The Oasis - February 10, 2021

Author: Pastor Dan Hollis
February 10, 2021

Pastor Dan Hollis

     I’m sure many of us grew up occasionally needing a babysitter, and there are probably many of you who needed to employ a babysitter to watch your own kids from time to time. I remember having a few different ones over the years, and some of them were fun, attentive, not overbearing, friendly, and full of game ideas. Sometimes, though, I’d get one who was only there to make sure my brother and I didn’t burn the place down, and that was about it: the kind who would spend most of their time reading magazines or doing homework or in the other room on the phone for hours.
     But of course the babysitter can’t leave you completely  to your own devices. Who knows  what kind of trouble you might get yourself into? So she gives you some building blocks, or LEGOs, or an Erector set or something. Just to keep you busy until she gets back.
     And when she finally hangs up on Brad or whatever, she’ll come back and build a pillow fort with you and read you a bedtime story.
     I sometimes think “babysitter” was one of the roles Jesus served. But just like a babysitter with her boyfriend on the phone, at one point Jesus needed to step out of the room for a bit.
     When Jesus left his disciples and ascended to Heaven, he told them he would one day return to establish his kingdom. The kingdom of God: a new Heaven and a new Earth, where all would be righteous and holy and just. And he gave the disciples some stuff to do while he was gone. “The Great Commission” it’s sometimes called.
     It’s kind of like our Divine babysitter said, ‘I’ll be back, and I’ll build you the best pillow fort you’ve ever seen.  Here’s some LEGOs to keep you busy ‘till I return.’
     And then we were alone. Or at least it felt that way.
     The church season of Lent is coming up next week, starting on Ash Wednesday. It’s a 40 day season of preparation, as we prepare ourselves to remember Christ’s triumphant arrival into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, before his death on Good Friday and glorious resurrection on Easter. It’s a season where we recognize our faults, peel the onions of our lives down to their foundations, and start to build them back up in a way that would make Christ proud. It’s a season of repentance: of turning our life around.
     It’s a season designed to remind us of a time shortly before Christ’s ministry began, when he was alone in the wilderness for 40 days, with no help and no one for company but himself. A time for self-discovery, and a time that prepared him for the work that he was soon to begin.
     On Ash Wednesday this year, February 17, First Parish will be offering a few ways that we can begin the season of Lent together. While it is not yet safe to gather for our traditional Ash Wednesday service, there will be a virtual service available Wednesday on our website along with our weekly Sunday services, and there will be two hour-long opportunities (7:30am and 12pm) when you can drive by the front of the church and safely receive a container of ashes from one of the pastors (we will be masked, and ask that you do the same).
     Ash Wednesday is often marked by a minister applying the burnt ashes of palm leaves to their congregants’ foreheads (often in the shape of a cross), with a blessing such as “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” It is a stark reminder of our own humility: from dust we have come and to dust we shall return. It is a way to begin Lent with a reminder that even though God loves us completely, we are far from perfect, and that allows us to use Lent as a time to work on ourselves, to make ourselves better, to build something new out of ourselves.
     And maybe, if we're patient, by the time Jesus returns from the other room, we'll have built something he would be proud of.

1 Corinthians 3:9-11
For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.

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