A Word from Our Pastor 2012 March Lent: What Can I/We Do?

Lent: What Can I/We Do?

A Word from Our Pastor
March 2012

Lent began this year on Wednesday, February 22; we marked the occasion with a service; our choir sang a beautiful anthem to help us enter in the spirit of this season. Lent, as many of you know, is a time for spiritual reflection and self-sacrifice. Most Protestants who observe Lent “give up something” during the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. People might give up junk food, or watching TV or playing video games. This kind of sacrifice is intended to help us understand Jesus’ sacrifice for us, as well as for us to show that Jesus does not suffer alone, because we are sharing (in our small way) his sacrifice.

This year, however, I want us to focus on this theme in a slightly different way. Our theme this year is “What Can I/We Do?” when we encounter the suffering of others? This theme came from a song that Jean Hart and I heard when we were at the (Church) Leadership Institute in Kansas City last fall. A young girl named Gracie, who was about 9 years old at the time, heard about the problems of hunger in Malawi, Africa. She wanted to do something to help the situation. Her talent was music, so she wrote this song (and others), recorded it, and donated the profits from the CD to build fishponds. As of last fall, she has raised more than $20,000, and in addition to fishponds, she is now building an orphanage.

All of us have opportunities to be of service, but we don’t always take advantage of those opportunities. We can donate funds, of course, but there are many other ways to be involved. The lesson that Gracie teaches us is, in part, “listen to your heart.” She was so deeply moved when she saw pictures of the poverty in Malawi (her church was showing video of a mission trip) that she felt God was calling her to do something. Unlike so many of us, she acted! She talked with her parents about giving everything they would spend on Christmas to the church’s fishpond initiative. Her parents suggested she try to think about a project, something that would involve her over a longer period of time. So, Gracie’s listening to God, in partnership with her family and church, has made a huge difference. Even more, the success of her CD has only caused her to dream bigger dreams – she wants to do even more to alleviate the suffering of others. It is becoming her life’s work.

During the 5 weeks of Lent (and beyond), we will be offering opportunities for you to be involved in easing suffering in the world. Every Sunday, we will be collecting food for the Alameda Food Bank; on Saturday, April 7, everyone is invited to join the youth in serving a meal for the street community at the Newman Center in Berkeley (contact Youngmi if you want to help). The Missions Committee will also be organizing a couple of activities for us. There is the annual Crop Walk (in Albany this year), on April 29.

These are all things we have done before. So, the question of “What can I/we do?” is quite urgent: what are the new things we should be involved in? What is God calling you do to? What is God calling our church to do? I believe that when we are troubled by something, moved by something, it is God speaking to our hearts: “get involved.” Therefore, this Lent please pay attention to those “nudges.” Talk to others – and to me – about them, and we will discern how God is leading our church.

We are also planning each Sunday to focus on an issue that may spark you to get involved:

March 4: Berkeley Food and Housing Project and local poverty
March 11: Being welcoming to people with autism
March 18: International and interreligious concerns: Palestine and Palestinians in our community
March 25: Caring for our congregational members

So, during this Lent, I look forward to hearing your thoughts to : “What can I/we do?”

–Rev. Naomi