From the Interim Executive,

Last week we marked Ash Wednesday, which “developed as a day of penitence to mark the beginning of Lent—the forty days of preparation for the celebrations of Easter,” as The New Handbook of the Christian Year puts it.  “On this day we … wait upon the Lord for a renewing Spirit.”

Christians typically think of Ash Wednesday and of Lent as a time to focus on our own personal sin, and our own need for renewal.  This year, however, I have been thinking about the ways that Sin still has hold over the world in a grander sense—not just in the sins that we individuals commit, but in the overwhelming brokenness of our culture and environment.  It is so easy to see that the world is not the way that God wants it to be.

In the days since Russia has invaded Ukraine, our broken world is even more obvious than is typically the case.  We see the drive for power; we see death and destruction; we see unrelenting greed and deceit.  It is hard to make a direct connection between the personal sins that I commit and the fallen nature of the world that I lament—so as Lent begins this year, I am moving my gaze away from my own shortfalls (which are many and frequent) and onto the power of Sin that corrupts God’s desires for shalom for our world.

Most Lenten practices are also personal in nature—like giving up chocolate or taking on a new devotional.  This year, though, I’m taking on the practice of working toward peace in Ukraine every week.  Maybe I’ll contact my legislators to encourage decisions which lead to shalom, or I’ll read first person accounts which let me understand the dynamics of the war, or I’ll look for marches in which I can walk, or I’ll donate to humanitarian and peacemaking ministries.

All of these practices are unusual for me and will stretch me in ways that my recent practices to write letters or to read the Scriptures more thoughtfully never have.  It’s a little unnerving—but I am hoping that day by day I will feel ever more fully the Lord’s renewing Spirit upon me.

How will you grow this Lent?  Let me know.

Your partner in ministry,

Rev. Charles B Hardwick, PhD
Interim Executive