Pastor’s Page – March 2023

Friends in Christ,

As we enter the season of Lent, our weekly Old Testament readings will focus on the five great covenants – with Noah, with Abraham and Sarah, through the gift of the law to the Israelites, through the promise of life to the Israelites, and a future covenant “written on our hearts.” In addition to the Gospel and New Testament readings, these stories help center us on the most important aspects of our faith, reminding us of God’s great love for us, God’s mercy and forgiveness, God’s promise of protection and endurance, and our response of faithful worship and thanks.

These covenants also remind us that God desires to be in relationship with us. Throughout the entire Biblical story, we see God working with God’s people to maintain a right and good relationship.

But, what does this relationship look like? We are forever loved and held by God. We are forgiven through God’s abundant mercy. We receive eternal life and salvation. Romans 8 even tells us that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Ultimately, through Christ’s death on the cross, our sins are forgiven and God ensures that we will forever be in right relationship. Through Christ, there is nothing we need to do to remain in right relationship with God. Thus, God’s promises of eternal life, salvation, forgiveness, and love are guaranteed. That sounds like a pretty sweet deal! And it is.

Meanwhile, during our first Lenten lunch, we read the story from Mark 12 where one of the scribes asks Jesus, “Which commandments is the first of all?” Jesus responds: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Although nothing can separate us from God’s love, and we don’t have to do anything to earn our salvation, our relationship with God should be evident through how we speak and how we live. The commandments that Jesus highlights as most important are meant to be a guide for our lives. As we seek to love our God with all our heart and love our neighbors as ourselves, everything else falls into place, and our lives are entirely reoriented.

Sometimes, I find myself daydreaming, and wondering what the world would look like if every single person committed to being just a little more loving. We can live this out in all kinds of ways. Maybe it’s responding more gently to our children. Maybe it’s a random act of kindness for a stranger. Maybe it’s seeking to help one person each day or week. Maybe it’s standing up for someone at school or in the workplace. Maybe it’s volunteering in the community. Maybe it’s advocating for change. Together, we could move mountains.

During Lent, I regularly talk to people who have given something up for the season. Usually it’s some kind of food – chocolate, cheeseburgers, soda, etc. And for some people, this is a very meaningful practice that brings them closer to understanding Jesus’ suffering and love. Personally, this practice has never done anything for me except make me and those around me miserable.

Instead, I like the idea of using this season to live a little more deeply into God’s call to love our neighbor as ourselves. Perhaps it means taking up a new practice this Lent, maybe even one of the ones I listed above. But for those choosing to give something up, I’ve always been a fan of these words, often attributed to Pope Francis, but likely anonymous:

Fast from hurting words and say kind words.
Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.
Fast from anger and be filled with patience.
Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.
Fast from worries and have trust in God.
Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.
Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
Fast from bitterness and fill your hearts with joy.
Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others.
Fast from grudges and be reconciled.
Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.

I pray that this Lenten season is a time to remember God’s love for you, grow in faith, and seek to live more deeply into God’s commandment to love one another.

Grace and peace to you,

Rev. Jessica Hahn