From The Rev. Frank Fornaro – March 18, 2021

Dear Friends,

The season of Lent is a time of preparation for Holy Week has been a tradition of the church since the fourth century.  For seventeen hundred years Christians have observed a time before Holy Week to contemplate, pray, fast, and offer alms to the poor.  All this in order to prepare our hearts and minds for the journey of the last week of the life of Jesus.

What should our mindset be? 

That question comes to mind as we nurture a mindset as we approach Holy Week.  What is it that we should be thinking?  What is it that will help us nurture a mindset that will open our hearts to the loving gift of Jesus Christ?  What can we do to bring our hearts and minds into an open and vulnerable place into which Jesus can pour his saving and eternal love?  I’m not sure there is anything we can do to be truly prepared for such a gift as this.

However, we can have the sincere intention of being prepared. 
We can be certain that we want to be constantly ready for the love of Jesus to enter our hearts.  We can, in our human nature, open our hearts and minds to God’s love and that of God’s Son.  That’s what we can be doing during these forty days.  Having the intention will motivate us to act in ways that will respond to the hopes of the early church that we are prepared for the gift of love given us in the commitment of Jesus to loving all humanity even to the death.

We hear the word repent over and over again during this season. 
The word has been used since the beginning of these observations.  It makes me think that there is something in that word and its meaning that could be extremely important to our intention of capturing the right mindset for Holy Week.  The word itself has several meanings.  In the recent past, the word has come to mean “contrition” more than anything else.  But this was not the understanding of the early Christians.  The Hebrew Bible used the word to mean “return from exile”.  And the Greek roots of the word repent mean “to go beyond the mind that you have”. 

This last meaning comes to me now as one with profound significance for our time in the world and in the Church and in our personal lives.  The idea of it encourages us to question the status quo.  It invites us to look at those things in the world that do not encourage and build up the love of God and to change them.  Whenever people, in or out of the church, denigrate, deny, exclude or oppress any of the people of God we are called to repent: to return from that exile of self-righteousness.  We are called to repent: to go beyond are own absolute truths to the truth of the love of Jesus Christ. 

It is a hard discipline to constantly strive to see the world as others see it.  It is a hard discipline to be sincerely open to the life experiences of others, especially our enemies.  It is a hard discipline to question our own certain truths in favor of broader, more open and extravagantly inviting ways as Jesus has taught us to do.  Perhaps these are ways to prepare, as best we can, for the power of the events of Holy Week. 

Perhaps these are the ways
to open our hearts to Jesus. 

I invite you to take some time each day during Lent, perhaps five or ten minutes, to think about the world from Jesus’ point of view.  Think about the people oppressed by war, those denied justice through laws of government and laws of the church.  Think about the people who suffer and die unnecessarily for lack of simple medicines.  Think about the lonely and dependent.  And think about the love, hope, and joy God has for you.  These and other disciplines are some ways that can help us have a mindset of gratitude for the love of Jesus Christ. 

As you know my time with you as an interim assistant here at Redeemer is coming to a close. My mindset regarding this is thanksgiving and gratitude. For Kate’s leadership and for your kind invitation to be among you in this role. I am very excited about your new chapter in ministry. I will be away for a while after April 11. I will miss you all but I’ll be back.  Blessings and love to you all.