Greetings and blessings in the name of God our Father, and through our Lord Jesus Christ.
We have a time in our congregational lives each year called Lent. This special time in the life of a congregation starts on Ash Wednesday (this year, March 5) and ends 40 days later (excluding Sundays) Lent is a season of preparation and reflection, of refocusing and reorienting. We read the confession of sin and forgiveness in a new place during worship to reorient our hearts to hear how we are in need of our God every day.
We will hear stories each week about Jesus miracles and signs performed, plus his words that lead him to Jerusalem, where he will unfold a new commandment and a new life in his death, and resurrection.
We reorient and focus ourselves in various ways. We take something on, or give something up. This is a very common practice that many people take part in. Giving something up for Lent has usually led to a diet-based devotion, to avoid chocolate or to give up your morning cup of coffee.
While this could be a good practice, oftentimes people only see this as suffering, and instead of focusing on a practice that gets us closer to God, we distance ourselves by complaining about how hard it is to give up our favorite items.
Taking something on sounds like a good alternative as well, but often it can feel like a New Years resolution for which we have enthusiasm for the first two or three days, and later ignore, skip and often forget (I cant remember what my New Years resolution was, and it was only three months ago!).
Whatever you do this Lent, should your faith involve this practice, make sure that you are doing something that draws you deeper into a relationship with God. If that is indeed giving up chocolate or donuts or coffee, consider donating the funds that you save by not buying these treats. Or if you are committed to start running in a more concerned way, try memorizing a Bible verse while hitting the pavement. These and other examples of how we can draw closer and deeper into relationship with God can be powerful daily reminders of our dependence on our Lord for everything.
If you are able, we would love to invite you to our Lenten journey at Immanuel. We have a very special Lent schedule that all are invited to take part in.
We are raising funds to participate in the ELCA Good Gifts program. ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) Good Gifts go beyond regular congregational offering to support the ministries of the ELCA that mean the most to you and your loved ones. Together, we do more than we could ever do alone: grow the church, fight hunger and transform lives.
The Lenten Photo Journal challenge has begun, where our youth will take 40 pictures in 40 days, one for each days theme, then post them to social media.
And last but not least, is our devotional book and class, Beyond Question: A Book of Faith Lenten Journey. This class will be Wednesdays from 12:30 to 1 p.m., and Sundays from 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Anyone wishing to take part need only sign up, grab a book and be willing to donate $10 for the cost.
As always, we are excited to be part of Woodburn, and to serve you as best we can. Come, all are welcome, and all is ready. Amen.