As we celebrate Ash Wednesday on Wednesday, February 17, we shift from the Cycle of Light which began in Advent and included the seasons of Christmas and Epiphany. With Ash Wednesday, we shift into the Cycle of Life which includes the season of Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost. Both cycles follow a pattern of expectation (preparation), the fulfillment, and the proclamation.
For me, Lent is not primarily focused on denial, as we have often heard asked, “What did you give up for Lent?” If we give anything up or participate in more Lenten services or use Lenten devotionals or the Lenten practices such as fasting, prayer, or acts of charity, it is all about creating a more open space within our hearts to experience the forgiveness and grace and oneness that is the essence of our relationship with God.
We need these forty days to first prepare for our Lenten confession that we will make on Maundy Thursday. Because I hope you noticed there is no absolution given on Ash Wednesday to our confession because it leaves the whole season of Lent open for us to prepare our confession. The whole Lenten season is time to reflect on how we have been in bondage, the powers and principalities that keep us from God, and our true humanity and how we need to find new spaciousness within ourselves. Our Absolution comes on Maundy Thursday.
We need this new openness and spaciousness because we discover in Lent that we are wrestling with the principalities and powers that hold us captive and have convinced us we are separate from God and each other. The powers have convinced us that being separate from God we need only to live for the new trinity of me, myself, and I which alienates me from my fellow human beings. Each Lent, as we wrestle with these powers, we find new places within ourselves where we are in bondage sin (sin is understood as being separate from God here) and cannot free ourselves. As Lutherans, we believe there is only one sin: beings separated from God. Everything we call sins are acts that reflect and affirm that we are separate from God.
Lent is a time to examine the big lie that we are separated from God. Lent is a time to explore the ways that we are captive to the powers and principalities. Lent is a time, as our present COVID pandemic has already taught us, is: we are dust and to dust we shall return. Life is that fragile on our own but so powerfully connected in and through God.
Bringing Palms back to the church…With Ash Wednesday approaching on Wednesday, February 17, we want to invite the members and friends of Living Lord to participate in an ancient practice. I want to invite you to take all the old palms that you received on Palm/Passion Sundays from last year, or other years for that matter, and bring them to the church to be cut up and then burned to create the ashes for Ash Wednesday. I look forward to this practice becoming a yearly practice of a rhythm of receiving Palms each year on Palm/Passion Sunday and then returning them each year prior to Ash Wednesday to be burned to create the ashes for Ash Wednesday.
Ash Wednesday Service…This year, because of COVID-19 still impacting our worship services as well as our present attendance, the Church Council, after much discussion, has decided to only offer one Ash Wednesday service on February 17 at 12:00 noon. We will offer a traditional Ash Wednesday service from the ELW which includes making our Lenten confession, imposition of ashes, readings from Scripture, preaching, prayers, and Holy Communion. We are still thinking about how the ashes will be imposed, either with a swab or sprinkled on each person, to limit the contact during these days of COVID-19.
Lenten Services…This year’s Lenten series begins on Wednesday, February 24, at 6:30 pm. Because of the continued COVID-19 virus, we will not be offering a Soup Supper preceding our worship experience. The theme for this year’s Lenten series is: we are created for communion with God, to love one another, and to live in harmony with creation. Though many of our common Lenten practices rightly invite us to individual acts of repentance, prayer, fasting, sacrificial giving, and works of love, Lent is a time for deepening of our sense of community. This year we will use readings from the Gospel of Mark to reflect on what it means to be in community with one another, with the world, and with God.
Wednesday, February 24: In community with creation. Mark 4:35-41: Jesus calms the storm.
Wednesday, March 3: In community with all the saints. Mark 9:2-8: Jesus in conversation with those who have gone before him.
Wednesday, March 10: In community with our neighbor. Mark 2:1-12: A community comes together to bring a neighbor to Jesus.
Wednesday, March 17: In community with those on the margins. Mark 5:1-20: Jesus crosses barriers to attend to those on the margins.
Wednesday, March 24: In community with Christ. Mark 10:32-45: Jesus reminds us that we are walking the way of the cross.
We will use a simple form of evening prayer to help us in our Lenten reflections.
Council Retreat…On Saturday, February 20, from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm we will hold our annual Council Retreat. We will do this wearing masks and being social distant from each other. Participants are asked to bring their own lunch. The retreat will help the Council reflect upon: The Why? The How? The What? of ministry. What we want to reflect on are the places in our community that God is already at work and is calling upon us as the church to join God in that work. We want to keep asking the question: What is God’s dream for this place? The retreat will be based upon a delightful little book called: “Everywhere You Look: Discovering the Church Right Where You Are”.
Pastor Larry’s Bible Blog…Pastor Larry offers you an opportunity to read your way thru scriptures with him each day at his Bible Blog. The readings alternate between readings from an Older Testament book and then a Newer Testament book. We are now reading the book of Proverbs from the Older Testament. Then we will begin reading the Newer Testament the First Peter on Pastor Larry’s Bible blog online at http://klinkerld-pastorlarrysbible.blogspot.com/. Join us online. When we complete these two planned books, we will start the Older Testament book of Ecclesiastes, another wisdom book.
Interim Pastor Larry Klinker’s Office Hours…Pastor Larry will be in the office on Wednesdays from 9:30 am to noon. You may reach him at 330-550-0077 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.