Now is the time!

On Valentine's Day morning this past week, I played a phone message from Kim Coffing, Director of Community and Faith Relations of ChildServ. ChildServ is that Northern Illinois United Methodist agency we help support with our fifth Sunday special offerings.

It was a message of thanks - to you.

Kim was using Valentine's Day as an opportunity to "Spread the Love" and express gratitude to churches like ours that are partners with ChildServ in making a difference for at-risk children and youth. Because of our gifts and prayers, she pointed out, lives are being changed, and hearts are opening.

She wished us a happy Valentine's Day and meaningful Ash Wednesday.

As the day unfolded, of course, the urgency of working together to protect and to offer life-giving nurture for young people took on a horrible, heart-breaking meaning in yet another school shooting tragedy, this time in Parkland, Florida.

We are far from understanding how or why this could have happened, but we do understand there are steps that could be taken to make a massacre like this less likely. We owe it to the future, and to all the children and youth of our country, to take those steps.

One 17-year-old student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shared a plea the morning after the tragedy "...this is something that people cannot get used to. This is something we can't let keep happening. Because if we do, and we get used to it, it's going to happen again. Congress needs to get over their political bias with each other and work toward saving children's lives. We're children - you guys are the adults."

All of us, not just our elected officials, are responsible to do that work of saving lives. We do it by continued communication with our representatives and leaders, by conversations with our friends and colleagues, by being willing to grow in our understandings of the sources of violence, and by saying "yes" to the daily opportunities, right where we are, to be a part of the change we envision.

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Lent, and we will hear the words of Jesus that began his ministry in our world: "Now is the time!   Here comes God's kingdom! Change your hearts and minds and trust this good news!"   (Mark 1:15).

May Lent be a journey for each of us, and for our whole church, of letting Christ change our hearts and lives and of glimpsing God's kingdom here and now.

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