Greetings from Lee Barstow

Letter From Lee,   
      Pastor                    March, 2018

Dear LCC Community,
Every one of us craves a good life. We are hard-wired to experience all the goodness life has to offer. We want to love and be loved. We want to learn. We want to be useful.
Amidst all our tradition’s tools for living, Lent can help us in our inevitable quest for goodness. The stories and lessons of Lent encourage us to ask the important questions we want to be asking all the time, but which we tend to neglect because we’re only human: questions about what choices we make, what actions we take, and how we might better align these with the goodness we crave.
And yet we need to be careful… Lent is not about fixing ourselves… it is not about judging ourselves unworthy and trying to become worthy. Rather, it begins with our birthright of beloved goodness.
The verses chosen from Mark for the first Sunday in Lent this year tell the tale (Mark 1:9-15). In Mark’s story, Jesus asks to be immersed in goodness through the ritual of baptism. John the Baptist pushes back in the other Gospel stories, saying he is not worthy to baptize Jesus. But true to form, Jesus insists, validating that he is a human being just like the rest of us and needs ritual cleansing. It’s as if he is saying what Lent urges all of us to admit, “I know there are things in me that separate me from goodness; immerse me in goodness to cleanse me.”
Immediately, as Jesus rises from the water, he hears confirmation he’s on the right track, as a “voice from heaven” tells him, “You are my … Beloved. With you I am well pleased.” No one else in Mark’s Gospel hears this voice. As in our own spiritual journeys, the voice of heaven speaks from within.
And then what? Jesus faces the wilderness—driven there by the Spirit—which seems to say our difficulties are sometimes our most precious opportunities. Finally, after completing his wilderness stint, Jesus returns to the world to perform his good work of teaching that the Kingdom of God is near, and healing, and speaking truth to power.
In just six short verses, Mark has told a universal story that evokes a cycle in our human process: We begin by seeking to wash away whatever blocks us from connecting with our essential goodness. When we do, we remember we are beloved children of God. Then we enter the wilderness to temper the keenness of this knowing. And finally, we channel the goodness in the flow of our lives.
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind skipping the wilderness part… just stay in the water, immersed in goodness. But apparently the wilderness is a required element in the program. Apparently we need to be tempted to forget we are beloved and our neighbor is beloved. Apparently we need to be tempted to blame and to hate.
And yet Mark tells us that along with Satan and wild beasts, there are also angels in the wilderness, which gives me hope, because sometimes an angel is just what’s needed to help us remember the power of goodness.
I pray for our Lenten journey to remind us that whenever we feel the need, no matter how often, we can let go into our essential goodness… to know we are beloved children of God and to remember goodness as the true source of strength in our lives… and then to live from this blessing.
Peace and blessings,

Lee Barstow preaches on the first and third Sunday of each month. On second Sundays, Lee will share another’s sermon. On fourth Sundays, sermon time may be devoted to a sacred conversation, sometimes with a visitor who will share about their spiritual journey. Fifth Sundays will remain open for creative worship ideas such as Taizé, hymn sings, etc.