Monday, February 23, 2015

Sunday: A Little Easter | Peter, our Pastor

If every Sunday is "A Little Easter," then there is a sense in which every weekday is a "Little Lent."

The Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter are not counted as days of Lent. In fact, there are forty-six days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. That is why they are Sundays in Lent not Sundays of  Lent. Sundays are days of resurrection and celebration, on which we thank God for the gift of his Son, Jesus, and all the gifts of life we have been given.

Lent is a time of preparation for the great Easter, the celebration of the Day of Resurrection. It is a time in which we are invited to a examine ourselves and consider how we are doing, what changes need to be made, and how we can better live lives of meaning and purpose. Such a life is marked by regular worship, prayer and study, and service and hospitality to others. In Lent we may add to our lives some additional activity that helps us in that process of self-examination. In all cases the purpose is to bring us closer to God in Christ through the power of the Spirit.

That is the sense in which I mean that weekdays are "little Lents." We should be at all times seeking to turn our lives around—that's what the nasty word "repent" actually means—in order to move closer to God. Our daily lives should be marked by worship, service, prayer, study, and hospitality.

It is helpful to have some sort of structure or scheme or [GASP!] discipline to aid our efforts in all these regards. The monastic communities called it a "rule of life." During Lent I will be offering an opportunity on Wednesday evenings to learn more about living a life of meaning and of purpose and to consider creating our own rule of life.

I pray that your Lenten experience will bring you closer to the source of all that is, seen and unseen.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Change & Focus | Peter, Our Pastor

 Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values. 
-The Dalai Lama

Parish ministry is predictable in only one significant way: it is unpredictable. Or, as some sage person once said, planning is what you do when you want to make God laugh.

In the last six months St. Mary’s Church has seen five significant personnel changes: Michelle Despain resigned because of health, Rhonda Uber, the Interim Administrator, moved to the Diocesan Office and has been followed by Kiffer Card. Our Organist, Ruth (Eldredge) Thomas got married and moved to Maryland. And then Deacon Craig Klein got a job—in Kansas. We have also seen the arrival of a number of new people sitting in our pews on Sunday mornings. We have added three new Twelve-Step support groups in the last three months to our facility schedule. And we are starting our new Community Music Outreach Program. (The Utah Opera will be using the church in March for a performance—opera!) But wait, there’s more! (See the comments about Lent, below.)

That any one of these changes can be seen as normal does not diminish the impact it has on individuals and groups. Change is disruptive. Change is annoying. Change is aggravating. Change reduces our capacity for patience and increases our tendency to react rather than respond.

One of the keys to dealing with change is to be clear about and to maintain one’s values, as an individual and as a group. That is also very Anglican: we worry not so much about the peripheral things but work hard to maintain the central values of our faith. As a congregation we have articulated our common values as the Baptismal Covenant and five affirmations: worship, acceptance, sanctuary, caring, and rootedness. These things guide and justify our decision making and challenge us to maintain our sights on the truly important. Or, as the prayer says,
Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure;… (p.234) 
I hope you will use one or more of the opportunities for such focus as we move into Lent. Lent is a good time for cobweb-clearing and re-focusing. Watch this page, the parish Web site, and the Sunday announcements for more information.