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Lent is a season for giving up good things to remember the ultimate. It’s a season when the church refrains even from saying “hallelujah.” That’s an Easter word. Lent is a preparation for the cross, and a time to reflect on our own sins that send Jesus there.

I found myself giving up something during Lent last week, but not intentionally. It was greeting you all before and after our service. I’ve had a virus (not covid, not even strep), and didn’t want anyone else to join me in the purgatory of illness. But I hated missing this time together. It’s gold for me, for Rev. Lori, for any good pastor. For just a few minutes each week we get to say hello, make small talk, occasionally hear a prayer request or of a need for a visit. But mostly we just get to be with you, even if briefly. 

On our end, Sunday morning can be a frenetic time. We have things we’re worried about going right in the service, whether relatively in our control (the sermon, prayers, presiding over sacraments) or relatively out (the sound system, the inevitable stumbles). Often we’re trying to remember names (y’all have a bit of an advantage over us in this regard!). Sometimes we have a fragmentary memory: ‘wait, someone this person loves is sick. Spouse? Mom? Kid? Can’t remember,’ so the conversation becomes a game of trying to goad you to remind us without being too obvious (for more on this see this terrific piece, email me if you can’t get past the paywall). Or if you’re here a few times a year we know your beloved face, but just struggle with the name. It all takes a high degree of feigned social confidence and willingness to fail. This just in: most ministers are introverts. This isn’t easy for us. But we do love it. Y’all are the people we’re called to serve. And y’all are awesome.

This time is especially precious as an opportunity for us to meet new people. Just a considerate word from a pastor can encourage someone to come back. It’s also good for those of us who have been around a while (that is: for anyone for whom we are your church) to seek out unfamiliar faces first. There’s always time to talk with friends later, even friends we mostly only see on Sundays. I know it can be embarrassing. I introduced myself to someone at a church Jaylynn served once, asked if this was her first time, and learned she’d been there for decades! But our embarrassment is a small price to pay. The more genuine embarrassment should be when someone bravely tries church and isn’t spoken to. Please, friends, join us in moving toward the people we don’t know, whom no one is talking with. They’re Christ. Let’s receive them as such.

Hopefully I’m on the mend and can leave off the not-really-Lenten foregoing of social contact this next week. There is so much of Christ to see in each of your faces, to greet with each of our hands.

 

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