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Pastor Leigh Ann’s Monthly Blog

I Googled “Explain Lent”

I Googled, “Explain Lent” 
 
Pastor’s Ponderings – April 2019
 
I googled “explain lent.” Google answered, “past and past participle of lend.” I asked Siri to “explain lent” and Siri said, “A verb, past and past participle of lend.” Siri then asked me, “Would you like to hear the next definition?” “Yes,” I said. Siri told me, “Lent, a noun, is a solemn religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday.” If you are confused by what “Lent” means, so are google and Siri.
Lent is always in our springtime of the year. It is reasonable to think of “Lent” and “Spring Cleaning” in the same category of “new beginnings”, or “a fresh start.” For people of the Christian faith, Lent is a season to clean-out our heart and life to get ready to celebrate Easter. Easter is a celebration of Life! It is the celebration of Jesus’ life that triumph’s over death. Despite the hate and injustice that Jesus faced, he taught love for all people and the importance of all people.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday starts a 40-day countdown to Easter (minus Sundays). The 40 days remind us of Jesus in the wilderness being tempted by the devil for 40 days. A modern Christian tradition is receiving the sign of the cross on your forehead in ashes during worship. It is meant to be a sign of our own commitment and recognition of participating in Lent. The ashes represent our connection with the earth and the finitude of our life. Although there is beauty in this Lenten ritual, there is a waning interest in this worship experience and many churches are not offering it at all. It is something our staff will be considering next year when we plan Lent.
During the Ash Wednesday worship service, I preached on Ezekiel 37, the Valley of Dry Bones. In the front of the church, on the chancel table and shelf are drift wood and rocks to remind us of the emptiness of our life without God’s spirit. I encourage you to read Ezekiel 37 for the vision of broken and empty humanity. The prophet, Ezekiel, is reminded that he can cry out to God and be brought back to life. The dry bones of the valley are mended and returned to life, just as we can be restored by the grace and love of God. This is not a literal story but a story about the nature of God’s spirit always seeking us and waiting for us to call upon God.
Last month I shared about the sermon series during Lent on spiritual practices that connect us with God. The tradition during Lent is to fast from something. Beckie Henselmeier is fasting from a different thing each week of Lent. One week she is fasting from all news and social media. One week she is fasting from any beverage that isn’t water. One week she is fasting from food for a whole day. Be sure to ask Beckie about the other things she is fasting from during the season and what it means to her.
The most important thing about spiritual practices is to plan ahead, and hold God in your heart or mind during the practice or ritual. If you fast but do not pray, or reflect on God, it is simply starving yourself and going hungry. If you practice the spiritual discipline of keeping silence, but do not claim the silence as time for God, it is simply the absence of sound and talking. If you give generously to the church, but do not pray for the work to be done using those funds and the people who will be touched by your financial gift, it is just a tax benefit. All of these are good, but not all things deepen your faith.
Spiritual practices are literally ways to practice your faith. Musicians know they have to practice to be good at music. Anyone who plays a sport knows they have to practice their sport and keep physically fit. In the same way, Christians have to practice their faith to grow in our relationship with God. God never leaves us, but our ability to recognize God in our life is greatly enhanced by the effort we make.
May God continue to bless you richly this season,
Rev. Dr. Leigh Ann Shaw

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Easter is Coming…On to Lent

Easter is Coming…On to Lent
Pastor’s Ponderings – March 2019 
Easter is coming in April. Before Easter arrives, we walk through the hardest days of the Christian life. Lent is a season of reflection and adaptation, making space in our heart and life for the Spirit. This Lent I will share with you a sermon series on Spiritual Practices that will help you find balance and joy. Jesus taught that he came so that we can have life, and life abundantly. Jesus didn’t come for us to be sad or somber all the time, but came for us to have life overflowing.
The first three weeks of Lent will focus on “DeCluttering”, “Turning Down the Noise” and “Feeling Hunger”. These spiritual practices reduce distraction and clutter in our life, challenging us to remember what the most important thing is to us. The second three weeks of Lent focus on “Giving”, “Creating” and “Traveling”. All of these fill us up in body and spirit by reaching out, taking in and being outside. These spiritual practices are inspirational, challenging us to touch the divine is life and experience God’s beauty. Easter is the ultimate revelation of God’s gorgeous creation and blessing of redemption.
Spiritual Practices are not activities to add to your busy schedule or an already crowed “to do” list. They are not specific to a season or a time. Spiritual practice is a way of life and a way of focusing that helps you be and become the person you are most called to be. Furthermore, Christianity does not have a cornerstone on Spiritual Practices. Every global religion has things to do that focus you on God or Spirit. There are more traditional practices like fasting and prayer and less traditional practices like travel and art. For many people exercise, surfing, writing and even singing are ways to center and grow closer to God. As we move through Lent toward Easter, the Spiritual Practices I share with you will be connected to our relationship with God through Jesus. We use a Christian lens when reflecting on Spirituality.
My prayer this Lent is that we have time to move through the hard things we are each going through, and find space to heal and renew in this resilient community. I continue to be tired and concerned, but also hopeful and engaged. My dear Church family, my prayers surround you… to each in your own journey… God is with you, calls you by name and affirms your sacred worth.
On to Lent…
Pastor Leigh Ann

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Letter to UMCV regarding GC traditional plan passage

Letter to UMCV regarding GC traditional plan passage
 

February 26, 2019

Friends and family of the UMC Vista,

Grace and peace to you in the name of our Gracious God!  May God uphold us all in this time of change and clarification.  

Today, our Special Called General Conference passed the Traditional Plan.  It is still unclear what this will ultimately mean, because many parts and passages of the Traditional Plan have been declared unconstitutional by Judicial Council, and it has all been referred to Judicial Council again for review.  Even so, this act by the delegates of General Conference makes clear the brokenness of our global church body and lack of capacity to be a united people moving together toward God’s kingdom.

To LGBTQ+ church members and allies, I am saddened by the vote.  The global United Methodist Church failed to love you as God loves you, and to recognize your gifts in the church.  You are not the first people who’ve experienced such harm in the church, although that doesn’t reduce the pain of today.  Time always brings God’s redeeming grace, but for this moment I acknowledge our deep pain and share your hurt.

This church, the United Methodist Church of Vista is not of one mind about the issues surrounding our LGBTQ+ siblings, but I have heard over and over that you value hospitality and welcome.  I am certain that we will continue to open our doors to all people without regard to race, financial status, marital status, education or who anyone loves. You have spent the last year and many before it working toward justice and the care for all people.  You are a church committed to homeless ministry and learning about human trafficking so you can make a difference and reaching out to care for children in Haiti and Zimbabwe and to places in the world where disasters are unfolding. Today was a day that set in motion dramatic changes in our denomination, but I pray we will not be deterred from our efforts to be Christ’s hands and voice in Vista and the world!  

Let us be united in hope that God is bringing new life to the world and our Christian family.  Let us be united in faith that God has a vision which is so much larger than ours. Let us be united in love for one another, just as we have always been!  Let us not be torn apart but instead let us build one another up and be a model for living Christ’s love even when we represent a diversity of understanding.  

I continue to be inspired to be your pastor and I give thanks for you!  I hope to see you this Sunday so that we may join together around the peace pole between services in support for the hurting and in praise to the Spirit who makes us one!  

Grace and peace to you, Your Sister in Christ,

Rev. Dr. Leigh Ann Shaw


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