REFLECTIONS FROM PASTOR AMY JO
Loving God and Neighbor During Lent
Recently, the adult education classes of our congregation have been studying a book called Joining Jesus on His Mission: How to Be an Everyday Missionary by Rev. Greg Finke. This book expands our usual thinking about mission to speak to how we can be in mission for Jesus in our daily lives and our own neighborhoods. I am preaching a sermon series related to the five daily practices of discipleship referenced in this book: 1) Seeking the Kingdom of God, 2) Hearing from Jesus, 3) Talking with People, 4) Doing Good, and 5) Ministering through Prayer. As we consider the practice of talking with people, we remember how Jesus stopped to
talk with the Woman at the Well about living waters. We also remember how Jesus called Zaccheus down from a tree in order to visit his home and talk with him. In both cases, Jesus chose to spend relational time connecting with people over the efficiency of staying on schedule. The author of the book describes this type of relational mission as “inefficiently effective.” I hope that we are all considering the ways that we can be “inefficiently effective” in our own lives.
During a recent sermon, I challenged us each to look for a specific time when we could decide to choose relational conversation above efficiency in our own lives.
We have started celebrating these moments in the sanctuary with a wall of hearts. Each heart we put up records one of these moments in our lives. How about you? Do you have a moment of your own to add to the hearts? Perhaps you paused in the grocery store aisle to listen to the response of a friend who answered the question “How are you?” from their heart. Or perhaps you took a phone call at an inconvenient time because you valued your relationship with the person. Maybe you took a meal to a grieving friend/neighbor and stopped to listen and share memories. As part of our Lenten practice this year, I encourage each of us to value our relationships with each other and make time to have caring conversations. This is one way to show love for our neighbors.
As we began Lent, I also appreciated Bishop Plambeck’s Ash Wednesday meditation. (If you haven’t had the opportunity to view it, you can find a link in our mid-week announcements.) Ash Wednesday (and the Lenten season) is a time for turning toward God. Often people think of the ways that they might turn away from specific sinful behaviors, and that is definitely appropriate for Lent. Further, we can also consider the ways that we can grow deeper in our faith: experiencing rich spiritual growth as we turn toward God. Even for people who have been life-long Christians, God continues to call us toward increasing spiritual growth and depth. John Wesley’s Aldersgate experience of having his heart strangely warmed was not his first introduction to Christianity, but rather continuing spiritual growth. God’s sanctifying grace shapes our lives and opens our heart to this kind of continued spiritual growth. In addition to showing love of God and neighbor by turning toward God for spiritual growth and positive, relational time with our neighbors, we can also show love of our neighbors through works of mercy. It has been the tradition at Saint Paul’s UMC to host a food drive during March. There will be collection bins available throughout March this year for non-perishable food items to stock the food pantries at both Neighbors, Inc. and Keystone (these
are the food pantries in Dakota and Ramsey counties.)
Thankyou for your generosity.
May God bless our Lenten journeys as we seek to love God and neighbor.