Psalm 1 reads:
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand
in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose
delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.”
Ash Wednesday is just around the corner, and with it comes Lent. For centuries, people of faith have used the days and weeks before Easter for special spiritual growth. Many of these spiritual practices came out of necessity. In the Middle Ages, food was especially scarce in the weeks of late winter and early spring. As a way of protecting the dietary needs of family and community members, people of faith would intentionally “give up” a particular food item until Easter. Often, people would substitute fish for red meat. This is where the tradition of fish on Fridays comes from.
Set in this context, the idea of giving something up, for the betterment of the community is noble and faith filled. However, we have an abundance of locally produced food. Careful attention to diet would be helpful for our own health, but not nearly as instructive for faith as in earlier centuries. If this practice is helpful for you, by all means, continue. But, it appears to me we have other struggles in modern days. Covid has taken its toll on all of us. It has affected our lives in a great many ways. Of particular concerns are losing one’s focus, becoming lukewarm in faith, or just losing hope. Perhaps a more modern expression of these practices would be something that gives us more energy for life, something that helps us live into our best selves. Something that reminds us why we “Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God. In a word, let’s work on finding our inspiration.
I am recommending a sermon series from Ash Wednesday through Lent to Easter that focuses on finding our inspiration. The greatest source of inspiration for me and a great multitude of Christians is the bible. Alongside the series of messages on Sunday morning, I have a project for our church to do together–read through the Bible in a year. There are many ways to do this, but the reading plan that you will find included seems like a very good way to accomplish this. It offers readings for both morning and evening. So, we “can meditate on God’s Word day and night.” To accompany this, Rev. Bill Handy has proposed an Adult Sunday School series of twenty lessons titled, “How to Read the Bible,” based on the two books by Etienne Charpentier that are aptly titled, How to Read the Old Testament and How to Read the New Testament. We have a number of copies of the book available; check with Pastor Deters if you are interested in obtaining a copy. The class meets on Sunday mornings at 9:15.
I hope that we will encourage each other to share what we discover in our reading. We will have questions. We will see things in new lights. But most of all, we will meet God in deeper and more meaningful ways. That is a bold claim, yes, but the scriptures have been inspiring us for thousands of years. I feel confident that they will continue to do so. In order to keep the conversation going, you are welcome to post your discoveries and questions on the UPCC Connection Facebook site. Or, you could email me directly. This is an important part of our work together because by sharing, we get to meet God through each other’s eyes. Happy reading.