Lent: A Journey with Jesus

candleringThe seasons cycle round and once more we find ourselves in the season of Lent. For forty days our focus will be directed toward the longing and pain of Christ’s Passion, the harsh reality of the Crucifixion and the life giving promise of Easter. We’ve considered before the ancient Lenten practice of giving something up during this season to help sharpen our focus and move us more deeply into the events we remember through these forty days. And we recognize that sometimes that “giving up’ can seem routine or punitive. I don’t think either of these qualities are to be desired as part of our Lenten practice.

In the Ash Wednesday service in recent years, we have turned to the lovely old hymn that urges drawing “near to the heart of God.” As we look for-ward to walking the road with Jesus, moving inexorably toward Jerusalem and all that will take place there, we sing,

Oh Jesus, blest redeemer,
Sent from the heart of God,
Hold us who wait before Thee
Near to the heart of God.

It is this holy heart of God from which we come and to which we long to re-turn. Though this journey with Jesus moves surely toward all that Holy Week holds, the good and the bad, the ugly and the glorious, it also carries us beyond into the center of what it means to be God’s people, a people always wanting our lives to be held in the heart of God.

If giving up something helps lighten your load so that it’s easier to make the journey, by all means do so. Let go of anything and everything that blocks the way to that place of “quiet rest,” of “comfort sweet,” of “full release,” of “joy and peace” found near the heart of God. I’m sure many of us carry more burdens than we need to do as we wend our way through life. Learning to travel light is good spiritual discipline and serves the Lenten season well.

But it may also be that there are things we need to take on in new or more in-tentional ways. To pray, to contemplate, to sit in silence, to seek out the wonders of God in the world around us, to help another along the way. These and other disciplines also may help to sharpen our focus and move us closer to God’s heart. One of the things we are learning in the classes I am teaching this spring is the importance for pastoral counselors and caregivers to pay attention to cultivating spiritual disciplines in order to make our practice of care more meaningful.

Above all, Lent is a time to pay attention to those things, those elements, those practices which help or hinder us on our journey. Give up chocolate or meat or Facebook or anything that you sense may be blocking your way, if you be-lieve that will truly bring you nearer the heart of God. Set aside regular time for prayer, meditation, silence, reading, helping, if you believe that those prac-tices will move you more surely along the path to the heart of God.

Wait, watch, walk with Jesus. What is it he lets go of, turns his back on, fore-goes as he moves along? What are his disciplines, his practices, his commit-ments as he walks the road laid out before him? What might we learn from his walk and his walking with us that moves us along the road laid out before us? Using Brian McLaren’s, We Make the Road by Walking, we will use texts from the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5, 6 and 7 – as a scriptural guide. What better place to observe Jesus at work for the Beloved Community of God.

Sometimes it may seem that we walk the lonesome valley by ourselves for no one else can walk it for us and sometimes we take the hand of our neighbor, our journey partner, our beloved and walk the road together in blessed company. However we travel through this Lenten season, may it lead us ever nearer the heart of God.

Yours on the journey,
Pastor Rick

Holy Week at FBC

palm branchesWe are planning a different sort of service for Sunday in which we will commemorate both Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of Holy Week and his witness through the week, trial and Crucifixion.  We will treat it as a series of dramatic events being reported for the first time.  This is an intergenerational service and will involve our children and youth.  The music will include the procession of palms and reflections on the cross.  There will be no sermon per se.  Please invite a family member, friend, colleague, neighbor or stranger or three to join us in worship as we remember this most eventful time in the life of the Christ.

Later in the week, we will celebrate a simple meal and communion around the tables on Maundy Thursday and Friday the sanctuary will be open from noon to 3:00 PM for prayer and meditation.  You are invited to walk the labyrinth as part of your reflection on the significance of the Crucifixion.

In Adult Spiritual Formation this Sunday we will continue our consideration of hunger as a Lenten concern.  If you have had experiences of dealing with hunger and the hungry over the past few weeks, please be ready to share those.  We will also consider some common “experiment” around hunger (a la Mark Scandrette) in which we might engage as a congregation.

See you Sunday at 10 AM for worship with an invitation to stay for Adult Spiritual Formation.

God grant us more light, more love, more life as we journey together.

Pastor Rick

Holy Week

meditation_table.fwJust a note to say thank you for allowing me to be with my family last week at the time of my brother-in-law’s death.  It was very meaningful for our family to be together.  I presided over a committal service and a memorial service while in Boise.  Our entire family is grateful for your concern, prayers, cards, emails and calls.  You are a caring and generous congregation.

Now once more we have come to Holy Week.  In cooperation with Covenant Presbyterian Church, we are offering a number of opportunities to worship and commemorate this blessed time that leads toward Easter.  Tomorrow night we will host the Maundy Thursday service with a simple soup supper, Communion around the tables and a visit to some of the “stations of the cross.”  Friday night, Covenant will host a lovely an d moving service of Tenebrae, which includes a reading of the Passion account from Luke’s gospel interspersed with music, prayer and an extinguishing of the light, as we recall the Crucifixion and its aftermath.  Saturday, Covenant will host an Easter Celebration for Children of the community to which we are invited.  We can also use a number of helpers on Saturday morning at 11:00 AM to set up for the brunch and get the church ready for Easter.

And then Easter Day itself!  As we find again our alleluias, we will gather for Sunrise worship in the bowl in Mitchell Park (where we held joint worship last summer.) Dress warmly to greet the Easter dawn.  This will be followed by a pancake breakfast at Covenant.  Then at 10:00 AM we will gather at First Baptist to celebrate Easter in music, prayer and proclamation, followed by an Easter Egg Hunt and our annual Easter Brunch, for which we are all encouraged to bring finger food to share.

This is a beautiful, intense, and ultimately joyful time in the life of the Church and in the life of our congregation.  I hope to see you – as well as your families, friends, colleagues, neighbors and anyone else you might ask to come along – at any and all of these events.

May God’s new thing flourish within us and among us.

Pastor Rick