Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all people.
The season of gift-giving is over. If you’ve planned well and lived simply there aren’t any large post-Christmas credit card balances looming on your mid-winter horizon. Epiphany, that brief season that moves from the visit of the Magi through Jesus’ baptism and call of the disciples to his transfiguration, now draws to a close as well, giving rise to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.
Many of us will make that annual trip to the altar to receive the imposition of ashes. Kneeling there among family, friends, and neighbors, the worship leader will take last spring’s palms — burned and ground into fine ash — and mark a cross on our foreheads. We’ll hear somber words: “From dust you were formed; to dust you will return.” In that brief moment we are reminded that we need God’s forgiveness and grace and that we need each other in our communities of faith.
We are bound together, you and I. Each one of us is wonderfully and uniquely created by God with gifts and talents, skills and abilities, failings and frailties. But we are not alone, nor are we designed to be alone. We are called to be in community, to be the church—the body of Christ—here on earth. We are to minister to one another, to recognize the image of Christ in each other, and to love one another.
We are called to mourn with the widow of the 50-year-old man who dies after a long and painful battle with cancer—being present with her at the funeral and bearing gifts of our signature comfort foods along with hugs and tears. We rejoice together at the baptism of a young family’s first child, understanding that the presentation for baptism calls us as people of God to support and pray for this child as she begins her new life in Christ. Together in good times and in bad times, we are the people of God in community, and this life together is one of the best gifts we can share with each other.
However you choose to observe Lent this year, I encourage you to do two things: first, pray daily and include in your prayers those in your community of faith along with all God’s people in this world, and second participate actively in the gatherings of your community. Come to worship and be edified by the presence and spirit of your sisters and brothers in Christ. Join in shared activities — gather over a cup of coffee or a potluck meal. Sit around the table and share stories and laughter. Bear one another’s burdens and lift each other up. Cultivate your relationships with care and energy. I promise your life will be richer for it, and you will experience the joy and goodness of the life together that Christ desires for us.
Yes, Lent is a time of reflection — a somber season to examine our sin and need of forgiveness, but it is also a time to reach out to one another in all of life’s times and seasons. We are stronger together, and our lives are better lived in each other’s company. The gifts of your time, energy, and presence are precious indeed! Share them “with glad and generous hearts” in the name of Christ.
2008, The Rev. Sharron Lucas, all rights reserved. Used by permission.
The Rev. Sharron Riessinger Lucas is a parish pastor serving the Sheyenne-Oberon Area Ministry, a four-point cooperative ministry in the Eastern North Dakota Synod of the ELCA. She came to ordained ministry after teaching secondary and college English, working in non-profit management and public relations, and moonlighting as a freelance writer. She is the mother of two wonderful daughters.