I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention, but the season of Lent has just been going by so quickly. We are in the fourth week of Lent, and Palm Sunday is only one Sunday away. How have we spent this time of Lent? Have we been able to reflect on the meaning of self-sacrifice? Have we been able to be in a more intentional posture toward God and who God has called us to be? This is the season for all of that. Traditionally, it has been a season where persons engage in fasting and prayer. The fasting is not only a reminder of sacrifice, but also a freeing up of desire for earthly things to increase our desire for the things of God. I personally have been more aligned with the idea of fasting from some of my bad behaviors, rather than from food or other pleasures. It seems more beneficial for me and my spiritual journey for me to fast from gossipping about others, from anger, from self-centeredness, from greed, from unkind thoughts and actions. This kind of fast appeals to my spirit, it feels as if it will help me be better aligned with God’s will for my life.

Our Muslim sisters and brothers have begun the month of Ramadan in their journey of faith. Some interesting things I have come to understand about this season they observe: It is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, it is a commemoration of the prophet Muhammad’s first revelation, it is one of the five pillars of Islam, it lasts 29-30 days from the sighting of the first crescent moon to the next, it is a serious fast. All Muslims, from pre-dawn to sunset, fast from eating and drinking. They avoid gossiping, backbiting, lying, or arguing. This is their opportunity for self-reflection and spiritual improvement. This is also a time to renew and build relationships with others by sharing an evening meal called Iftar and a morning meal called suhur.

It amazes me how similar our practices are, and I am in awe of my Muslim friends who are so dedicted to the precepts of their faith. We don’t wish them happy Ramadan, that would be inappropriate. We wish them Ramadan Mubarak (Blessed Ramadan), or Ramadan Kareem (Generoous Ramadan). I forgot to mention, it is one of the practices of Ramadan to give generously to help those in need, especially those who are hungry.

What would all of our lives be like if we engaged in an ongoing practice of self-assessment? Looking at, and working to improve our relationship with God. What would it look like if we all fasted from abhorrent behaviors that put us at odds with each other and with God? What strides could we make in meeting the needs of those who have little to nothing, if we made generosity of spirit and of resources a prominent feature of who we are?

The Jesus I know, is one who practiced these very things. The Jesus I know, is one who wants to lead me into this kind of living. The Jesus I know, stands ready to lend me the strength and encouragement I need to do all of this and more.

I am humbled to hear of all each of you do for the kingdom of God. Your hearts are open, you love without exception, you give generously. I hope this Lenten season has been, and continues to be a blessing in your life. I pray for my sisters and brothers who are observing the month of Ramadan. May God fill them with more light, more love, more generosity than they can imagine.

Your companion on the Way,

Pastor Tom

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