One of the things that I truly love about Lent is its timing. Just about the time we begin to return to our usual schedules and activities after Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, Lent appears. This year, the first Sunday of Lent is Feb. 22nd. That Sunday around 10:00 a.m. we will begin our Lenten book discussion on the book Mosaic, When God Uses All the Pieces by Shane Stanford. The books are available now. In worship that morning we will accept the gift of ashes – that humble reminder that these bodies are temporal, and that this life is a but a journey. Afterwards, we will share a potluck lunch and discuss our ideas for outreach this year.
Starting Lent with a discussion about the church’s ministry and outreach makes sense. Lent is not just about giving something up. That does not have much meaning unless we take the next step, and that is giving to others. Lent is really a time of spring cleaning – of giving something away – our time, our hope, our compassion. A time to recognize that being generous simply means setting aside a little less for ourselves, and giving a little more to others. We all have a ministry, and we all have a dream about a better world. Let’s begin the journey. How do you feel called to serve? How can we be of help? We look forward to your presence and to hearing your hope-filled ideas.
Rev. Sue Ann
Much of the biblical narrative is a cry from exile, and a joyous return from exile. The tale begins in Genesis, with a swift and indignant boot out of the garden. The story continues across deserts, over lakes and across oceans. The story continues through dysfunctional families, confusion, trials, deaths, and rebirth. It is the story of our restless, often rambunctious and rebellious humanity that God never gives up on.
We of New Community of Faith have grown weary of exile, and we give thanks for this community where all people can come in. Here, we share our faith, our fears, our food. Here, like any organic, growing thing, we expand, contract, and expand again. In short, we breathe a collective breath, and our lives are intertwined.
On January 25, we will be gathering from east, west, north, and south for the great tradition of the annual meeting. The meeting will start with the offering of a cup of coffee or tea as we greet those we see several times a month, and those we see less often. If there are guests, they will be assured there is room for them, and plenty of food to go around. The meeting will then continue with our 11:15 worship and communion. We will then continue our worship with the sharing of a meal. Right now we may be creating reports, but on that Sunday what we will be sharing are our stories. Stories of the challenges and joys of this past year, and our hopes for the future. We will be sharing our prayers for those who can no longer worship with us, and our prayers for those who are still finding their way to us. We will pray for the refugees yearning for home.
Such meetings help us to avoid getting lost in the past, or to become overly anxious about the future. Such meetings help us to remember that Christ can be found anytime people come together, anytime people are willing to risk being in relationship with a fellow human on the road. We do not wait for Christ, but rather Christ waits for us.
Let us not keep Christ waiting any longer; let us be gathered in.
I will gather them from the ends of the world,
With the blind and the lame in their midst,
The mothers and those with child;
They shall return as an immense throng.
They departed in tears,
But I will console and guide them;
I will lead them to brooks of water,
On a level road, so that none shall stumble.
Finishing up the soup for tomorrow’s lunch: turkey and rice with lots of vegetables. I think the only thing missing is, yes, you guessed it: you. Worship begins at 11:15.
Scripture Reading: Luke 2: 41-52. A very young Jesus asks the question: “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
We are led to ask, where do people find us? The true us. Our hearts.
Come when you can; stay as long as you want. The table is eclectic, but it is always set. Come, join the feast.
Rev. Sue Ann
I woke early on January 1 only to discover that an old friend has returned: sciatica. No, at first I did not greet it warmly. However, as I began my stretches, I realized that in some ways sciatica is indeed a friend. It reminds me that I have been sitting on the couch too much; not stretching enough, and probably not paying attention to what I am eating. Really, a pretty good friend that helps keep me in balance and gives me the feedback that I need.
There is at least one Facebook conversation going on about what was it like to learn that Santa was not exactly a real person. I do not have strong emotional memories about that bit of enlightenment that came to me via a grade school classmate. I think that was partly due to the fact that my mother loved Christmas and everything about it, down to the last little bit of tinsel. She would never let Christmas be anything less than a time of wonder and joy.
This Sunday, many Christians will be lighting the Advent candle of joy. Joy is beyond the celebration after a temporary gain. Joy runs deeper than that. It is surrendering to letting love bloom, even against the backdrop of apparent barreness, darkness, and chill.
It is trusting that God is always with us, whatever we must go through. If you are thinking that sounds very difficult, well, know you are not alone in that feeling. That is the beauty of community. Reklindling the light is seldom a solitary effort. Together, we learn to accept God’s love for all as our own.
No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat.
For as the days of a tree, so will the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands. Isaiah 65:22
The following post is from a post made in March, 2014. As New Community of Faith is collecting donations now for the Christmas fund, I wanted to post here. My gratitude to all who contribute, and who serve. Please note this fund is not just for clergy, but for all church employees who are facing financial difficulties. Thank you for your contributions.
Rev. Sue Ann
“Pastor Benjamin, you are looking well today!” I said this with some relief, as last month he was looking quite the opposite. The physical and mental illness that I had witnessed that day had taken an unusual toll on me, so seeing him in such good spirits was encouraging.