This week’s short message by Pastor Eric Stetson. Watch the video or read text below.
Today is the first Sunday of Lent, a 40-day season of sacrifice leading up to Easter in the Christian liturgical calendar. Lent commemorates the 40 days that Jesus fasted in the wilderness of the desert before beginning his mission, according to the Gospels [e.g. Matt. 4:1-2].
To fast for 40 days is a big commitment. This year, for Lent, I’d like to ask all who are watching or reading this sermon to make a much smaller, but very important commitment: to wear a mask whenever you’re around other people. In fact, I’d like to ask you all to wear two — a surgical mask on the inside, and a cloth mask on the outside. According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, double-masking in this way increases protection from the Covid-19 virus from under 50% with just one mask to a remarkable 90% or greater rate of protection with two masks.
During Lent, many followers of Jesus make conscious sacrifices or commitments to become more righteous in the path of Christ. In our service this week, we focus on the theme of Commitment — an essential virtue for spiritual progress, or for any kind of success in life. We also honor Richard Allen, a former slave who was so committed to the cause of equality that he founded a new Christian denomination.
This week, on January 6, Christians celebrate Epiphany, commemorating the visit of the Magi, or the “three wise men” from the East, to pay homage to the infant Jesus. The Magi were most likely Zoroastrian priests from Persia, who were seeking the fulfillment of a prophecy in their own religion for the coming of a messiah. As this example shows, we should be willing to look for truth wherever it can be found, even if it’s outside the boundaries of our own religion or culture.
In a world full of mixed messages, how can we know when we’ve found a source of spiritual truth? In our first service, we commemorate the discovery of Jesus by the Magi, who were seeking a savior — and we reflect upon the importance of discernment and building our faith upon a solid foundation. We also celebrate the life of Julian of Norwich, a woman who survived a pandemic in the Middle Ages and received revelations of God’s love.