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Evalgelical Lutheran Church in America Northeastern Ohio Synod
Letters from Pastor Alan Smearsoll

February 2021

I write this article the day before the inauguration of Joe Biden as 46th president of the United States of America. By the time you read this, the peaceful transition of power will have taken place once again in this country. It is by virtue of this system of our democracy that the United States operates successfully, for no one person, family or party can rule indefinitely.

We have a blend of ideals that we live under reflecting the blend of people who give our leaders authority. This system assures balance, as the scales can never be tipped too far one way or the other. If you don’t like one party’s direction, you have an opportunity to vote them out of office every four years. The right to vote is the “weapon” and never should it be violence, as we have witnessed when the Capitol building was breached on January 6. Pray fervently for healing among the nation.

We are soon to enter the season of Lent. It begins with the distribution of ashes, a sign of repentance in the presence of God. Ash Wednesday is a reminder that, though freed by the blood of Jesus and washed in the waters of baptism, the old self in us still is fighting for control and will rear its ugly head when we are vulnerable, or as scripture would say, an opportune time. This past year has been an “opportune time,” ripe for the worst in all of us to come out.

While the ashes are a sign of repentance, they are placed on our foreheads in the form of the cross, a vivid reminder of the one to whom we belong and the unique burden that we carry as a result. The cross reminds us that the world is unsettled and we will encounter times of calm and times of strife. We ourselves will be both righteous and unrighteous. Faith calls us to a higher ground during the challenging times, as we see in the midst of the crisis the cross of ashes and the Savior who bore that cross for us.

This year Lent comes in the midst of challenging and uncertain times. Perhaps that is good for us and can be used to draw us into a deeper appreciation for the gift that the season of Lent is for us.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:7-10

Use the discipline of Lent to help you draw near to God. Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Remember that you are Christ’s and the joy of Easter is yours, even amidst the uncertainties of today.

Pastor Alan 

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