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A Letter from Pastor Mary


 

February

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

The season of Lent is soon upon us again. Strangely, both the beginning of Lent and Easter Sunday coincide with other “events” on the calendar: Ash Wednesday is also St. Valentine’s Day and Easter Sunday is also April Fools’ Day (not exactly a holiday, but noteworthy for jokers). Some people have commented that this, in itself, is proof that God has a sense of humor!

I know that in lots of places, Valentine’s Day and April Fools’ Day will be more evident and more meaningful than our religious observances. But I hope you will not share that opinion. The holy days approaching are the most important of the Christian year; they are our vehicle for spending forty days (not counting Sundays) with Jesus in the wilderness, spending a more intensive time in prayer and reflection, assessing our lives, our commitments, and the direction we are going.

My favorite articulation of the meaning of Lent is from Frederick Buechner, who says, "In many cultures there is an ancient custom of giving a tenth of each year's income to some holy use. For Christians, to observe the forty days of Lent is to do the same thing with roughly a tenth of each year's days. After being baptized by John in the River Jordan, Jesus went off alone into the wilderness where he spent forty days asking himself the question of what it meant to be Jesus. During Lent, Christians are supposed to ask one way or another what it means to be themselves...to answer questions like this is to begin to hear something not only of who you are but of both what you are becoming and what you are failing to become. It can be pretty depressing business all in all, but if sackcloth and ashes are at the start of it, something like Easter may be at the end."

I recently came across another explanation of Lent from Sister Joan Chittister's book, The Rule of Benedict: Insight for the Ages. “Lent is the time for trimming the soul and scrapping the sludge off a life turned slipshod. Lent is about taking stock of time, even religious time. Lent is about exercising the control that enables us to say no to ourselves so that when life turns hard of its own accord we have the stamina to say yes to its twists and turns with faith and hope…. Lent is the time to make new efforts to be what we say we want to be.”

I have embraced Lent religiously (ha ha) for most of my life, and to me, it is the necessary spring cleaning of my soul. (I always resolve to do a thorough physical spring cleaning of my house, too, something that has yet to come to fruition!) It is hard, but it is worth it, because Easter does come at the end of it, every year. And Easter – resurrection – is the heart of our faith. But just like nothing can rise that has not first fallen, we cannot know resurrection until we know death. And that is the hard work of Lent – letting the past die, letting go of any dead weight that is holding us back, shedding the bad thoughts and habits that cause dis-ease in our lives. It is hard, but it is temporary – just six weeks.

I look forward to joining you on the journey! See inside for all the special activities of Lent – and more!

Peace,

Mary

The Rev. Dr. Mary N. Pugh, Pastor