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“Cleaning Out Our Clutter So We See the Cross”

Many of you will remember that last February my father died. An unexpected fall in the bathroom and five days later my father died. It came as a shock, for while he was 91 years old, his health was good even if he was a bit forgetful at times. As a part of my parents’ planning, they had prepared their wills, and everything was in order. In those legal documents, they named me as their Personal Representative. Of course, I knew this and had agreed to serve when it became necessary. Yet, when that time came, I was not ready for everything required of a Personal Representative. The first few months, I did relatively little to dissolve their estate, except for those things that simply had to be done. I was still grieving my loss and putting off the inevitable. Then, when I began to handle the many details of the estate, it seemed overwhelming. Aside from the personal loss of my parents, now I was going through 54 years of their living in the same house and collecting all the things one collects over a lifetime. Furniture, clothes, keepsakes, and photographs. Millions of photographs! The first few months of sorting through their belongings and collections, I felt a huge weight on my shoulders. How do you focus on this, when there is so much of that? How do you keep this, but discard that? And when Judy and I would finish one room and move to the next, it started all over again. There was so much to do, so much to sort through, so much to clean, that it was hard to focus. Where do you begin? Where do you go next?

I share my story with you so we can use it as a reference point for all of our stories and lives. We are beginning our observance of Lent, Ash Wednesday is February 26. In the wisdom of the Church’s liturgy and calendar, Lent is a period of forty days when historically candidates were prepared for their baptism. Now, the period is used as a time to reflect upon the life, struggles, crucifixion, and death of Jesus so that we might be forgiven and know God’s salvation. Experience in the church often reveals to us that we, as people and Christians, are not well-prepared to reflect upon the death of Christ and our role in his death. We have professed our Christian faith, our faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, and yet after making that confession, it is almost as if we are not sure what to do with ourselves as followers of Jesus. I think about this complexity of our faith often and I am wondering if there might be some similarity to be found in my story and experience as my parent’s Personal Representative.

Could it be that our lives have become so filled with the things of this life, that we don’t really know where to start? Have we collected so many remembrances of the days of our lives, that we don’t know what to keep and what to let go of? Have we gotten stuck in the room of being in school and forgotten we need to worship God rather than only study God? Are we paralyzed in the room of our profession and afraid to step out into the kingdom of God around us? Could we be so busy in the kitchen concocting dishes and recipes for those around us, that we have forgotten to stop and be nourished by the body, blood, and companionship of Jesus? Have we stepped into the living rooms of our lives to the extent that we are losing the real meaning of the life God created us for? Do we look at the practice of our faith as being so overwhelming that we have consciously, or unconsciously, simply decided not to practice it right now, nor to deal with the challenges of being a faithful Christian in this world?

Right now, as Judy and I are moving from room to room in my parent’s home, I wish that I had started this process sooner. Putting it off has not made it easier, nor has it been any quicker. As I consider what we are doing, I should not have waited. In the same way, I am encouraging you to use these forty days of Lent to de-clutter and de-stress your life from anything and everything that might be preventing you from focusing on the one thing of eternal significance – your faith in Jesus Christ. Use the Lenten season before you to determine which room of life you may be stuck in, and if it is not the room where the cross of Christ is shining, it is time to get busy and clear the clutter so you can see the cross and follow your Savior.

I hope I’ll see you often this Lent as we reflect upon the gift of the Savior God has given us and that He gives us every day. Come, let’s walk together as we clean up our lives so we can see the cross.

Your servant in Christ,

Pastor Butler