A Love Story

Sunday was “Oscar Night,”  the night when the winners of the 84th annual Academy Awards were announced.  I admit, I didn’t watch it.  While watching the commentary the next morning on TV, I noticed someone listed on many of the ‘best dressed’ lists: a nun in her habit (dress)!  The only nun currently a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Mother Dolores Hart not only voted in, but attended the Oscars this year.  

 Her attendance was to support the Oscar-nominated documentary short, God is the Bigger Elvis, of which she was the subject.  Hart discovered an inner peace and contentment in the life of faith that had been absent on stage, on-screen, and in her engagement.  She found that peace in her pursuit of God.  Hart confessed that it is difficult explaining her change in vocation, but has described it as:  “Falling in love. One falls in love with the Lord.”  In 1963, Dolores Hart left everything and entered a convent in Connecticut. 

During this season of Lent, I’ve heard some people discussing what they were ‘giving up.’  Traditionally, people who give something up for Lent do it as a way of connecting themselves with Christ’s time of voluntary self-deprivation during his 40 days in the wilderness.  It was one way that Jesus prepared himself to begin his ministry, and it is how some prepare themselves for Easter.  Lent, in general, is a time to rededicate ourselves to living as Christ did and taught: by loving God with our whole heart, mind and soul, and loving our neighbors as ourselves.  Lent is a time when Christian culture encourages us to reevaluate our lives and our expressions of faith.  This does not end, however, on Easter morning.

While we are not Catholic, there is much we can all learn from Mother Hart: who lived into what she saw as God’s plan for her life… who reevaluated her life from the perspective of her God, and took seriously that which she found. 

She inspires.  I will never be a movie star, nor will I become a nun.  I will, by the grace of God, live as a servant of Jesus Christ.  I will, by the grace of God, live, “Looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfector of our faith, who for the sake of*the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.  [May we all] consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners,* so that [we] may not grow weary or lose heart”  (Hebrews 12:2-4).  Thanks be to God for all who inspire us in our walk of faith.

Ash Wednesday

Friends in Christ,

Ash Wednesday is a holy day that is ‘old hat’ to some, but less familiar to many of you.  This day marks the beginning of the season of Lent.  It calls us to repentance and reflection, while reminding us to be thankful for the God who loves and forgives us.   I thought you might appreciate the discussion of Ash Wednesday from Mark D. Roberts, a Presbyterian pastor.  Feel free to link to his Blog, “Pathos: Reflections on Christ, Church, and Culture.”

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/ash-wednesday-practice-and-meaning/

A reminder: this Wednesday is Ash Wednesday.  I invite you to join us for worship at 12:15 in the chapel.  We’ll be kicking off our 7 week Lenten Luncheon Series, “The Path to the Passion.”  Lunch is available in the Kirk at 12:45.  At this service, we will provide for the Imposition of Ashes for those who so desire.

If you are unable to attend the mid-day service, come at Wednesday Connection.  At 6:00, we’ll have a brief devotion (over dinner) and allow time for families to receive ashes if they would like.

St. Valentine’s Day

How do you celebrate Valentine’s day? 

It isn’t a very big holiday in my house.  My husband, Chris, always accuses me of a certain callousness akin to one of our favorite TV characters, Dr. Sheldon Cooper (of The Big Bang Theory).  Sheldon and I both are underwhelmed by the emphasis on romantic love on this particular day.  Please see Sheldon’s thoughts below.

No matter your opinion on the validity of this holiday or how near/far our celebrations are to the remembrance of the saint’s day there is no denying the Biblical mandate to love. 

Just at St. Valentinius (so the legend goes) encouraged the spread of love by performing Christian marriages in spite of the decrees of Emperor Claudius, we, too, are called to love and to encourage love.  The love we share with the world is one of the ways we live as servants of the living God.  It has little to do with romance and little to do with one’s ‘sweetheart.’  We are given a far higher calling in John 15:9-14 (below).  

Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”

 ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

Loving each person that we encounter as Christ loved us is an impossible task.  It is, however, our goal as people of faith.  It is easy to love those who love you.  Harder still to love those who hate you (see Matthew 5:43-45). 

 Valentinius stood up for love and for his faith and was martyred for both

In the midst of all the hype that surrounds this date, let us remember his lesson.  Love is to be encouraged and spread, just as is the Good News of the Gospel: that Jesus Christ loved us, and loves us, all.   Love is lovely.  Romantic love is incredible, a gift from God.  Christian love is better. 

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us* and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Eph. 5:1-2).”

Youth…

There’s no escaping it…  I am a young pastor.   If I can count on anything, it is that when I’m introduced as a minister, I’ll get a quick look-over followed by the inevitable, “Wow, you’re  so young!”  On days other than Sundays, this look often begins at my face, bounces to my footwear (which, to be fair, isn’t famously professional), and then goes back to my face. I am young, but I am a pastor, a teacher, a preacher and a leader of Christ’s faithful people.   These roles spur me on- keeping me from dwelling on disparaging remarks and striving to serve.

My confidence in the Word of God is another thing that drives me, and several passages hit close to home [see Isa. 43:1-7, Jos. 1:1-9, Jn. 14:27, Rom. 15:13, Mat. 28:20, Ps. 32:8].  I treasure them and depend on them in good times and in bad.  The Apostle Paul’s letters to Timothy, a young leader in the church are filled with encouragement, particularly (for today) 1 Tim 4:12, which is written below.  

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.  

 This snippet of scripture opens with a pointed command: do not let anyone look down on your youth.   Paul was aware of the distinct possibility that people would look down at Timothy.  Paul does not tell Timothy to live in fear of the opinions of others- worried about every raised eyebrow, patronizing tone, or condescending “You’ll know better when you’re older.”  Instead, Paul shows Timothy what he needs to do to keep others from despising his youth: live as an example.  Be good enough that those who scoff are the fools- not you.  God’s standard is high and God’s calling is not one to be casually lived into.

 This Sunday is Youth Sunday at our church.  It’s the first of two- the other being in May.  Our young people will stand before our congregation as the leaders of worship- as valid ministers within our community of faith.   They are young, so young.  They are also your pastors, preachers and teachers this week. 

 I charge you, Adults, to listen to the words of our young people and to hear their message- not just their age.

 I charge you, Youth, to faithfully lead us in worship this week—and to walk each day of your life- as leaders worth following.

Feeding the Wolf

In yesterday’s sermon, I shared an old story:

A Cherokee elder was teaching his grandchildren about life.  He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me… it is a terrible fight between two wolves.

One wolf represents fear, anger, sorrow, greed, arrogance, resentment, lies, and false pride.  The other wolf stands for joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, friendship, generosity, truth, and compassion.

This same fight is going on inside you, children, and inside every other person.

They thought about this a moment and then one grandchild asked their grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”  ”  The old man simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Are we feeding the right wolf?

Philippians 4:8:  Beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.