A Pastoral Word
This is always a hard time of the year for me. The days seem to get darker sooner and the weather seems to be getting colder. Usually during this time of year, all I want to do is curl up in with a blanket and a good book or hibernate until spring. I don’t like the dark days and I don’t like the cold. My wish is always the same during this time of year. Can’t we just skip this part and go to spring? Can’t we just skip the cold and go to the cool crisp sunny spring days? Can’t we just skip the darkness and go straight to the light?
As I ask myself these questions, I realize that the answer is no. It is by going through the dark that we appreciate the light. And that is one of the reasons we celebrate the Season of Lent. We start the Season of Lent with our Ash Wednesday Service, a service designed to help us remember our mortality and our human sin. The imposition of ashes on the forehead is an ancient tradition that goes back at least to the tenth century. At the Ash Wednesday Service, we are reminded that we are dust and to dust we shall return as the ashes are placed in the shape of a cross on our forehead.
The Ash Wednesday Service is a dark service that gives us a chance to lay our burden of sin down before our God. It is dark service that helps create in us a clean heart so that we may be prepared for our Lenten journey. It is a dark service that reminds of our beginnings and our endings. It is a dark service where the seed of grace is planted and awaits the nurturing hope that will grow throughout the Lenten Season and spring forth new life on Easter morning.
Following Ash Wednesday, our Lenten journey will continue for forty days on which we learn and experience Jesus’ travel to Jerusalem. We hear the stories of his teachings and his healings. We hear the stories of how lives will be changed and how the anger and fear of the crowd will grow. Our Lenten journey takes us through the valley of darkness where we will be reminded of many dark times in the lives of the Hebrew people, such as the rain that fell on Noah’s ark for forty days, the Israelites wandering for forty years before coming to the Promised Land, and the Hebrew people who were in exile for forty years before coming home again.
Our journey through Lent is a time to prepare, a time to prepare the rich nourishing soil for the seeds of hope and grace, a time to prepare our hearts and our spirits for the life-giving light that is promised for all. We take this time in Lent to pray, to meditate on the scriptures, and reflect on our faith as Christians. It is also a time for the youth in our church to prepare for baptism and the promise of new life.
I am really looking forward to this year’s Pastor’s Class for many different reasons. It is exciting to be on this journey with our youth as they ask their questions of faith, discover Disciples’ history, and develop mentoring relationships with the elders of our church. It is also exciting to be on this journey with our youth because this will be my first group to baptize! I have been a part of Pastor’s classes in the past, before never in the role of the minister. I have to say that I am a little nervous!
The youth, elder mentors and I will take the next step together on our faith journeys as we look toward preparing for baptism. These youth have been nurtured in their faith by this church and now have decided to take the next step in deepening their relationship with God and with the church. These youth have invited me to be a part of a very important time in their faith journey as their minister. And they have been invited to be a very important part of my ministry!
So I invite all of you to join us on our Lenten journey by attending worship on Sunday mornings, joining us for Bible study, praying for the youth, elders, and ministers who are a part of Pastor’s class or meditating on your journey using the Lenten devotionals provided by the church for your own preparation and prayer life. As we travel the next forty days together, preparing our hearts and spirits for the nourishing light of God, always remember that it is by going through the dark that we appreciate the light. It is by laying our burdens down that we are truly open to the promise of new life. It is by creating in ourselves a clean heart that we can experience the hope and grace of God.