Message from Paston Stanton for February 2018

Lent begins Ash Wednesday, February 14. That’s the perfect amount of time to come up with an idea for what you may fast from / or what you may add to your life as a spiritual discipline. First Lutheran enjoys a membership with many Christian backgrounds who participated in a variety of spiritual practices. Some of our brothers and sisters who grew up Roman Catholic have asked me over the years whether Lutherans eat fish on Fridays during Lent. My answer is something like, “it depends whether the chef of the house feels like cooking, or going out for fish that Friday, I guess.” Although some churches enter into a communal fast—like fasting from all meat but fish on Fridays—other churches leave it to the individuals. I was serving a congregation in Columbia, SC during seminary that had the whole church fast from ‘sweets’ during Lent (that one was tough!)

Here at First, we invite all our members to do whatever they discern will be helpful to bring them closer to God. Lent is meant to be a time to repent (that’s 3 rhyming words). Repent means to turn around. When I fast from sweets, for example, every time I am tempted to eat that donut, cookie, chocolate etc., I give myself an opportunity to remember God’s love for me. If the fast makes me think of God more often, or come to understand Jesus’ sacrifice for me a bit better, then it is a good practice. If my fast simply makes me irritable and begrudge my faith, maybe I need to either get a new perspective on things or end my fast.

Fasting is not the ONLY way to participate in a Lenten discipline, however. Adding a spiritual practice may also be helpful. Our tradition at First has been to make a special effort during Lent to get as many people as possible reading the same book, having similar conversations and getting a taste for a Christian small group.

This year, our Lenten small group opportunity is a “40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer”. It is a daily devotional with a biblical verse, a few questions to ponder, a psalm fragment, ideas for journal reflections, intercessory prayer thoughts and space for notes. Small groups will meet weekly to help individuals process the various ideas introduced by Bonhoeffer’s works. It is a simple but profound tool that I hope EVERYONE uses in their home, at work or wherever they can make time for such Lent work.

If you aren’t familiar with Bonhoeffer, he was a leading Christian theologian of the 20th century who wrote, “Life Together” and the “Cost of Discipleship”. A Lutheran pastor, he spoke and acted against Hitler and the Nazis in the ‘30s and ‘40s. He worked to end the war, defend the Jews and became involved in a plot to overthrow Hitler. This earned him an execution from the Nazis in 1945 just weeks before the end of the war. His story and how he let his faith guide his actions are a light to us who know our own darkness.

Please make every effort to lead or join a small group this Lenten season in addition to joining us for Wednesday evening worship with Holden Evening worship. It is a season First Lutheran does so very well!