31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
March 6, 2022
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Today is the first Sunday in the church season of Lent. Lent is the forty days, excluding Sundays, before Easter, and it began as a time for new Christians to prepare for their baptisms on Easter.
In some Christian traditions, Lent is observed as a season to be penitent, to focus on our sinfulness, and to give something up – out of respect for Jesus who gave up his life. Other Christian traditions make a big deal about putting away their “Alleluias” for Lent, essentially putting away all celebration and praise for these next six weeks.
And then there is us……We are beginning a celebration, a celebration of 275 years of ministry, with balloons and cake and rejoicing.
If it weren’t for the fact that our actual anniversary is March 23, 1747, we might not have planned our celebratory kick-off for Lent. As we have prepared for this celebration of 275 years of ministry though, I have come to see how perfect it is to begin our celebration now because Lent, in addition to being a season of preparation for Easter, is also a season for reflection. Lent is a time to reflect as a community and as individuals about who we were, who we are, and who we want to be as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Lent is an opportunity to tell stories from our past, to acknowledge the good and the bad, and to remember God’s steadfast love and faithfulness to us as individuals and a church community, throughout the years and generations.
Over the next six weeks, we are going to praise God for God’s steadfast love. We are going to give thanks to God for the marvelous things God has done for us, and we are going to acknowledge our sinfulness, our brokenness as well. We are going to confess those moments in our personal lives and our communal life when we have not loved God and our neighbors as we should.
Throughout these weeks of Lent, we are going to look back, all so we can move forward in faith, so on Easter Sunday, we can “sing to the Lord a new song”, so we can truly make “a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth” and receive the gift of new life through Christ’s resurrection.
Earlier this year, someone, whose family has been at part of FCC Bristol for generations and generations, called me and offered our church their family’s cradle, an item that has been used by their family going back to the 1800’s. I cannot tell you how honored I was that this family would trust us with such an important family heirloom, and yet, I said no. Because even as we have many wonderful historic items in this building, including chairs that worship leaders sat on in the 1830’s, we are a faith community that is looking back, not going back.
Our purpose, as the church of Jesus Christ, is not to preserve items from the past or even to recreate the past. Our purpose as the body of Christ, the community of Christ, is to embody God’s extravagant welcome, to nurture our community both body and soul, and to share the good news of Jesus Christ – to share his love, his peace, his joy, and most of all, his hope.
So while we are going to spend the upcoming year, looking back and celebrating our rich historical tradition, we are not going back. We are moving forward. We are taking the lessons we have learned over 275 years, over 2000 years, and we are using each and every one of them to help us be a more vibrant, authentic, community of God’s peace and love. Here in Bristol and around the world. Alleluia. Amen.