The Season of Lent is upon us. It is a time when we reflect on the power of God’s grace to us and on our resistance to that grace – a resistance so deep that we would rather kill Jesus than be transformed by his love. Thus, in this season we are walking with Jesus to Jerusalem and the Cross. It is also the Stewardship Season, Part Two, when we are asked to reflect upon God’s grace, and in response to that grace, we are also asked to make a pledge of time, energy, and talent to God’s work and ministry here at Oakhurst.
The tradition of the church has been to give something up for the Lenten Season. Our Stewardship Team is asking us in this Lenten Season to do something positive rather than giving something up. Instead of an emphasis on giving up, we are shifting to stepping up. Instead of giving up chocolate or alcohol, we are being asked to think about stepping up and stepping in to the ministry of Oakhurst. We are asking us to turn Lent upside down a bit. Instead of denying, we are asking us to be affirming, to think about and reflect upon where we can step up our commitment and involvement at Oakhurst. We need all sorts of gifts and time shared here at Oakhurst – Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, After Church refreshment providers, ushers, committee members, survey takers, ride and meal providers, just to name a few – the list is long and wide. You will be hearing from our Stewardship Team in worship during this Lenten Season about ways to serve and share and grow in this transitional year for us.
If you are scratching your head over this unusual concept for Lent, let us remember the story of Zaccheus in Luke 19:1-10. I am, of course, drawn to this story of Zaccheus because he was short (“Zaccheus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he,” as I used to sing in Sunday School as a boy). In Luke’s Gospel, it is one of the last encounters that Jesus has before he enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. From the author’s point of view, Zaccheus is an obvious sinner because he is a chief tax collector for the Roman Empire. He should be beating his chest and moaning his judgment. Instead, Jesus invites himself to Zaccheus’ home, and Zaccheus is filled with joy. It is out of this joy that he responds that he will give away half of his fortune, and if he has defrauded anyone (which he surely has), he will repay them fourfold. Indeed, Zaccheus does give up something, but only because he steps up to share. Zaccheus receives the love of God, and he responds in joy and in sharing.
Our Stewardship Team is asking us to consider this approach in Lent. Let us respond to God’s love and grace in our lives by stepping up as Zaccheus did, pledging ourselves to engage deeper and further in the ministry of Oakhurst. Let us observe this Lenten Season not by beating ourselves up but by stepping up. We need it; you need it – we are even bold to say that God needs it here at Oakhurst. On Palm Sunday, we’ll have our own second parade in the worship service where we will come forward to make pledges of time, en-ergy and talent. During this Lenten Season, may we hear those same inviting words that Zaccheus heard, as Jesus paraded through Jericho: “Zaccheus, I’m coming to our house today.” May Jesus come to live where we live, and may our response be similar to Zaccheus’ pledge – a giving of time, energy and talent, not out of guilt but out of the joy of knowing Jesus in our lives today.