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March 13, 2011

When we gather again on March 13, 2011, we will be observing the first Sunday of Lent. Many of you will have already joined us for our Ash Wednesday service and you will have received the imposition of ashes as a sign of our mortality and penitence. You will have heard the words intoned, Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Lent is a time of reflection. It is a time for self-examination. It is a time for repentance. It is a time for prayer and self-denial. It is a time to remember our mortality.
Obviously, such activities should not be limited to one season of the year, but this is that time of the year when we are most pointedly reminded of our great need for a Savior. It is that time of the year when we are asked to make an honest assessment of our faith journey. Where are you as a Christian? How deep is your commitment? How in love with Jesus can you honestly claim to be?
These questions take on a special significance in the season of Lent as we prepare ourselves for the glorious resurrection of our Lord. Will you be prepared to rejoice, or will you be in such a spiritual state as to be on the outside looking in?
Many of us give something up during the season of Lent as an expression of self-denial. I think that is an excellent thing to do. Not only do you distance yourself from something that may well be harmful to you, but you also learn something about the discipline required to stay with the program. If you are successful in your efforts you end up feeling better about who you are, and thats always a good thing.
I hope you will engage in some of that this year, but I also hope you will do something more: While you are giving something up, I want to encourage you to take something on.
I spend my days dealing with people who struggle. They struggle with sickness, the effects of surgery, the loss of their jobs, the difficulties of family life, the hell of addiction, the loss of love and relationships, the death of those closest to them, and the list goes on. One thing you can do during Lent is to pray for these people. You dont have to know who they are, you only need to pray.
Lent reminds us that we are all individually responsible for who we are. It follows that God knows each and every one of us by name. And, if that is true, and you can be sure that it is, then it is equally true that God hears us when we pray. He knows for whom we are praying, even if we dont. He knows we trust him enough to take the time to pray, and he will respond to that prayer.
I do not know how that works, but I know when others have been praying for me. Something goes on inside me that steals away the loneliness and chips away at the burden. The journey gets a little easier because someone has prayed for me, or maybe someone has simply prayed for preachers in general. Whatever it might be, the blessing flows to me.
So, pray. Pray for your church, for your community, for the folks you work with, for people in other places and parts of the world youve never seen in your life. The people in the Middle East could use your prayers today. Just pray.
You will find a new richness in your life. You will absolutely know that you are closer to God. You will find yourself so much better prepared for the glorious resurrection of our Lord!
And Ill see you Sunday.
Gary