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Archive for February, 2012

Fasting for Change

Dear Kindred in the Spirit,

Lent is almost upon us. Ash Wednesday is … well, Wednesday, when we begin considering the last 24-hours of Jesus’ life, how that time changed the world, and how it continues to change us.

In my last newsletter/blog entry, I ask “Are you hungry for some change this Lent?” I’m hungry for lots of things, which is part of the problem. And it’s the long list of things I’d like to see changed in the world and in my life that overwhelms, so I’m trying to narrow my focus to some incremental change that might actually benefit from my attention. Some adjustment that might be achievable. Some conversion that might take hold and stick beyond Lent. This Lent, I’m looking for a “fast” or change that might actually have a lasting impact…. I’d rather not give something up (like chocolate) for the sake of giving it up, just so I can change back after Easter (or earlier).

St. John Chrysostem offered this ancient wisdom on fasting in the 4th century:

 Do you fast? Give me proof of it your works.
If you see a poor man, take pity.
if you see a friend being honored, do not envy.
Do not let only your mouth fast,
    but also the eye and the ear and the feet and the hands
    and all the members of our bodies.
    Let the hands fast by being free of avarice.
    Let the feet fast by ceasing to run after sin.
    Let the eyes fast by disciplining them not to glare
        at that which is sinful.
    Let the ear fast by not listening to evil talk and gossip.
    Let the mouth fast from foul words and unjust criticism.
For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes
    but bite and devour our brothers?

In preparation for Lent, I’ve been re-reading Margaret Bullitt-Jonas’ book “Holy Hunger: a journey from food addiction to spiritual fulfillment” which offers this wisdom about looking inside and trusting the spirit’s guidance there to nudge us in the direction of the change that is needed:

All too often we look outside ourselves for what we are hungry for since we live in a culture that is all too ready to tell us what we want and to create a climate of craving.
We are card-carrying members of a culture that urges all of us to eat, shop, buy, acquire; for there in the material goods around us, in possessions and commodities, prizes and grades, accomplishments and lovers, doughnuts and ice cream, surely we’ll find what we’re looking for, our heart’s desire.

What change would you like to take on?
The National Council of Churches invites folks to take on a carbon fast. When you sign-up, beginning Ash Wednesday and throughout Lent, participants will receive a daily message with the day’s suggested carbon-reducing activity. When possible, this will include a quantitative measure of the carbon reduction resulting from the activity. Each daily message will also have a section suggesting a weekly focus for congregations. One of the past year participants said, “It’s one of the smartest things I’ve done in my 85 years, my electric bill dropped by $78 a month.”

The other blog I’ll be relying on to companion me through Lent is by my friend and artist, Jan Richardson. We’ve used her artwork and books as a guide before, and she has a new set of art/reflections out this lent at the painted prayerbook.

What change are you hungry for? Let us know on facebook or just drop me a line at pastor@elumc.org

Shalom,
kelly

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Hungry for Change

Dear Kindred in the Spirit,

[Reprinted from the ELUMC February Newsletter]

Lent, with its mysterious Ash Wednesday rituals, its haunting Maundy Thursday service and its quiet prayer vigil is a favorite season for many.  But for others, it’s a season of obligation to be endured, followed not by lasting change but by over-indulgence in whatever was given up for 40 days. 

Historically, Lent was developed as a time of preparation for baptism in the early church. Spiritual disciplines were ramped up for those preparing to “die and rise with Christ” (as baptism is sometimes described). The penitential aspect of Lent didn’t become dominant until the late 5th century when most baptisms were of infants, not adults in need of preparation. As a result, the rituals of Lent became focused on renewing our identity as followers of Christ by shedding those things that keep us from that journey.

But as these disciplines became fixed in tradition, they became less about freeing ourselves to focus on the things that really matter the most, and more about giving things up as a punishment or as a matter of course to appease a religious duty. Neither seem to serve us well.

What would feel different about Lent if we reclaimed that ancient focus—if we focused once again on preparation to renew our baptismal vows?  To move away from ‘business-as-usual’ and use this time for spiritual discovery?  To once again remember that we are called to live our lives as if death will never have the final say?  To learn (or re-learn) how to live as a resurrected people?

So let’s start again and ask: “What do we hunger for this Lent?” And let the answer not come from obligation or ease or thoughtlessness, saying: chocolate, sweets, salty snacks, red meat.

What if we chose a fast that has the potential to change us?

Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works.  For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes but bite and devour our brothers?  – St. John Chrysostem

Perhaps we may want to fast from food prepared by strangers and only eat what we cook or what is made by family and friends.  Or we might fast from mindless eating, choosing instead to savor our food and chew with gratitude.  We could fast from not knowing where our food is from or how it’s produced. Or maybe the fast you choose won’t have anything to do with food. Rather you will find yourself hungry for justice, choosing to fast from products that exploit, or mindsets that ignore the issues of equality. Perhaps your hunger for peace will lead you to fast from anger or from desires for revenge. 

Or perhaps you will find some other creative fast: like the ecumenical fast from carbon, or a fast from electronics, or a fast from speaking.

This Lent, may we come to know our longing to connect with the Holy. May we seek what our souls most deeply desire and let go of the lesser expectations and smaller wants that have kidnapped us again and again. May Lent be a season of discovery—of the change we are hungry for, of the modifications possible in our communities, of the alterations in our spiritual journey that are desirable. 

Shalom,  Pastor Kelly

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Dear Kindred in the Spirit,

The Epiphany Season celebrates the journey of the wise ones to visit the Christ child. But it’s also about our journeys to insight, enlightenment, and to moments of discovery. In our worship series, “Bread, Bath and Beyond,” we’re reflecting on how we can move beyond our limitations. As we consider moving beyond the horizon into unknown territory and beyond the boundaries we have set for ourselves (and those set for us by others), blogger Jan Richardson at The Painted Prayerbook offers this blessing for our journey.

For Those Who Have Far to Travel: An Epiphany Blessing

If you could see the journey whole
you might never undertake it;
might never dare the first step
that propels you from the place
you have known toward the place
you know not.

Call it one of the mercies of the road:
that we see it only by stages
as it opens before us,
as it comes into our keeping
step by single step.

There is nothing for it but to go
and by our going
take the vows the pilgrim takes:
to be faithful to the next step;
to rely on more than the map;
to heed the signpost of intuition and dream;
to follow the star that only you will recognize;
to keep an open eye for the wonders that attend the path;
to press on
beyond distractions
beyond fatigue
beyond what would tempt you from the way.

Whatever resolution you have for yourself this new year, or whatever change you have in mind, whatever label you want to get beyond, or whatever destination you’re headed to, you are accompanied by your faith.

ELUMC invites you to make mission a part of the next step on your path. Build community and cultivate relationships with others by being curious about what their concerns and hopes are for the region (if you need an interview sheet to help you or record the answers, there are copies in the office). And on President’s Day Weekend (Feb 18-20), you’re invited to help with storm recovery efforts in Springfield. We’re partnering with our brothers and sisters at St. Mark’s Episcopal and leaving from their parking lot at 9 a.m. each day with a orientation/organization meal on Friday night Feb 17. (Register this week. Download the registration form here and return it to St. Mark’s by next week.)

2012 is the year for us to GET OUT and INTO THE COMMUNITY and we want every member of ELUMC to be involved in mission.

Shalom,
revkelly

P.S. Respond to the following question (Leave a comment below, or on the ELUMC facebook page) :

What things create “hype” in our culture or distract us from the “main things” of our faith?

Your answers will be featured in a litany of distractions at our 2/12 worship service.

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