I asserted yesterday (offering a few Biblical examples) that God doesn’t always wait for us to create the right setting for an encounter with God. Moses, as I reminded us, was at work when God appeared in the burning bush. That, of course, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make space for such encounters. The transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36) occurred after Jesus had taken the disciples up the mountain for the express purpose of praying.
Lent, which begins this Wednesday, is an extended period of time during which we’re encouraged to make more space in our lives for encounters with God. While every day of the year we’d do well to put at the top of our day’s agenda, “Listen to him,” Lent is a time to be even more deliberate about that. We can start by attending Ash Wednesday services at Central at 12:30 and 6:30, with lunches available before and after the 12:30 service and dinner at 5:30. (You can enjoy the pre-season Shrove Tuesday pancake supper Tuesday night from 5-7 in Davis.)
Lent is a time for more prayer, including more prayers of repentance.
In that sense, my season began early. Ever since the services yesterday I have heard what I think is a word from the Lord, it’s certainly a pricking of the heart, which has led me to repent. I regret that on the first Sunday after General Conference ended that I didn’t make explicit what I had hoped was understood. After hearing a few questions about what the UMC’s decision at General Conference means for Central, I realized that sometimes what we think can go without saying needs to be said.
Let me write this as clearly as I can: Listening to Jesus, Central remains a church that welcomes ALL who seek to follow Jesus, love God, and love neighbor. We believe ALL people are created in God’s image and of sacred worth. We have faithful members with differing points of view about what this means in terms of same-sex marriage and the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals, but that is no different than was our situation before the vote on Tuesday. As far as how Central operates and how we welcome and love, Tuesday’s vote changed nothing. We are called to and seek to and attempt to love everyone and, because of that, we make Central a welcoming place for all. It’s what we keep hearing from Jesus.