mass next Sunday at the regular time instead of on Saturday afternoon. Thanks for your understanding—Pastor Kathy

Lent is upon us my friends.  We may come to this season with some “baggage,” let us say, of a past history of not so fond memories of long fasts and long church services to go to, feelings of guilt perhaps about not being good enough and part of the reason that Jesus needed to come and die on the cross.

If any of this sounds true for you, than I would like to invite you to come to this season with some fresh ideas and see these 40 days as a gift given by our Church to help us “open up” and grow closer to our God who loves us beyond all imagining.  Just as Jesus found it necessary before beginning his public life to go apart and prepare for the challenges he would face; we too need such times to do the same.  He knew that the challenges would be many—to speak truth to power, to let all his brothers and sisters—all of us, that is, know how much we are in fact loved, to address those “lording” their power and position over the less fortunate to change their ways, to call all of us to be our best selves for ourselves and for others.

He knew that he would be met by those ready to hear his message and those who would be resistant to it. All the more reason for him to prepare, to build his strength, and to wrap himself in the gifts of the Spirit of his loving, Abba God.  None of us can be the people that this world needs without strength, wisdom, knowledge, faith, the ability to heal in many ways—the ills of body, mind and spirit, words of truth and power—the gifts of the Spirit, basically. We all were given these gifts when we were confirmed and times of quiet and prayer can help us to realize once again these gifts we all have and use them in our world.

If any of you are looking for some good reading during this season; I will make available my library of spiritual books.  You can simply sign them out, enjoy, be challenged and bring them back when you can for others to use.

I would also call your attention to the films and speakers offered through the 2nd year of the Winona Interfaith Council as ways to open up to a larger world, as ways to be about things that our brother Jesus was in his world.  We have one coming up on Monday night at St. Mary’s Church in Winona in the Commons Room at 6:30 P.M.—the Puentes/Bridges Program that works with undocumented laborers in Wisconsin—this is rescheduled from an earlier time.

Today, we have the opportunity to receive ashes on our foreheads, a simple, but very telling reminder of our vulnerability and impermanence in this life. This gift of a human existence is temporary, in other words, and our life in Christ is always calling us to that reality and challenging us to be our best for whatever time we have.

In truth probably, none of us relishes thinking along these lines—I know I don’t and I don’t think Jesus did either, in his humanity—this was part of his agony in the garden I believe, knowing that his time in this life would end.

Lent calls us then to struggle with these questions of impermanence, of justice for all—sharing the goods of this world, extending mercy as Paul writes of our God to the Romans in today’s 2nd reading: “Here there is no difference between Jew and Greek, all have the same Creator, rich in mercy toward all who call.”

The first reading from Deuteronomy is a testament of gratitude for all that our God has done.  Lent can be a time when we become more grateful for the gifts in our lives that we regularly take for granted—gifts that in the impermanence of our lives could be gone tomorrow.

Lent additionally calls us to balance in our lives.  While I don’t believe it needs to be a “punishing time” of great fasting and abstinence; there is a place for such practices.  Jesus chose such practices because he probably instinctively knew that it would steel him against the trials, hurts and disappointments to come.  Additionally, he probably knew that such practices would give him the strength to be priest, (we might think, servant here) prophet and lover of his human family and all that, that would mean.

I think because, at times, much of the above is quite a task to take on; we don’t relish a time like Lent.  Usually, it comes in the Church Year, at least in our climate, in the dead of winter and it might make us feel dull, but through the 40 days, we begin to glimpse spring, when new life begins to burst forth.  This new life not only shows itself in material ways around us, but there is every chance that this new life will be seen in us as well if we have allowed ourselves to open up to the larger world around us—the world that so desperately needs true followers of our brother, Jesus.

The prophet Isaiah, in one of the readings of this past week challenges us to be about the fast that our God truly wants—the “fast” that calls us to care for the least among us.

We sang the beautiful refrain from Psalm 91 today, “Be with me God, when I am in trouble,” and our faith assures us that indeed, God will!  Our faith also calls us to the realization that God does deserve our love, our adoration and our homage, as the Gospel reminds us today and in our world is where we must show that love.

The kin-dom that Jesus left us is the world in which we live—if we can love this world and its people, and work for the good of all, then the love we owe to God who has first loved us, will be accomplished!  Amen? Amen!