Dear friends,

We have been reminded again in recent days that we live in a world filled with darkness and evil. The horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, has confronted us at the beginning of Lent with grief, heartbreak, and anger. These tragic events seem to come around so often that it is difficult to find appropriate words that offer hope and comfort without sounding like pious platitudes or empty promises. Added to the pain and shock of the event itself, the angry voices disagreeing vehemently over proper solutions to the challenges of our culture can make many of us feel overwhelmed and discouraged. There are many levels and layers to the problems, and I keep wondering how we can move forward when it seems impossible to have difficult conversations with a commitment to listen to and love those who are different than we are.

It strikes me, however, that Lent is an appropriate time to recognize and acknowledge the reality of our struggles, our anxieties, and our brokenness. During this season, we remember that when Jesus came into the world, He was not received by all with open arms and gracious hospitality. He was often failed by those closest to Him and was rejected by those with power and prestige. Even in the face of struggle, though, He chose to love the broken world and the needy people within it so much that He gave up His own life so that we might live more abundantly.

Abundant life, however, does not mean that we get to escape the struggles of the world. We are called to be salt and light in the world, continuing the work of Jesus. I was recently in a group that included a firefighter. In the midst of the conversation, this young firefighter said, “While you all are running away from the fire, we are running toward it.” While I have heard similar statements before, it struck me that this is the call of the church to our world. Even as many are blaming and attacking and promoting division, we are called to move into the darkness and pain with love that shows grace and invites healing. We must use our voices and offer our lives to serving and loving others.

We are inviting you to consider during Lent how you might show acts of love towards God and towards others. Some have written down a commitment and placed it on the cross in the sanctuary. Let us commit ourselves to prayer and study that moves us toward Christlikeness, and I encourage all of us to seek God’s leading so that we can move into the world with acts of love and mercy as the hands and feet of Jesus. What are the tangible ways God might be calling you to build bridges and offer compassion? In the wilderness of life and Lent, how might God use you to offer hope? May this be a season in which we grow in our commitment to following the example of Jesus.

Bill