March 2017: Lent

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

As the weather seems to be hinting at spring, we begin next week our observance of Lent
together. Lent is always a rich season: a time of preparation and reflection, an opportunity to
come to terms with the wilderness in our lives, a time to remember God’s baptismal promise to
carry us from ashes to resurrection. In connection with the ongoing healing work that happens
in our congregation, the worship team is thinking about the way in which Lent this year might
also invite us more deeply into an understanding of God’s healing work among us.

We often think of healing in connection to our bodies. We seek healing for everything from
simple illnesses and temporary injuries to life-ending and debilitating diseases. We begin Lent
by remembering this mortality that all of us, young and old alike, carry in our bodies. We mark
our brows with ashen crosses, remembering that we die in Christ, but that we do indeed die.
Then we spend forty days considering that tension of being alive in dying bodies, of an already
assured promise of life but still facing death.

So much is in need of healing as we dwell in that in-between place. We pray for the healing of
our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. We pray for healing between nations. We
pray for the healing of peace in homes and communities of violence. We pray for the healing of
creation. We pray for the healing of hunger and poverty. In this year of the 500
th anniversary of the Reformation especially, we pray for the healing of divisions in the church. This lent we hold these and other prayers for healing up to the light of Christ’s work among us.

In this year of our three-year cycle of readings we hear a series of particularly rich stories about
Christ’s work in the in-between, mostly from John’s Gospel. After Matthew’s account of Jesus’
temptation in the wilderness, we hear from John of Jesus’s telling Nicodemus about rebirth in
the Spirit, Jesus restoring the woman at the well with an invitation to be his messenger of good
news, Jesus healing a man blind from birth, and finally Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.
These are at the core all stories of healing – not just the transformation of our bodies, but the
restoration of community, the fulfillment of our deepest longings, the invitation to be bearers of
God’s good news, and, yes, even the raising of that which is dead and buried, the promise of
hope when all seems lost.

But this is, ultimately, not just the journey we take for a season but the journey of our whole
lives, from ashes to ashes, dust to dust. A journey in which God is working healing in us and in
our communities. But a word of caution: healing is rarely a linear process. We do not move
from ashes to resurrection in a straight line of progress. We often wander, unclear what God is
doing in and through us, unclear what healing will look like. We are sometimes healed from our
ailments and many times healed in spite of them. But the promise of our baptism, the promise
of Ash Wednesday, the promise of Easter is the promise of God’s powerful healing at work in
us.

We will dwell more together in these texts and this theme on Sundays, where a number of our
readers will be helping to present each week’s gospel reading with multiple voices. We will
incorporate an extra opportunity for anointing for healing on Sunday, March 26
th. As always the music of worship will help us sing of God’s healing power, including more medieval music,
hearkening back to last Advent, another season of waiting, longing, and hoping.

We will again have midweek services on the Wednesdays in Lent (March 8, 15, 22, 29, April 5)
with worship and a meal in the parish hall at 6. We will continue to dwell in those rich gospel
readings, pray together, share the bread and wine of communion and extend that feast with a
meal. We do need people who can sign up on the parish hall door to help provide the meals so
that no one has to bring something every week. We are looking for a main dish, a side or salad,
and a dessert each week for about 20 people.

Ash Wednesday worship will be at 7 p.m. on March 1, and those who cannot make it are
welcome to stop in the church office that day for confession and forgiveness and imposition of
ashes. As we look ahead to Holy Week, Palm/Passion Sunday is April 9. We will have a mostly
spoken evening prayer with opportunity for silent reflection on April 10, 11, and 12 at 7 p.m.
Maundy Thursday (April 13), Good Friday (April 14), and Easter Vigil (April 15) will all be at
7 p.m. with an ecumenical Good Friday service at First Congregational at Noon. Easter Sunday
is April 16! 
As always, children are welcome and encouraged to participate in all of these opportunities for worship.

Come, dwell with us in God’s healing presence this Lenten season.

Peace, Pastor Steven