Glimpses of Grace & Truth...In last Sunday’s Episcopal address to over a thousand churches in Tennessee & West KY, Bishop McAlilly reminded us that General Conference did not bring peace to the group called Methodist. This lack of peace, absence of unity is too common in today’s society where people talk much more about what they stand against than what they stand for. Even the term “disaffiliation” is being named as a social trend because we as a society spend more time and energy deciding what we don’t like than what we do, declaring who we reject, and why, than who we accept, and why. We as the Church must give society a better alternative. In this season of Lent, we must practice the alternative now.
In Lent, we should spend more time on what we do than what we say. Of all the images of Lent, Holy Week, and Easter, one of the most helpful is when Jesus took the basin and towel, and washed his disciples’ feet. It is interesting that Jesus gives no lecture or teaching, no parable or proverb as he performs this act where he not only reduces himself to the lowest level of entitlement but genuinely “gets his hands dirty” in the process. The only thing we hear from Jesus is in response to Peter’s senseless questions. So for Lent this year, may we find a way to serve instead of a way to disagree. May we look for a person in need rather than a person who likes (or doesn’t like) my opinion on an issue. Whenever we feel the urge to pick sides or pitch in “our two cents worth” on the issue, may we remember how St. Francis said it: “Preach the gospel every day; use words if you must.”
In Lent, we get back to the foundations of our faith. As Bishop McAlilly reminded us Sunday afternoon, the church is at its best when we’re not focused on choosing sides. We Christians are our best when we don’t expect the Church to be a special interest group. For sure, there are plenty of issues across our society and world, matters of church and of state, and we Wesleyan Methodists count those things as very important. However, we also know that there are other matters more important. So the Amish take a dramatically different position on war and the use of force than did St. Augustine, and yet both gathered at the foot of the cross, both listened closely to the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament and both spent every Easter morning saying the words, “Alleluia, Christ is risen indeed.”
In this particular season of Lent, may we return to Ash Wednesday again and again. For sure, Ash Wednesday is a particular day on the calendar (yes, the lunar calendar) that begins Lent. And most often, once we’ve ended that day and washed off the ashes, we quickly move on to the business of the First Sunday of Lent, then the Second, Third...all the way to Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter. Rather than allowing Ash Wednesday to get smaller and smaller in our rearview mirror, maybe this year, we should revisit its meaning. Instead of being only a calendar event like Bosses Day, when I just need to buy a card, Ash Wednesday is more like the first day of Spring. You see, the first day of Spring is a particular day, but its effects remain with us and even grow in the days ahead. Perhaps we should revisit Ash Wednesday’s intended effects, such as our mortality (“from dust you came; to dust you shall return”).
by honestly admitting that we will all eventually “be dust,” some things that seemed important fade while others gain priority.
Please join us this Lenten season as we strive to draw closer and closer to the side of Jesus on the way to Easter, by way of the cross.
Sincerely in Christ: Ed, Will and the First UMC Family