The Starting Point

The Starting Point

Author: Mark Fenstermacher
February 19, 2021

When I ask the navigation app on my phone to help me get from here to there, it often asks me what the starting point is going to be. As we enter into this season Christians call “Lent” what is our starting point for our walk with God?

In Polish households in South Bend, people enjoy a Paczki on Fat Tuesday before the season of self-denial that is Lent.

In New Orleans, people celebrate Mardi Gras. This year, because of COVID-19, the floats won’t be moving and the bands won’t be marching. But people are finding new ways to celebrate - like decorating their homes as stationary floats!

Friends are posting on Facebook a list of the things they are giving up for Lent (meat on Friday, sweets, TV, social media, etc.) while others talk about a devotional they will use in their own private prayer time each day (well, five days out of seven… maybe). Some talk about a focus on giving (either money to good work in this hurting world or small acts of kindness when a need appears).

What is your starting point?

Richard Rohr, in a book of 12-step recovery and spirituality, reflects on how the sacrament of penance in his Roman Catholic Church too often became a formality rather than a time of genuine honesty with God. Rohr observes that many people would confess to rather trivial things like missing Mass while neglecting the deeper issues. He recalls that listening to most confessions was like getting pelted with marshmallows.

Could it be that our starting point for Lent, and our walk with Christ, would be honesty? Not a going-through-the-motions kind of religion but a genuine, honest, daily encounter with the living God? Honesty in the confessional. Honesty in our prayers. Honesty in our wrestling with scripture. Honesty in our questions. Honesty in our giving.

Mark (1:9-15) tells the story of the baptism of Jesus. The Gospel writer says that when Jesus came up out of the water of that small river, there was a voice from heaven. The voice said: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

It’s a beautiful thing that God makes sure Jesus—at the very beginning of his ministry—knows he is loved. Love is a good starting point for our walk with God through Lent. In fact, love is the best place to begin and it is the best place to end: love.Love is the Alpha and the Omega. Love is the beginning and the end. If that isn’t your starting point, I’m worried you may miss walking the right road with the right Galilean.
What’s your starting point?

Grace and peace,
Pastor Mark

  • Join us for our small group Lenten studies as we work through Adam Hamilton’s book, The Walk, as we look at the Five Essential Practices of the Christian Life. Pastor Nikki will be the facilitator of one group meeting at the church on Sunday mornings and I will be leading a Zoom group on Tuesday evenings.
  • This coming Monday evening our leaders will gather at the church for our “Leadership Orientation.”  A part of the evening will be looking at these possible priorities for the coming year (generated out of weeks of prayer and conversation by our church staff):
  1. Knowing, loving and living Jesus: Discipleship. Helping our people grow as disciples of Jesus Christ, becoming more familiar with his way. Helping people take their next step with God.

  2. Knowing, loving, and living life with one another: Connection. A focus on hospitality, welcoming ministries, and small groups where people can connect with one another and God.

  3. Knowing, loving, and serving our community and world: Outreach/Missions. Becoming a congregation that is in mission in large (church-wide) and small (family to family-neighbor to neighbor) ways. Finding several key needs in DeKalb County and the world, and then meeting those needs in a way that changes our city and world.


First United Methodist Church
1203 E. Seventh Street | Auburn, IN 46706 | 260.925.0885