A Word from Our Pastor 2011 March Lent

March 9 is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the church season of Lent. Lent is the roughly 40 day period preceding Easter. (The number 40 reminds us of Jesus’ 40 days being tempted and the 40 years the Israelites spent in the wilderness. ) Lent is traditionally a time of reflection and preparation for baptism and Easter. Easter and baptism are celebrations of new life, rebirth, renewal. . . what can we do to PREPARE to be re-born? That’s an interesting question. . . isn’t it?

Even though I don’t have any personal experience with this, I know that giving birth isn’t easy. There’s waiting, a lot of discomfort, fear/anxiety, expense, plenty of hopes and dreams for the future, and when the event finally takes place, joy (most of the time). For those who aren’t ready to welcome a new life, or if the child is not well, or somehow not what we want, our response is even more complicated. So if we are expecting to give birth to something new in our lives, the gestation of 40 days is an opportunity to prepare for the big event.

Spiritual practice is the traditional activity during Lent, the best way to prepare for a spiritual birth. This practice can take many forms, but the key is committing to something for the 40-day period. (It’s easier than a New Year’s resolution — ONLY 40 DAYS!!!) Here are some suggestions:
1. Daily prayer (a sample format is attached).
2. Visit a place(s) where you feel energized. Appreciate the beauty of God’s creation, a gift to you and all humanity, intended for your pleasure, your renewal and your comprehension of God’s love and awesomeness.
3. Attend the Lenten series on “Music and Spirituality” — Friday evenings, beginning at 6:30 p.m. on March 18, 25, April 1 and April 8.
4. Get together with a few friends and/or family — over a meal together, ask them how they would like their lives to be renewed. Pray for them that they will experience this renewal. (You can tell them — at the gathering or privately — that you will pray with them or for them).
5. Read a book, listen to music, or see a movie that will deepen your spirituality. (Suggestions attached).
6. Serve someone in need. Ask the Missions Committee where you could go (alone or with a group) to serve a meal, collect can food or toiletries for the needy (we just got an email request from Berkeley Food & Housing. . .) or be involved in some direct service project.
7. Pay some attention to a part of yourself that you tend to neglect; do you need more exercise? Need to get more rest? Need to spend LESS time on the internet, Facebook, watching TV or playing games? Need more quiet/alone time? Need to have time for a hobby? Need to communicate more with friends and family? Need to be more careful about what you eat? If we are to do God’s work in the world, we need to be at our best and make space to listen to God. Pay attention to that part of yourself regularly during these 40 days –commit to a schedule.
8. Read and reflect on the Bible. Attend Tuesday night Bible study (7:30-8:45 p.m.)

Do any one of these with an attitude of openness to God during Lent and something in your life will change. Count on it. I’d like to hear about how it goes for you! May the blessing of preparation lead to new life!

Rev. Naomi

Tuesday, March 1, 2011