10Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ” – Matthew 4: 10
Grace and Peace to You my Brothers and Sisters in Christ!
What an incredible season of winter we are enduring! That is, incredibly snowy, incredibly cold and incredibly grey. It is often difficult to find joy in these days-but then spring is just around the corner. Just this past week we had a nearly 50 degree, sunny day and the ground was visible. There is hope!
Our faith life, like God’s creation, has seasons. Sometimes we find ourselves in a winter season-feeling cold and barren. We may have lost our sense of joy as we succumb to the frustration of life lived relying on our own power and devices. The harder we try to be good and the harder we work to help our church thrive; it just doesn’t seem to be enough. In these times, God’s presence can seem far away. Things seem to get in our way of joy in our relationship with Christ. Yet just as in winter, right under the surface of all that snow-growth is happening. The ground-our foundation-Jesus Christ is always present providing love and grace. Growth and rebirth are imminent and possible even though we can’t see anything happening.
These past weeks our churches have been talking about our life together as God’s Temple and how we are building on our one foundation-Jesus Christ. Along the way we have found that many things can stop us in our tracks or get in the way of our full commitment to a way forward in relationship with one another, with God and fulfilling the mission to invite, include and embrace others who do not know Christ. We continue taking steps as a worshipping community to begin dreaming again about how we might best practice personal holy living and social holiness (holiness of heart and life, as Wesley would call it) in building relationships with our community. We continue examining and striving to order our lives, our worship and our church to honor Christ as our source of life. We continue to demonstrate, in action, the love God has poured out on us through Christ.
This pouring out of God’s love and Spirit calls to mind our baptismal covenant and provides an extension of the vision of the worshipping community as God’s building, God’s Temple (1 Cor 3: 9). The main purpose of Lent, from the earliest record of the church, is to prepare folks for baptism, to help them renounce sinful ways and to fully live a new life in Christ from that day forward. In preparing candidates, the church itself was and is challenged to examine its own wholeness of life and to examine its progress and commitment to living into the covenant.
As we move forward in our journey together this Lenten season, we will remember our baptism- a Sacrament that, while performed and recognized once in the life of believers, represents the ongoing outpouring of God’s grace and Spirit. It is that primary, covenantal relationship which initiates, guides and sustains the life of the whole church. We recognize within this outward sign of an inward work of grace as a call to die to self and be raised to newness of life in Christ. We witness and experience this in the church as well. Within this covenant, God promises to be our God and to sustain the promises we make together.
Our Lenten theme for 2014 will be: Living Water: Serving Jesus Only. He Is the Water that Leads to Salvation, Eternal Life and New Beginnings.
We will explore, through worship and study together, our baptismal covenant as a source of living water which saves feeds, heals, and sustains our community as we fulfill the mission of God to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. Christ invites all God’s children into this journey to God’s heart by his gracious actions on the cross. Like the stream that begins as a trickle bubbling up under the threshold of the Temple (Ezekiel 47), we have this living water bubbling in us as we put on Christ and live out this promise of God.
We will begin this season of Lent by preparing for, examining and, above all, practicing living into the promise of this covenant. Our Lenten worship sermon series will begin on March 9 with a call to renounce that which holds us back in living the promise. The readings from the Gospel of John will challenge us with statements and questions posed to baptismal candidates that are extended to every congregant and to the worshipping community.
Each week, the gospel readings and the Scriptures will work together to remind us of the essential elements and actions needed that result from our calling to Christ in baptism and discipleship.
The First Sunday in Lent: Called to Renounce
The Second Sunday in Lent: Called to Be Born Again
The Third Sunday in Lent: Called to Drink and Share Living Water
The Fourth Sunday in Lent: Called to Be Healed of Blindness
The Fifth Sunday in Lent: Called to Come Forth and Enable Others Left for Dead to Do the Same
The ministry of Jesus began with his baptism and the proclamation of Good News of God’s Kingdom. Right now!
Let us do likewise. You are invited into this season of examination and renewal. You are invited to hope and the possibility of new beginnings. As we begin together on Ash Wednesday in worship, consider how you might renounce those things and actions which lead you further from an “all in” commitment to relationship with Christ. How might God be calling you to live differently and to act toward others in love. What keeps you from going deeper?
Let us continue on in mission and ministry together as we worship and share this great gift of God’s Kingdom to all those who hunger and thirst for the knowledge of God and who desire freedom from the oppression of a world that is not yet perfected. We have every reason to hope in Christ who died for us while we were yet sinners. Christ is our hope and our salvation and we are God’s beloved children!
Wishing You God’s Grace, Peace and Joy,