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LENTEN BIBLE STUDY

 Our 2016 Lenten Study is titles Prayers for all the Seasons of Our Lives—This year’s Lenten Bible Study will focus on the Psalms – the great treasure house of prayer. Each Sunday at 4pm, beginning on February 14 and extending through Palm Sunday on March 20, Cynthia Campbell and Matt Nickel will lead reflections on how the psalms can help us find words for prayer in times of great joy and deepest loss. Each session will include prayer, song and reflection as we discover new resources for all the seasons of our lives. 

March Reflection

            One of the major challenges many of us face in life is the ability to focus – to concentrate our energy and attention on a limited number of things. For many of us, life provides us few opportunities to focus on one thing at a time. In the first place, we are busy people: there are many demands on our time and energy. It starts young: because we want our children to be well-rounded and because advancement to higher education demands much more today than good grades, our children constantly juggle academic work, sports, church, music, special interest activities, service days, and more.

 

            In the second place, the variety of our technological opportunities makes multi-tasking almost expected. We sit in a meeting but we are also checking email and social media. We are stuck in traffic, so we get on the phone. We are on the computer but have several screens open at once moving back and forth between work and personal communication.

 

            None of those things is bad. It’s great for young adults to have multiple opportunities to learn and grow; to discover who they are and what they are good at. It is hard to imagine our personal lives let alone most types of work without access to electronic communication. But all of these good things make another good thing very difficult: the ability and opportunity to focus.

 

            Lent is the season of the year when we are invited to focus – to go deeper into our faith. In particular, we are invited to reflect on who Jesus Christ is, what it means that he was called to suffer and die and rise again, destroying the power of sin and death. If Jesus is our window into the heart of God, how do his living and dying and rising help us go deeper into our relationship with God?

 

            Where to start? Start simply. Find five minutes each day to sit and focus on that question. Re-read last Sunday’s scripture passages. Read the passages for the Sunday to come (which you can find on the website). Read the Lenten devotion for the day (the booklets are at church or you can ask the church office to sign you up to receive one meditation every day from now until Easter). Read. Reflect. Be quiet. Expect God to be present to you. Listen. Rest in God. Go deeper. Meet God who is ready to meet you.

 

Cynthia M. Campbell, Pastor

Ash Wednesday Meditation

Isaiah 58:6-9a: God speaks to Israel through the prophet’s words

 “Is not this the fast that I choose:

to loose the bonds of injustice,

to undo the thongs of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,

and bring the homeless poor into your house;

when you see the naked, to cover them

and not to hide yourself from your own kin?”

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,

and your healing shall spring up quickly;

your vindicator shall go before you,

the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;

you shall cry for help, and God will say,

Here I am.

 

 

“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” These are the ancient words used on Ash Wednesday as the mark of the cross is made on the worshipper’s forehead with a smudge of ash. On this day that marks the beginning of Lent, Christians are reminded of our mortality, our vulnerability, our frailty and moral failures. We remember a central fact of what it means to be human: that our lives have limits, the most notable of which is that we will all die; and that our individual lives and the life of our societies are fraught with brokenness, injustice, violence, and destruction.

“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

It does not take the insight of faith to see these things, of course. Everyone alive knows that he or she will die. We know all too well how vulnerable we are to disease and to the forces of nature. And simply listening to the news or reading the newspaper reminds us of the violence and destruction that humans inflict on themselves and others and nature. It does not take the eyes of faith to see that there is a lot that is broken.

 

 

But the eyes of faith see something else. The eyes of faith see that we are not just random accidents of nature; we are creatures of a Creator. The boundary of our lives is not simply our chronological life span. We have been called into being by God, and we are invited to find the true meaning in relation to God.

 

 

The words of the prophet Isaiah represent a breakthrough in religious insight in the ancient world. For many other peoples, the gods were arbitrary and capricious. It was easy to offend; prayers and sacrifices were needed to appease. But Israel knew a very different God. The Holy One was a God of justice who expected and hoped that God’s chosen people would emulate God’s ways. Isaiah makes this clear: the right way to worship God is to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the poor and remove the injustice in society that leads to poverty.

 

 

But God is also a God of mercy whose steadfast love endures forever; who forgives us when we betray one another and ourselves and God; who longs for us to find our way back to right relationship with one another and with God.

 

 

Lent is an opportunity for us to focus – to step back from all the things that ordinarily seem so very important, so pressing, so demanding. To step back and focus on the relationship that in fact will lead us to our true selves. God invites us to discover once again who we are and whose we are and where our true fulfillment lies.

 

 

The God of justice shows us the path. The God of mercy invites us to start over and over and over again. The path leads to life. The path leads us home.

 

 

Cynthia M. Campbell

Pastor

 

 

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