Dear Friends, Lent is upon us–a gift our Church gives us each year to check in on our relationship with our loving God. As a Christian, are we true to what this asks of us?–basically that we live in the footsteps of our brother, Jesus, being good, merciful, kind, just and overall loving as we face each day of our life, for our welfare, but equally, for the welfare of others in our world. This is no small task so it is right that we would spend some concerted effort each year assessing how we are doing, knowing that we don’t do it alone, but that Jesus, our brother and friend, is always with us. My hope for each of you is that you are safe and well, and that you have peace of heart and mind–Pastor Kathy
P.S. Please don’t ever hesitate to be in touch if I can help you in any way or if you just would like to chat–507-429-3616 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Our God says, “You shall call upon me and I will answer you. I will be with you in times of trouble; I will deliver you and honor you. Long life and contentment will be yours.
Let Us Pray
Loving God, through the gift of this Lenten Season, help us to understand the meaning of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and teach us to reflect these mysteries in our own lives. We ask all this of you, Creator God, Jesus our Savior, and the Spirit who all live and love us forever and ever, Amen.
- Genesis 9: 8-15
- 1 Peter 3: 18-22
- Mark 1: 12-15
My friends, today’s 1st and 2nd readings are basically about being saved—the Genesis reading is about Noah and the Flood, an event that kills every living thing—people, animals, and plants, except for those that made it into the ark. Peter follows with a reading comparing the flood waters to those of baptism and of how “water” has the possibility of cleansing us—saving us, as it were.
Now whether you hold faith in the fact, that on the surface of the story from Genesis, God caused the flood to basically wipe out all that was evil, except for Noah and his family and the other creatures aboard the ark; there is a larger story that we should hold onto as we move once again into the holy season of Lent. We will come back to that.
Suffice it to say that stories of floods and other natural disasters in the times when the Old Testament books were written, were ways to describe events that possibly happened, but that the people didn’t understand. And what they didn’t understand and couldn’t explain were put into the realm of God for cause and effect.
So back to the larger story of the piece that we should hold onto from Noah and the Flood. At the end of the devastation, we are told that God gives the sign of the “rainbow” and of how when a rainbow appears, from that day forward, it should remind the people of the covenant made between God and humans for all time.
The rainbow basically says—in its beauty, that our God loves us and wants to be in relationship with us. An additional piece, in the beauty of the rainbow, would be for us beautiful creatures, given birth and a chance at a human experience, through the magnitude of our loving God, to treat our world, all created life—plants, animals, to say nothing of people, with great reverence and care.
That is why, on a social plane, it is important, in fact necessary, for our country to be part of the Paris Climate Accords in order that we can work with other nations to protect our beautiful planet from global warming. That is also why on that same social plane, it is important and necessary for our country to be part of the World Health Organization (WHO)—one that works with all countries involved to see that equity exists between all peoples—on matters of health—that vaccines, during this time of pandemic are equally shared between rich and poor countries alike—something that the WHO is calling member nations to task for at present.
It is important my friends to always, as Christians, as followers of our brother Jesus, to walk in his path, to accept and believe in the God that he shows us through his life among us. His Abba (Daddy) is one who loves each of us unconditionally, Jesus tells us, so to accept and believe in a god who would destroy all of creation out of anger and lack of patience with those this same god made “imperfect” in the first place, doesn’t seem to jive with the God of Jesus.
So, friends, my study and humble opinion would challenge us to look deeper when Scripture readings don’t seem to be, “the way we should go.” My study has shown me, over the years, that the writings of the prophets as opposed to the other stories of the people, in the times that they were written, without complete understanding or knowledge, are far better messages to hold onto and be challenged by in the active living out of our faith.
The prophet Joel in the reading for Ash Wednesday is an example in point. The people in the time of Joel had the custom of “rending” or tearing their clothes, covering themselves with ashes to physically say that something was amiss in their lives that they needed to change and perhaps on a deeper level, to remind themselves that life is short—the grave is near and now is the time to start being their best.
Christians use the sign of ashes for the same reason each Lent as we enter a time that calls us to return to our loving God, especially if we have been away, for whatever reason, returning to a God who does patiently await us, unlike the god of the Old Testament who loses patience with the people, if we stay to the surface level of the story.
Joel therefore tells the people, ourselves included, “Don’t rend [or tear] your clothes—but rend your heart—”tear it open,” so to speak, making it big enough to hold not just your own needs, but the needs of others too.
Jesus, in Mark’s gospel says basically the same, “This is the time of fulfillment—change your hearts and your minds.” And being Jesus’ followers—we must do that and following our brother and friend will always mean, going deeper. Looking back a final time at the story of the flood, we can only imagine the damage that such a catastrophic event caused—the chaos really. Our present-day world has experienced floods that we have named “catastrophic” and the news media has shown us the devastation.
Present-day scientists warn us that if we don’t tend to our earth and put a halt to activities that are causing our planet to heat up, there may soon not be the ability to turn this situation around.
My friends, Lent is a wonderful time that calls us each year to come to remember, if we have forgotten, our place in all of creation. If we don’t remember that the earth, in all its beauty, is not only for our use, but for all our human sisters and brothers, our animal sisters and brothers too, as Francis of Assisi would name them. If we don’t remember “our place,” it is possible that the “chaos” spoken of in the Genesis reading today could visit us in our time as it already has, in the fires in California and the floods on our southern and eastern coasts.
And as spoken of above, the inequality of resources in our country and world—be it in jobs, food, water, vaccines and more, to those that our great country allows to live in poverty due to racism, sexism, and the like—we can name our “ism” of choice.
So my friends, perhaps this Lent, we might choose to, spend, “a bit more time in the desert” with Jesus, whether we do that through more prayer, more reading, more “giving up” or more “giving to”—whatever it might be as we bring into clearer focus who we are as individuals, what our true place in this grand universe is, and where we may have been remiss in sharing our gifts with others. A blessed Lent to all as we discover what is our piece to do for the good of all. Amen? Amen!
Prayers of the Faithful
Response: “We are grateful, O God.”
- O God, as we begin the holy season of Lent, thank you for being our model in Jesus for reverencing your beautiful world, we pray—Response: “We are grateful, O God.”
- Loving God, as you help our country and our world to be people who love peace and strive to bring it about—thank you for keeping us from all evil, we pray— Response: “We are grateful, O God.”
- Gracious God, thank you for giving each of us health of body, mind and spirit–being with those who suffer from all debilitating diseases, COVID, along with cancer and mental illness, we pray—Response: “We are grateful, O God.”
- O God, you are with us, helping us to be true followers of Jesus, willing to speak the hard truths at times as we advocate for those who have no voice, we pray—Response: “We are grateful, O God.”
- O God, thank you for work and the ability to work and we ask you to be with those who have lost their jobs and can’t find work, we pray—Response: “We are grateful, O God.”
- Loving God, as our country and world strives to end its economic woes, teach us to think and act globally doing with less so that everyone can have the basics, we pray—Response: “We are grateful, O God.”
- Loving God, as you continue to bless our president and all world leaders—help them to be leaders of their people. Help them by their leadership to instill hope in our country and throughout the world. Enable all of us to do our part to renew our country and our world, we pray—Response: “We are grateful, O God.”
- For our community, All Are One, as you continue to bless us and assist us to be open to all of your people, and to always make a place of welcome at our table, we pray—Response: “We are grateful, O God.”
- Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, from COVID and all other causes—give them your peace, that they may find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “We are grateful, O God.”
***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—pause, then response
Let Us Pray
Good and gracious God, help us during this holy season of Lent to be your loving people. Help us to be intent on modeling our lives after Jesus—one who reached out to all, no matter what. Help us to take time during our days to sit quietly with you in order that we might grow closer to you. Remind us daily that you love each of us beyond all imagining. Give us grateful hearts and disciplined minds—let our Lenten sacrifices strengthen us for greater tasks of loving—all this we ask of you, Creator, Savior and Spirit, who all live with us and love us, forever and ever, Amen.
Let Us Pray—Again, my friends, we cannot be together, nor receive Communion together from the table, but let us remember that Jesus is always with us.
Prayer of Communion
Dear Jesus, increase our faith and hope and deepen our love for you and your world in this spiritual communion. Help us to live by your words and to always seek you in our lives. We ask this in your loving name, Amen.