By Pastor Tracey Leslie
Scripture: Matthew 17:1-13
Our days are getting longer. Tonight the sun will set at 6:32. Though a Pennsylvania native, I have little confidence in the predictions of that furry rodent from Punxsutawny. I hate winter but I do appreciate the tradition behind Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day, or Candlemas, is a syncretistic thing. Fun facts… Feb. 2, Groundhog Day, marks the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox but it also marks the 40th day after Jesus’ birth which, according to Jewish custom, would have been the day when Jesus – the light of the world – would have been presented in the Temple. The gospel of Luke tells us that “When the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, Mary and Joseph brought Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord.’)”[i] And so, Groundhog Day or Candlemas, is one of those times when we are reminded that, in Jesus, the light of God – the one who first said, “Let there be light” – in Jesus, God’s light has broken into our world in ways we cannot ignore or overlook. The Son shines the Light of God into our world.
[i] Luke 2:22-23 NRSV
By Pastor Tracey Leslie
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
In America, there are a variety of cultural norms and expectations of which we may not even be consciously aware. But there are also regional norms and values around which we may be more perceptive. As I’ve mentioned, I grew up in south central Pennsylvania, the small, Appalachian city of Johnstown. One of the values in my culture of origin was to live one’s entire life close to home. My dad’s ministry took my family out of the Johnstown area for a total of eight years… and they were eight of the longest, most difficult years of my mother’s life. Johnstown was where our family belonged. When my sister’s husband was laid off early in their marriage by two consecutive companies who went out of business – not at all an uncommon thing in Johnstown’s depressed economy – it did not cross their minds to move to a different geographical area with better employment opportunities. Johnstown was home. When I left south central Pennsylvania, I felt that I had betrayed the values of my upbringing. No one told me I had done wrong but I had internalized this important cultural value that I subsequently transgressed. To this day, when a distant relative passes away and I am unable to return for the funeral for whatever reason, I hear a faint voice in my head that says, “If you weren’t hundreds of miles away, you could be there.” It is hard to release our cultural norms and values.
Perhaps you have had a similar experience. If you have ever lived in a different geographical culture for an extended period of time, you may have experienced the discomfort of cultural dissonance
By Pastor Amber Traeger
Scripture: Matthew 5:13-16
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot. You are the light of the world. A town build on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
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