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We are officially in the season of Lent. What does that mean, exactly? Is it 40 days of no sweets, or exercising daily? Is it six weeks of repentance and sadness, only to be broken by the sweet release of Easter? Why do we "give up" things, anyway?
"But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."
Let me be honest: I am first in line to do Lent backwards. I have "given up" many of the things that we hear about, and some years I've been more successful at that than others. But the most meaningful Lenten experience I have had to date was totally unplanned-- after a Good Friday service one year, I felt strongly urged within me to fast. It was very much a Spirit nudge that I couldn't ignore. I didn't eat dinner, and then Saturday morning, still felt like I needed to fast. The whole concept of fasting seemed rather foreign to me, but I followed through and stuck with it. When Easter morning broke, there was a deep joy and hope that filled me anew! Tasting communion and the Easter meal that followed was a delicious preview of our heavenly banquet.
Am I telling you that fasting is the only way to find meaning in this season of Lent? Absolutely not. But I am encouraging you to seek the Holy Spirit in this time. If you've decided to give up TV, spend that extra time in prayer or simple silence with God. If it's difficult, don't go around moping about how much you miss meat or facebook. Journey with Christ to the cross, and you'll find your load much lighter to bear with Him by your side.
"Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the LORD will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Lift up your eyes and look around;
they all gather together,
they come to you;
your sons shall come from far away,
and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses' arms.
Then you shall see and be radient;
your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you."
This passage of scripture has given me so much hope. During this time of year, the Christmas lights have been taken down, the decorations move back to the attic, and we fall into a post-holiday funk as we return to the grind. But we must remember-- the King is here! A season of light is upon us! There is such a short time between Christmas and Lent, and we hardly get to live into the beauty that is Christ's life before we focus on the trials to come.
Let us focus this month on the brightness of Christ: his glorious, beautiful, brilliant light.
This week, we will begin a new series on prayer. We pray every Sunday, but do we really examine the role prayer plays in our lives? Henri Nouwen dives into prayer in his book, The Way of the Heart (I highly recommend it!). The book of Psalms is a series of prayers and songs to God-- here is one for you to meditate upon today:
"To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;
in you I trust, O my God.
Do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one whose hope is in you
will ever be put to shame,
but they will be put to shame
who are treacherous without excuse.
Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me yoru paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love,
for they are from old."
This Wednesday, 9/19, we will be kicking off our midweek programming with a special event: the U2charist! It will be held out on the green of Southern Village. The songs played will lead into Holy Communion. Music by U2FX at 6:30pm, BBQ dinner at 5:30pm ($5 a plate). Donations will benefit Circles, CUMC's initiative to eradicate poverty in our local area.
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