Dear Partners in Ministry,
As I sit writing this article, the temperature outside is 7 degrees and thatís fine with me. As Iíve been admitting to people over the last few days as weíve greeted each other, Iíve been looking forward to winter finally getting here! Now, no one has thrown anything at me yet, although I have gotten plenty of scowls and incredulous looks. You see, Iím a 4 Seasons kind of girl. I like the changes that come with the different seasons. It gives me a psychological boost, helping to keep me from slipping into a rut.
So right now, Iím enjoying the cold weather and I canít wait for a snow day. Pittsburgh never looks prettier than when itís covered with a beautiful coat of sparkling white snow. Iím like the kids! I like the fact that a snow day gives us a legitimate reason to slow down, let go of our schedules and have a free day. It doesnít matter whether I choose to make a bunch of phone calls to find out how parishioners are faring, or to read a book that Iíve been meaning to finish, or to clean out my sock drawer. Of course, it helps to be blessed with a snow blower and a warm house. In my experience, winter is a welcome change of pace.
Thatís why I look forward to Lent. Lent is the season in our church year that provides us with a spiritual change of pace. Lent is no more about gloom and doom than the season of winter. While it is a time in the church that is meant to be more sober and reflective, like winter, it provides us with a time when we stick closer to our church home and curl up to the Word. During Lent, we are preparing ourselves for the coming of another season, Easter, just as winter prepares us to really appreciate spring. In fact, the word ďLentĒ means ďspringĒ. The six weeks of Lent give us the time and change of pace, in anticipation of the celebration of the great events of Good Friday and Easter, to clean house spiritually so that weíre not bogged down when the warm weather (read that ďgood newsĒ) hits. Itís about taking time to curl up with the living Word of God in a way that surrounds us with the warmth of Godís amazing love and mercy won for us by Jesus and made available to us by the Holy Spirit. Weíve all experienced it before, just as weíve lived through many winters. So, letís take advantage of the time and change of pace that Lent gives us to draw close to our Lord by revisiting the basics of our faith.
When we practice Lent by holding Jesus Christ at its center, Lent becomes a time of reflection, refreshment and renewal. Itís a time when we take conscious spiritual steps that remind us of the height, depth and breadth of Godís love for us and his purpose for our lives. And we find ourselves renewed and refreshed.
So, what steps are you going to take in order to take advantage of the change of pace this Lent? What spiritual warmth and comfort are you going to let into your life during these Lenten days?
Here are some suggestions.
1) If you havenít been worshipping regularly, and itís not a snow day, make a special commitment to worship on Sundays.
2) If you are already regular in your worship attendance, add a Lenten mid-week service to your schedule.
3) Attend one of the Bible Studies or Sunday School classes being offered this Lent in our PLUM congregations.
4) If youíre blessed with a snow day, devote some extra time to prayer or pick up your Bible and spend some time with Godís Word. If itís not already a daily practice, set aside time each day for conversation with God. Need help getting started? Just talk with the pastors. There are a lot of devotional resources available, many especially designed for Lent.
5) If youíre planning to fast this year, give the money you save to the food bank or the churchís world hunger, disaster response or refugee appeals.
6) Try practicing ďFaith FluencyĒ! Share your faith story with someone. Speak well of your faith community with your friends, so they come to know how important a church home is to your well-being (instead of listing your worries or concerns about the future of the church!). Invite a neighbor or co-worker to worship with you. Give your time to a charity and when asked why you bother?...take the opportunity to share your love for Jesus.
May the fact that Lent is early this year give you the same opportunity as winter to change the pace of your life, the spiritual pace that is, and draw close to our Lord.
Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110 412-466-7773