It’s a busy time of the year in the Christian church calendar. It’s the end of Epiphany, Sunday the 23rd is transfiguration, Ash Wednesday is in a few days, and then we enter the season of Lent. Transfiguration is the close of the season of Epiphany, the season of light, and we prepare in a few days to begin Lent, a time of preparation for the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Many churches will have a Shrove Tuesday pancake supper, or a soup supper on Ash Wednesday. In Laramie, we are holding an interfaith Ash Wednesday service, with ministers and priests from at least 7 different denominations coming together in a service for the imposition of ashes. We then lead the way to the cross, starting on Palm Sunday, moving to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and ending on Easter. Your denomination or church may honor some or all of these days. You may be one of those who ‘gives up’ something for Lent. I, for the past 10 years or so, have added, rather than given up. Recently I have begun to attend other worship activities during the Lenten season. I have gone to the Catholic Church for Saturday service, to the Episcopal Church for Friday evening vespers, and to other religious events around town. Giving up or adding to, it’s a personal choice. One thing that is available is the carbon fast. A carbon fast is mainly a commitment to lower your carbon footprint during lent. You may find that doing this every day becomes an option for you. Take a look at EcoFaith Recovery. This website has many options and information if you would like to put yourself on a carbon fast for lent. While the calendar is a couple years old, you can use that, and just begin on Ash Wednesday. The calendar is here. I am also busy preparing for a mission trip with 14 high school juniors, seniors and college freshmen to New York and Washington, DC. Our theme Christian Hospitality”, based upon Deuteronomy 10:17-19 “For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Every time I see this scripture, and am working on preparing for this mission trip, I think of the detention center (prison) that keeps raising it’s ugly, ugly head here in Wyoming. I hope that the folks around Evanston don’t just look at this as money for the community, but think about the impact to the people who will be incarcerated there. I pray as part of my daily prayers, that this does not happen in Wyoming. I’m not an immigration expert. I don’t know all the nuances of the law. I do know that in my heart, God tells me that we should help the immigrant. We are and were all immigrants, somewhere, at some time. While you may not believe that we should help immigrants, I think if we look at the Deuteronomy scripture, at the last line, ‘You should also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” You should also love the stranger is something I believe in, strongly. I often tell my congregation that saying a kind word to a stranger may save their life, because being kind to a stranger who is contemplating suicide, may be the impetus for them to rethink that.
So, as you move through your life, remember that being kind, loving the other, welcoming the stranger are really not guidelines that were given to us by Jesus. They are rules to live by. And saying ‘have a good day’ may not change your life, but it may change the life of the stranger you say it to. Blessings Rev. Kenneth Ingram Rev. Ingram is the recording secretary for the Executive Board of WIN, and serves as pastor of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Laramie, WY. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org