Lately I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic. Maybe it’s the recent Christmas holiday. Maybe it’s the natural introspection I’ve chosen to engage in following treatment for a minor skin cancer. Maybe it’s parenthood. And maybe it’s random. In any case, I’ve been feeling nostalgic.
It is perhaps this sense of nostalgia that has motivated me to spend some time considering the core of our Christian faith. Over the course of these last weeks, we have explored together “How to Be a Christian in 7 Easy Steps” based loosely on the book What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? By Martin Thielen. Beginning first with harmful elements in our tradition and history – elements that we can faithfully and thoughtfully consider and discard in light of a clearer understanding of God – we then continued to six core fundamentals of our faith: the greatest commandments, grace, God’s work in the body of Christ, our call to participate in building God’s kingdom on Earth, theodicy (the problem of evil), and eternal life.
Getting back to basics has been good for me, and I hope it’s been helpful for you. Sometimes we need to go back and explore the core of something – even something we’ve been doing our entire life – and re-learn and re-vive and re-flect. I hear sports announcers talk about going back to basics all the time, and it works in much more: art, music, cooking, etc.
In my earlier days of discovering my faith life, one of my favorite things was Shrove Tuesday. If it’s a tradition you’ve enjoyed, I hope you’ll consider participating in our Shrove Tuesday Pancake Dinner on February 28th between 5pm and 7pm. If it hasn’t been your tradition, I hope you’ll consider starting a new one!
Another basic tradition that many of us have practiced takes place during the season of Lent. If you’re not sure what Lent is, it’s the season of forty days (not including Sundays) that lead us into Easter. Traditionally, these forty days symbolize both the forty years that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness after leaving Egypt as well as the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness after being tempted. For Christians, Lent is an opportunity to grow in our understanding and experience of God by choosing to focus ourselves particularly on the divine. In our earliest history, this was done in part through prayer and fasting. In our more recent history, we might give up a small pleasure or indulgence or we might give up a bad habit. Some of my colleagues and friends will sometimes take on a good habit or practice. In all of these cases, the ultimate point is to take specific time to turn toward and focus on God.
As we enter into the season of Lent – technically beginning on March 1st with Ash Wednesday, and beginning in a practical sense on Sunday the 5th – we will begin a new series exploring what we collectively might give up for lent. During this time, we will consider giving up:
March 5 – Giving Up Control
March 12 – Giving Up Expectations
March 19 – Giving Up Superiority
March 26 – Giving Up Enemies
April 2 – Giving Up Our Lives
April 9 (Palm Sunday) – Giving Up Popularity
April 16 (Easter Sunday) – Giving Up Death
During this time, be on the lookout for additional ways to engage your spiritual self in this exploration. We hope to offer opportunity to study as well as ways to explore our sermon topics outside the worship experience. Sermon previews are already published each week on our website and through social media, and these tools and more are intended to help us journey together deeper into these thought-provoking areas of faith.
It is my hope that – by sharing these with you several weeks before we begin – we might plan to take this journey together. Whether we embark toward discovering our faith for the first time or we rediscover our faith through nostalgia and reflection, I am confident that we can find a profound awareness of our divine creator.