Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Giving Up or Giving To?

Lent begins tomorrow with the observance of Ash Wednesday. The journey of Lent leads us to the joyful expectation of Jesus’ Resurrection on Easter morning. Lent began as a period of fasting and preparation for baptism by converts and then became a time for penance by all Christians. Today many around the world will give something up for Lent as a way of fasting. And I understand the principle of giving something up but if we are to follow in Jesus’ footsteps then shouldn't we also give something in return? When Jesus died on the cross he sacrificed his life so that we could have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven. Jesus gave his life to give us life. So if we just give up something, do we really understand the way to the cross?

As I've been praying about what I should do for Lent, God showed me something different. Instead of just giving something up, I’m going to give. My word for 2015 is “time” and I’m trying to incorporate it into every aspect of this year, including Lent. But what does that look like? To give time, use time?

Maybe it’s helping someone in need, volunteering at the food pantry, collecting items to give to one of our UM missions, meditating on God’s word, knitting a prayer shawl, taking a prayer walk each day and surrounding myself with God’s beautiful creation, writing a note of encouragement to a family member, friend or parishioner each day or reading the words of a Christian writer or theologian to broaden my faith?

As I look over this list it occurs to me that I will be giving up my time in one way or another to do something meaningful. To give up watching T.V. or social media is a way of fasting, but what will you be doing instead? What will you use that time for? When you give up a certain food, what will you do if you’re not eating it? Will you just eat something else? If I give up coffee will I just drink tea? If I give up T.V. will I just turn to my phone or computer?  If I give up Facebook will I just spend time on Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram?

I believe that when we give something up for Lent we should give something in return. When a person fasts they are to spend that time they would have been eating a meal and instead spend it in prayer.

I like what God is leading me to do. Jesus didn't just die on the cross; he gave his life to give us life. He died so that we could be saved. He died so that each time we sin, we have the choice to ask God for forgiveness and in return God washes us clean with the blood of Christ.

That is what Lent is about. It’s preparing ourselves for what Jesus did for us so that we can give of ourselves to others. We are called to walk this journey of Lent following in Jesus footsteps.

Will you be giving up or giving to?


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Are we ready?

The wind moves outside my window as afternoon begins to turn to evening. I sit with paper, pen and hot tea and think of the future. There is a shift in my being and I know it is the work of the Spirit. It happened this past Sunday in the middle of worship, a feeling of peace, belonging, moving forward in this great plan that God has for us. There was nothing out of the ordinary during worship, but yet a feeling of electricity flowed throughout the sanctuary. Tears began to form in the depths of my eyes as my message came to a close. It wasn't the words that brought the tears but a feeling came over me that a shift in the future of the church had taken place; a rebirth, a restart, a new direction? Only God holds the answer that I pray he will begin to share. It’s a wonderful feeling that I hope doesn't end but continues to grow and blossom. This church isn't dead but has been resurrected and now walks a path of new life in a world where so many have turned their backs on God and the church. Could Rustin Ave. UMC be the new church? With its old stone facade, it’s stained glass windows, peeling paint and echoes of children running the halls between Sunday School and worship, could this be the place that God has chosen to do something more, something extraordinary? As Christians we are all called to continue the work of Jesus. To be the hands and feet of the one who taught, healed and died for our sins. We spend our time looking at the numbers in the pews to define if we are a thriving church, but numbers are only fun if the pews are full. The numbers that truly count are those who have been touched by Jesus outside these church walls as we live out our call as disciples. As we drop our nets and leave the comfort of our sanctuary and take the sometimes uncomfortable steps outside the doors of the church, are we ready to do the work that Jesus has called us to do? Are we ready to be the hands and feet of Jesus? Are we ready to meet the people where they are, to begin those conversations with strangers; those who are lost or discouraged, hungry or homeless, hurt or sick? Are we ready to be the new church?