What is Lent about?
Is it simply about giving up sweets, or alcohol, or whatever, for forty days as an act of self-denial and a test of willpower?
Is it about observing a prolonged Holy Week that makes us focus on every last detail of Jesus’ final way to the cross?
Or is it about exploring and returning to our identity as people who’ve passed through the waters of Holy Baptism, as people who’ve been raised up as brothers and sisters in Christ to a new life marked by his love and grace?
What Lent calls us to remember is that our lives are intertwined in each other. God’s grace has made us Christ’s community (a people who serve each other with unity). But we so easily fail to recognize that, and live it out because we’re preoccupied with ourselves and our narrow concerns.
That’s why we hear these words from the prophet Joel when we gather as the Church on Ash Wednesday: Return to me with all your heart, says the Lord, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Tear your hearts in repentance instead of your garments. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful. Gather the people and set apart the congregation as holy. Assemble the elders and gather all the children (Joel 2:12&13,16).
That’s why we hear these words from St. Paul: We are ambassadors for Christ. God is making his appeal to others through us, so we implore you to be brought back in peace to God. We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way (2 Corinthians 5:20,6:3&4).
God wants each of us together. He’s not after the temporary giving up of a “guilty pleasure” but the “giving up” (for good) of what we need to do without, as well as the “taking up” of things that do us well, and the "taking up" of Jesus’ transformative change in our hearts, our congregation, and world.
It’s a lot to ask, yes, but it holds our Lord’s promise of renewal, of being healed together, and of being made whole as a community again.
Yours in the peace and joy of Jesus, +Pastor Aaron B Boerst
For some reason, every year right around the month of February, I always seem to be humming Tom Jones’ disco version of the song, “Love Is in the Air.” For many, love really is in the air. But to keep your hearts grounded for the time being, here’s a brief history of St. Valentine’s Day:
Every February 14, across the United States and in other places around the world, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint, and where did these traditions come from? The history of Valentine’s Day –and its patron saint—is shrouded in mystery. But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition.
So, who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated? Today, the Roman Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred.
One legend has it that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl—who may have been his jailor’s daughter—who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legend is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and romantic figure.
While some believe that Saint Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial—which probably occurred around 270 AD—others claim that the Christian Church may have decided to celebrate Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival.
So there you have it, the story of Valentine. For many, love really is in the air. But for many others, it really isn’t! Sometimes, hearing all this talk about love, and seeing so many valentine cards (or not getting any) can actually make us sick. And, for those feeling lonely around this time of year, Valentine’s Day is often re-named, “Singles Awareness Day!” Whether or not you celebrate this commercial holiday, know that love really isn’t in the air! Love came down with Christ. For us as a body of believers, love is in God and in one another!
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
1 John 4: 7-12
In the Love of Jesus,
Romans believe, their oldest calendar was instituted by their legendary founder Romulus. Around the year 713 BC, the months, Ianuarius and Februarius were added by Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome; however they were originally placed at the end of the year as the last two months. March was the first month of the year, and the calendar year had only ten months in all. (July and August were later added by Caesar’s, Julius and Augustus). Years later after the reign of the kings of Rome, newly elected Emperor, Julius Caesar decided in 46 BC to move the start of the calendar from the beginning of March to the beginning of January.
As the last month of the year in the original Roman calendar, the Roman month Februarius was named after the Latin term februum, which means “purification,” via the purification ritual Februa held on February 15 (full moon) in the old lunar Roman calendar. For the Romans, at the end of every year purification is needed to begin anew.
As we look at the month of February for us today in the year 2017, my prayer for you is to think of the ways in which your life is in need of purification. Is the looming tax season and the pressure of financial burden weighing on you? Purify the way you spend and save. Are old hurts between friends or loved ones causing you to be bitter? Purify your relationships through forgiveness and reconciliation. Are the winter months getting you down? Purify yourself through the love and charity of those around you and those in your church. Most of all, find purity for your soul through the only one we can say was ever pure: our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
This February with so many things going on in your life remember that you are already pure in Christ!
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18
May you experience the Love and Purity of Christ this February,
Pastor Aaron B Boerst
One of my favorite NON-Christian holidays is "Groundhog Day," February 2. It's just an odd day. A furry rodent comes up from the ground... in this case a tree stump, and whether or not he sees his shadow, he determines the weather.
This year, Punxsutawney Phil, the famous rodent himself may indeed see his shadow, meaning that Pennsylvanians have to endure six more weeks of winter. Or not. He's been correct less than 40% of the time. Even worse than paid meteorologists. That's not too good. 40%. Pretty much a failing grade, actually.
The Dutch, and Germans before them who settled Pennsylvania, believed that if “Phil” came up and saw his shadow, there would be 6 more weeks of severe winter. If it was cloudy and his shadow wasn’t cast, the weather would be fine.
As joyfully silly as Groundhog Day seems, it makes me think about the odd things people look to for answers, encouragement, and hope. We often try to find approval and acceptance in the oddest places, and from the strangest people. We try to make ourselves feel better by buying, keeping, and possessing beautiful things (or people). We become addicted to things that promise but can’t deliver. (Judging the weather by checking out the hibernation habits of a furry woodland creature doesn’t seem too odd after all).
Well, guess what. Our LORD and savior Jesus Christ makes promises too. But he keeps them.
God promises an answer to our prayers (1 John 5:14-15). He has promised to supply every need we have. (Philippians 4:19). God has promised that His grace is sufficient for us. (2 Corinthians 12:9). God has promised that His children will not be overtaken with temptation. (I Corinthians 10:13). God has promised us victory over death. He first resurrected Jesus by way of assuring our resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). God has promised that all things work together for good to those who love and serve Him faithfully (Romans 8:28). God has promised that those who believe in Jesus and are baptized for the forgiveness of sins will be saved. (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). God has also promised His people eternal life (John 10:27-28).
Where is your light that casts a shadow in this dark, world that we’ve messed up? Where do you find hope, when you feel alone? Look to Christ, the true Light of the World, the One who rose from the ground, the one who rose from darkness, from death itself to bring true light and hope to your darkness, your pain, your brokenness, your death. His love heals. His forgiveness redeems and restores. His grace gives freedom and peace.
What we celebrate at Easter is FAR different than Groundhog Day. And Jesus didn't just see his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter or Lent or whatever... He rose CONQUERING the winter and darkness of our souls, bringing us into life.
Lent, which begins with Ash Wednesday, begins the time of preparation for the celebration of Easter (so don’t miss it or risk seeing 6 more weeks of Lent!
Blessings and Peace, and Happy Groundhog Day!
Pastor Aaron Boerst