February 2018

Pastor’s Letter

Dear friends in Christ,
It is time again for us to enter the season of Lent together. This season is marked by a deep baptismal remembrance: the ways in which we have been drowned and raised to new life through Christ in the waters of baptism; the ways in which we live out our response to God’s gracious act in baptism; the ways in which our baptism daily washes and refreshes us in the
midst of our brokenness.

This season is marked by ancient traditions. We will put away the “Alleluia,” the Hebrew word of praise that is our triumphant Easter cry. It is not gone forever nor is joy and praise banned for the season, but its absence draws our attention to it all the more on Easter Sunday. We will burn last year’s Palm Sunday palm branches into ashes, which will be inscribed on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday (February 14, worship at 7 p.m.). In doing so we remember our own mortality and God’s ability to breathe life into the dust of the earth. At the other end of the season we will enter Holy Week together, palm branches waving. We will wash one another’s feet as Jesus commanded his disciples to do, following his own example. We will honor the cross as the place where Christ defeats death by entering into it. We will gather around the fire to tell ancient stories as we await the first shouts of “Alleluia!” Then we will celebrate the resurrection together with great fanfare on Easter morning. All the while we will continue to gather every Sunday for word and meal.

But amid these ancient traditions we also explore other ways that we mark the season together. This year the worship team has settled on a general theme of Journey to the Resurrection. It might be a more typical Lenten theme to name the cross as destination, but the end of the Lenten path isn’t Good Friday but rather Easter. Let’s be clear that we cannot get to Easter
without going through Good Friday, but we do not pretend, even in our more penitential moments, that Easter isn’t already our daily reality.

On Sundays, our liturgy will continue to follow our usual patterns. The one thing that will be a bit different this season is our time of confession and forgiveness. Each Sunday in Lent you will be invited as part of the confession to come forward and pick up a stone to represent a sin you’d like to confess or a burden you’d like to unload. This might be something very personal or a worry about a big global concern or anywhere in between. If you wish, there will be pens to write that sin or burden on the stone. Then you are invited to leave it at the cross, which will be set up near the front of the sanctuary, as a tactile way of expressing our desire to hand these things over to God. If you’d like more time to think about it, you are welcome to pick a stone up before worship begins. During this time, our choir director or others from the choir will be singing psalms. For those who do not wish to come forward you are welcome to participate by praying silently or reflecting on the music. However you participate, after those who wish have come forward and the psalm has concluded, all will hear the words of God’s forgiveness spoken.

On Wednesday nights during Lent (February 21 & 28, March 7, 14, 21) at 6 p.m. we will gather in the parish hall for contemplative prayer followed by dinner. The worship team is planning something a little different than in previous years. We will have a canvas labyrinth spread out on the parish hall floor. After some introductory music and scripture, there will be an invitation to a time of contemplation while music plays. We encourage people to make use of the labyrinth during this time and there will be prompts and suggestions for those who are unfamiliar with this ancient spiritual practice (here’s one intro if you want to read more). Before or after walking the labyrinth there will be a station to light candles in prayer. Or people may simply choose to remain seated for individual prayer. As that time concludes we will gather again for a prayer to conclude our time and bless our meal. Over dinner we invite conversation about the experience of the evening for those who wish to share, followed by an opportunity for open conversation with one another. The contemplative prayer will conclude by 6:30 and dinner will be served. We will plan to wrap up by 7, but those who wish are welcome to stay for continued conversation.

The sign-up sheet for providing all or part of the meal each week is on the parish hall door. Throughout Lent we will also be discussing related themes in Adult Forum at 9 a.m. on Sundays. There are many daily devotionals available online or in print including continuing to follow along with the “Christ in Our Home” devotionals available year-round at church. And you may have other spiritual practices and disciplines that you want to engage this year. However you observe this season, we continue on our path confident of God’s promises through baptism to join us to Christ’s resurrection.
Pastor Steven