From the Pastor

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Farm wives had a wonderful tradition of spring cleaning. It was a time to sweep out the winter’s dust and dirt, fill the house with fresh air, get rid of accumulated junk, and make a fresh start for the summer season.

That is what Lent is designed to do for us. It is a time to get rid of the junk in our lives, breathe in the fresh air of the Spirit, and move forward unburdened by the dust and dirt of our past.

The word “Lent” actually means “spring.” Too often we view it as a burden instead of a chance to free ourselves from those burdens that are weighing us down. Or, even worse, most of us ignore it and treat this time as just another set of church activities to skip.

Lent is a marvelous opportunity for a new beginning. The Church in her wisdom set this season aside every year as a sort of spring cleaning. But of course, it will only help us if we take advantage of it.

We have three sets of special growth opportunities, one in Sugar Valley on Wednesdays, one in Nittany Valley probably on Sundays, and one in Lock Haven on Thursdays. You can pick and choose whichever of these are most helpful for you. Watch your Sunday bulletin for final schedules, as some details are not planned yet as I write this.

And then we have special services, again with options. Ash Wednesday will be celebrated with Holy Communion and imposition of ashes (if you wish) at United’s chapel at 11:30 and St. Paul Nittany Valley at 7:00. These are intended to be joint parish services. We also have our regular Morning Prayer at United at 8:30 in the chapel, and ashes will be available after it.

There are other disciplines of Lent. Why not expand the notion of “self-denial” to try a real fast; perhaps skip one meal a week and make a donation to a worthy cause (Haiti relief is a present concern, but we have local needs as well). Don’t overdo it; Linda and I fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but you wouldn’t want to be around me if I didn’t have my morning coffee! Fasting can take many forms. But the idea is that we are cleaning junk out of our lives to focus on what is really important.

And don’t just give up something for Lent — take up something for Lent. Maybe it involves helping a neighbor with a task they can no longer do well, maybe offering yourself to a community service group. I would urge daily prayer and Bible reading and faithful worship especially during Lent and Holy Week.

These don’t have to be things that you quit after Easter. Instead, let the spring cleaning of Lent be a new beginning for you.

And if you are looking for things to “give up” for Lent, maybe we could all give up anger, griping, selfishness, negativity, and grudges. Clean them out of your closet and send them to the garbage dump forever! You don’t need them, and all they do is make you physically, emotionally, and spiritually unhealthy.

The repentance of Lent should not mean that we are burdening ourselves with guilt or shame. Like that farm wife, we are looking for the dirt so we can get rid of it and move ahead to enjoy the sunshine of God’s summer.

And we know that whatever we discover to clean out of our lives, God in His love is not only our helper but our motivator. We go forward in freedom, our sins forgiven and our lives newly opened to His fresh breezes.

Pr. Steve Shipman, STS