Worship Preview, Feb 26th Lent 1
This Weekend: Sunday at 10:30am “Wildernesses: Sin, Temptation, and Testing”
Scriptures: Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7, Psalm 32, Matthew 4:1-11, Romans 5:12-19 – with Rev. Christopher Eshelman preaching.
Lent has begun! This period leading up to Easter is a time of preparation. Last week we talked about Jesus healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath – when do our rules and traditions, even if started for good reason, become too limiting and blind us to the original purpose? Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath? What does it mean for us to “stretch out our hands.” What in us is withered, broken, or distorted?
Sometimes I think Lent itself has become too rigid or too withered. We make it about “giving something up” and sometimes that something is rather trivial. Or even if it is not, we get fixated on our willpower and our effort – rather than having the denial draw us closer to God. Lent is not about beating ourselves up or belittling ourselves. It is about repentance – literally “turning away” from that which is harmful, sinful… broken. The metaphor we are using this Lenten season is “Leaning Towards the Light: Soaking Up the Presence of God” Using light, water, and the growth of spring flowers, we are sharing a message of hope and healing in this season of repentance and renewal.
Repentance, after all, is part of accepting and growing in God’s grace. That is joyful! Lent is 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday – Sundays are “in” Lent but not a part of the 40 days – rather every Sunday is a “little Easter” – a celebration of the light and life of Christ, which darkness and even death cannot overcome!
I do encourage fasting – an intentional act of self-denial and self discipline for the purpose of growing closer to God. I also encourage “taking something on” – new habits of generosity or intentional growth. One suggestion I have challenged our congregation to take on is reading the entire New Testament – we have just started that and you can find more information and a reading guide on our website blog: www.firstumcfsks.org (scroll down on the page to see daily entries with some background – its not too late to catch up – nor is there any magic to the deadline, you can easily start reading today and finish after Easter!)
This first Sunday in Lent, the Lectionary cycle suggests the 4 texts above. We will wrestle with these stories of sin and temptation, seeking to follow Jesus. A wonderful illustration of Jesus journey in the wilderness, a short film of images engaging our sacred imagination about this journey. Many cultures have a “vision quest” or a sacred journey where one both defines their identity and purpose. Jesus has grown up – being obedient to Mary and Joseph in the small town of Nazareth. In Matthew 3, he has come to the Jordan and been baptized. A voice has said “This is my son, the beloved.” Then the Spirit leads Jesus in to the wilderness. Last week we celebrated the Transfiguration – again there a voice has said “This is my son, listen to him.” This week, we begin and intentional journey of doing so. Given these two statements from the voice of God, what is this journey in the wilderness about? What are the scriptures the tempter and Christ cite? What lessons are we to take for our journey and our temptations? Welcome to the wilderness of Lent, let us lean towards the light and soak up God’s presence. Let us grow and bear good fruit. Let us truly encounter the new life Easter proclaims.
No matter where you are on your own journey of faith, you are invited to join in worship and celebration at 10:30am at 301 S. National, coming just as you are, with your questions, doubts and hopes - and to experience the transformative, healing love and grace of Christ - which makes us whole. Visit www.firstumcfsks.org/newvisitors for more information on what to expect.
Wednesday, March 1, 5:30pm Feeding Families in His Name – this weekly free meal is available to everyone without obligation. A “to-go” meal is distributed under the portico at 301 S. National. We are thankful for all the volunteers from other area churches and community groups that make this meal possible each week.
Friday, March 10 – Shepherds Center / Adventures in Learning. Our 2nd event will again offer a lunch at no charge for those who pre-register. Last day to pre-register will be Monday, March 6th. This time we will have potato soup, garlic bread and cookies catered by Suzanne Griffin. Our Speakers will feature Austin Bolinger, who is the Horticultural Therapist at Tri-Valley Gardening, who will bring plants, share about growing our gardens and their work at Tri-Valley. The other track is being organized by Wilma Hebdon and will be full of insight and tips to get the most out of home health care, make good decisions about assisted living, and end of life planning. Visit www.firstumcfsks.org/shepherdscenteroffortscott to register!