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The Natural State of Being

This month’s ‘Pastor’s Column’ comes to you by way of Pastor Tim Carson, the Senior Pastor at The Estero Church in Estero, Florida. His blog was shared with the Leadership Team at the February meeting, and I felt that Pastor Tim’s words were very timely then and, perhaps even more so, these days. May you be as blessed by these words as I am.

The Lenten season offers many opportunities for reflection, evaluation, and furthering direction. As we know, in our own United Methodist denomination, there is much seeking of direction as we are reflecting on the future of our collective churches. No matter which way we look at it, there is plenty of frustration and anxiety about the tomorrows.

We read and hear news of denominational turmoil around our country. There’s a lot of sadness and anger in wondering how our beloved United Methodist Church became so “untied.” Yet, some congregations are joyful in their decisions, feeling that they can best support their mission in service by aligning with the Global UMC. Others look forward to the more enveloping inclusiveness of a progressive church, or a different denomination entirely. And those in the middle of it all? They’re looking to understand a measure of “spaciousness” (as described by our own Bishop, David Bard), embracing our Wesleyan heritage with a loving and inclusive appreciation of what brings us together in Christian faith.

These are difficult times. There are no simple answers, but we can look to scripture for support. Paul tells us (Philippians 4:47), “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Anxiety is a natural thing. It comes from processing circumstances of uncertainty and unfamiliarity. It comes from concern over leaving a comfortable place for something new. It can also come in facing a lot of work and stepping into a place we’re not sure of with people we may not know. Decisions rarely come without some experience of anxiety. That’s not wrong, it just “is.”

The good news: Paul gives us a solid “out” for our worry! He’s urging us to transfer our anxiety with faith— turning it over directly to God and leaving it with Him. What a gift! An unconditional one, at that! Imagine yourself sitting at the kitchen table with Jesus, and as you’re talking with Him, you’re writing down your worries on pieces of paper and passing them across the table to him. He waits patiently for you to let go of your grip on them, and smiles as you turn them over to him, each and every last one. “There!” He says, “I’m so glad you trusted me with these. They’re mine now. Finished. Done. No worries! Be happy!” Can you imagine your feelings at that moment? Whew! An overwhelming feeling of…peace, beyond understanding? God’s peace—to fill your heart and still your mind in Jesus!

Perhaps Lent offers us an opportunity to sit across the table with Christ, to let go of our worries, trusting that God has us firmly in his care. Again, Paul’s words, from Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him…”


Preparing for the 40 Days of Lent

6 Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, “Here I am.”  Isaiah 58:6-9 (NRSV)

     We are a couple of weeks away from the start of the season of Lent (Ash Wednesday, February 22, 2023). Lent is a word that comes to us from an Old Germanic word meaning “longing.” Just as people long for Spring after a hard dreary winter, so the spirit longs for renewal and life in communion with God.       Lent is the gateway we must walk through if we want to understand the events of Holy Week and Easter. There is no Easter without the cross, and there is no cross without us being prepared to carry it.         Jesus offers us companionship on our personal journey through Lent. We begin the 40 Days of Lent with Ash Wednesday on February 22nd . This year we will move beyond our beautiful sanctuary and extend an invitation to our larger community. We will offer each person the traditional sign of the cross on their forehead as they drive by our church between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. on their way to work or school. The sign of the cross with ashes signify that we are committing ourselves to spend the next 40 days in a significant manner. Alternatively, I will offer an Ash Wednesday service at the Brooks Corners UMC at 6 p.m. that same evening.


     For many Christians today, Lent is a season of preparation and conversion: We acknowledge the ways we have turned away from God in our lives and we focus on turning our hearts and minds back toward God. For some this means giving up something for Lent as a form of fasting. We can deprive ourselves of some small pleasure or indulgence and offer that sacrifice up to God. Or we might give up a bad habit as a way of positively turning our life back towards what God wants for us.

     An experience of want, however temporary, can help us to appreciate the true abundance in our lives. And a small positive change can have a big impact that lasts beyond the 40 days of Lent.

     I invite you think about what you might want to give up this year. Perhaps the words from the Prophet Isaiah at the beginning of this column can be a good starting point for us to examine our motives and expand beyond giving something up for Lent and seek out ways in which we can be a light shining in the darkness and a beacon of hope for those struggling with injustice and issues of poverty and hunger.

     As you prepare for your forty-day journey through Lent, I wish you a deep and lasting experience of God’s Grace and Love that will extend far beyond Lent and Easter.

     I am privileged to share this journey together with you.


     Pastor Daniel Hofmann

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