It is Lent. The forty days, excluding Sundays, where the church has traditionally set aside time for penitence, self-reflection, and spiritual discipline. The church in which I grew up didn’t say much about Lent. That was for my Catholics friends, who came to school talking about what they had to give up—chocolate, or their favorite dessert, or soda pop. In my church, the season was all about the two big days—Palm Sunday and Easter. The Easter cantata was the place where we were told the whole story of the events leading up to Good Friday and the triumph of resurrection.
As I got older, I began to appreciate the idea of Lent—of taking time to slow the story down; to reflect not only on the journey of Jesus and the disciples, but my own journey as well. Over the years,Lent has become pivotal to my life, and I look forward to this season of reflection, of taking a bit more time over what it means to be doing the things I do as part of my faith and commitment, and wandering and wondering about my job as a follower of Jesus in this time and place.
This season, I am reflecting especially on what it means when we take on the words we recite at the time of our “joining” the church. We promise to support the work of our local congregation through our PRAYERS, PRESENCE, GIFTS, SERVICE, AND WITNESS. Everytime I invite persons to unite with a local congregation, I ask the entire gathered body to reaffirm those vows. But this Lent, I would like to re-examine what it is we think we are signing up for?
This week, in particular, I wonder what it is I think I am promising when I am promising to pray. Today, social media is blazing with outrage over the facility with which we say this new set of victims are in our “thoughts and prayers.” Thoughts and prayers are clearly not enough. Or are they? I think it may just depend on what believe we are signing up for when we say we will pray. We need to be outraged. We need to take stock. We need to DO something different than we are doing—which for the most part is just a brief wave of words that disappear until the next time our children are shot at in a senseless act of violence.
Maybe. Just maybe. It is time to take our prayers to the streets—oh I don’t mean like the scripture I read on Ash Wednesday about the piety of the Pharisees, who loved to pray loudly in public, so the people would be impressed by how religious they were. But, the real deal. Real Prayer takes us places. Real prayer changes things. And I will tell you the most important thing that prayer changes—it changes the one who prays.
My heart is heavy today as I wonder what I can possibly do that will actually make a difference—save a life, change a mind, build a different kind of world for our children. I don’t have the answers, but I do know that prayer is part of it—if I could only truly understand what is being asked of me. I hope you will join me as we ask our questions together.
Blessings and see you Sunday. Pastor Nancy