Salem Lutheran Church

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Stay Focused

Well, we began the season of Lent last week with the celebration of Ash Wednesday, and now we are on our 40-day journey to the cross. Lent is that season in the church year when we talk about repentance a lot. For many of us, when we hear this word, we think of confessing our sins, those things we have done that are against the ways of God. Lent is not only remembering our sins; it is, perhaps, more importantly, about discovering how we can more fully accept God’s invitation to follow Jesus and to follow God’s way of living. Repentance is literally about turning back to God and God’s ways.

In preparing for Lent, one of the ways we decided, as a congregation, to focus on God’s ways was by offering a Glitter Ash Wednesday service. Yes, this service was about remembering we are mortal and we are sinners; yes, it was focused on challenging us to begin to recognize how we can change our ways; and, yes, it included being marked with the cross of Christ on our foreheads with ashes. This service was also intended, though, to ensure that all people were welcomed into the church by using more inclusive language and by adding glitter to the ash as a sign of the hope and salvation that is promised to all of God’s creation in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For the LBGTQIA community, glitter is a symbol of hope and love.

We did not do this in order to get publicity, although we did get publicity. We did not do this in
order to get more people in the pews, although we did end up with more people worshiping on
Ash Wednesday than in years past. No, we did this because it was and is the right thing to do.
We did this Glitter Ash Wednesday service as a sign that we are a faith community that loves
all of God’s creation and to demonstrate that we are determined to change our ways so that we can better follow in the ways of Jesus.

The service was a beautiful service and well-attended, and, wouldn’t you know it, on the Saturday following, I was made aware of a blog article by a very conservative group of Christians that condemned those of us who would offer such a service. The article said we were “subverting” the meaning of Ash Wednesday. Well, on the contrary, what we did was to live into the very meaning of Ash Wednesday. As a faith community, we confessed our sin of judging others and we expressed the love to others that Jesus commands us to do, that is, to “Love as Jesus has loved.”

This past Sunday, I was asked if I was going to respond to this blog, and my answer to that is absolutely not. I am not going to respond to this article because, like Jesus in our Gospel text for this Sunday, I don’t want to get distracted from our real mission. In our story on Sunday (Luke 13:31-35), Jesus is warned to leave because Herod wants to kill him, but Jesus says, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work’ ” (13:32). In other words, Jesus said: Go tell Herod I have important work to do, and if he thinks he has to come after me, so be it, but I am not going to stop doing the work of God.

That is our call this Lenten season, as well. In a world that is filled with Tweets and Facebook arguments and blogs battles, we are not called to dignify those “foxes” by entering into battles with them. No, we are called to stay focused on God’s work, and when we do, we will upset those in power who do not like what we are doing. We can’t stop that, but we can stay focused on what is important, and what is important to God is that we love this world as God loves this world.

Have a blessed week, and Shalom, Pastor Dave


Tags: Weekly Word