Pastor Bill Schnackenberg, Centralia United Methodist Church
Many of you know that I’m a native of Wyoming. Living there for many years gave me the opportunity to look for the first signs of Spring. I used to joke around that at our elevation the first sign of Spring was June 1st. But that’s not actually the case. The first sign of Spring was the birth of new pronghorn antelope babies. Then word spread like wildfire that Spring had arrived.
Living for a time in Nebraska, I found the first sign of Spring was the blooming of snow crocuses. And in western South Dakota the first sign was when the junker car fell through the ice on the Golf Course lake. When we moved to Centralia we saw signs like the first robin and blooming daffodils.
Each location has its own sign of Spring. So does the church. That’s the time for the season of Lent, beginning this year with Ash Wednesday on March 6. That’s the season that leads us to Easter Sunday, a sure sign of the breaking out of Spring. A joyful time for sure!
But often, Lent is cast as a very somber and dark time. Jesus is walking toward his crucifixion during this liturgical season. Churches in the past have encouraged folks to give up something they value for the six week period leading to Easter, just as Jesus gave up his life for all of us.
Yet there is another way to walk through Lent – one that celebrates living the way Jesus lived. You see, Jesus was not only walking toward death, but he was walking toward the reality of what comes after dying to yourself – he was walking toward life.
This Lenten season may be that opportunity for you – to look beyond the darkness and coldness of our winter toward the Spring of new life. That is by looking continually toward Easter and the blooming Easter lilies, the chocolate bunnies at the store checkout lane, the Easter egg hunts, all that represents new life!
Lent is a season to be intentional about where we are headed and how to get there. We are a mighty crowd when we all get together to celebrate in our churches. We have the God-given power to make changes in our lives and in our community – to turn this world right side up. To live like Jesus, caring for those in our community and neighborhood. By providing places where all people are accepted. By making sure everyone knows they belong to the family of God.
So this Lenten season I encourage us all to, instead of giving up something, to take up something that will help to change lives for the better. Whether it’s a civic project, a social project, a school project, or even a church project – we can give a part of ourselves to help bring new life to our community.
We can make the season of Lent much more meaningful by what we do with and for others. We can, not only anticipate new life, but participate in bringing new life right here. And in that way we can celebrate a new sign of Spring, right here in Centralia.