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Letter from Amy: Jan 31, 2024

Christ in the Desert, Nicholas Roerich (Russian), 1933

Dear Incarnation,

On Sunday I preached about Christian ethical discernment — the spiritual work of navigating complex issues and making difficult choices as Jesus' followers. Paul's letters offer us so many helpful pictures of someone doing this important spiritual work, wrestling his way through a matter in light of scripture and the revelation of Jesus, sometimes arriving at different conclusions depending on the context of the community to which he's writing. The longer I do this job, the more I appreciate Paul as a pastor, someone who interprets the faith with incredible sensitivity to the community to whom he's writing.*

The point is: we are going to be doing the work of Christian ethical discernment a LOT this year. Election years tend to force the issue, especially as our politics become more polarized and more toxic. So let us spend this year tethering ourselves more closely to Jesus, that place where we "love God and are known by God" (1 Cor 8:3), so that we are prepared to do the work of loving discernment. A book I'm finding really helpful for this work at the moment is Michael Wear's The Spirit of our Politics.

Thankfully, there's a season coming that helps us strengthen that tether: the 40-day season of Lent. During Lent, we prepare our hearts to worship Jesus at Easter, to enjoy with new vitality the miracle of his resurrection life offered to us. Along the way, we create space for honest reflection and self-examination. Our worship is re-ordered around confession and forgiveness. Our readings remind us of the evil in the world, the sin in our hearts, and the movement of God to restore his wayward children to his love. The alleluias disappear. The music becomes sparser. The silences grow longer.

Lent is a season in which we can stop running from suffering, stop striving to be better people, and instead rest in the reality that we are hopeless sinners and the world is hopelessly broken — and that God meets us there anyway. Lent isn't about beating ourselves up. It's about admitting who we are and trusting God's love right there. It's an invitation to rest from striving, performing, pretending we're something we're not, wishing the world were different, faking it till we make it, holding the world together by sheer grit. We need it.

This invitation begins two weeks from today on Ash Wednesday. We'll hold services of ashes and Eucharist at 7am and 7pm at Greenbrier Baptist. Please come, and consider inviting someone (even a non-Anglican!) who might enjoy this invitation to rest.

The night before, we'll have one final feast before Lenten fasts begin: a Shrove Tuesday pancake supper along with Greenbrier Baptist and any neighbors who want to join. Come enjoy a great meal, run some pancake races, and bury the alleluias (don't know what any of that means? Come and see!). Tuesday, Feb 13, 6pm at Greenbrier Baptist. Sign up here to help.

Other happenings:

  • I'm really excited for this Sunday's West Asia Night event. Please come for delicious food, updates from the field, and to hear more about why we love this part of the world. Sunday, Feb 4, 6pm at the Sungs' house. RSVP here. I hope to see you there!

  • This Sunday is Candlemas; bring candles to church be blessed! And it's also World Mission Sunday; bring an international dish to share for our global potluck!

I'm grateful to be your pastor and to be engaged in the work of ethical discernment alongside you in this heartbreaking and complex world. And I'm praying for us as we approach the season of Lent together.



* People are often surprised that a I appreciate Paul as much as I do, since I'm a female pastor it's often assumed that Paul is, well, not a fan. If you're curious, or perhaps on your own journey of making peace with Paul, David preached an amazing sermon on women in the church (from 1 Tim 2:8-15) two years ago, and I wrote a bit more here.


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