I trust you are having a great Lent so far (the slower pace caused by the snow has been a help to me in this). Here are a few reminders about what is happening this week:
Women’s Retreat takes place this weekend, beginning tonight and running through Sunday morning at Chanco on the James. Please pray for safe travel for the 30+ women who will be attending and for God’s favor and blessing to be upon them (especially Janie Atwood who will be speaking!).
Lenten Resource Table is in the Fellowship Hall. Daily Office, ‘Help’ in crafting your ‘Lenten Discipline’ (never too late to start!); Annotated suggestions for a Lenten book; invitations to the two class offerings.’Listening for God: Learning to Read and Meditate on the Scriptures’ continues this Sunday morning beginning at 9:00 am in the Christian Education Room. All are welcome.
‘Wisdom and Wonder: Exploring Beauty and Faith for Artists and Amateurs’ begins next Saturday, March 7 at the church starting at 10:30 am.
Have you ever wondered how your Christian walk could be strengthened, deepened, and enriched by spiritual reflection through artistic mediums such as visual art, music, creative writing, or film?
Anyone interested in exploring the relationship between art and faith is invited to participate in two Saturday conversations in March. Those interested may also participate in an optional practical component of creating new art for Good Friday’s meditation on Jesus’ 7 Last Words.
Individuals will read and discuss a few sections from Christine Valters Paintner’s book, The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing your creative soul with monastic wisdom, and Cecilia González-Andrieu’s book, Bridge to Wonder: Art as Gospel of Beauty. Those individuals who are creative artists will be invited to share some of their art with the group. You need not be a visual artist to join us!
You can order the book through Amazon.com using our affiliate link. Visit our Recommended Reading page for more information.
March 7 and 14, 10-11:30 AM; Optional March 21 for collaborative sharing of artwork in progress.
We meet once again on Saturday, February 21. Hank Thompson will share his life story and Michael Stultz will facilitate our discussion on chapter 7 of Peter Walker’s book The Jesus Way: The Essential Christian Starter Kit.
This will be great way to make Lent even better, so plan on joining in the fun and fellowship.
Wait for the LORD and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off. Psalm 37:34
I was struck this morning by the emphasis the Book of Deuteronomy gives to the faithfulness of God. Moses cries out to the people of Israel:
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations… (Deut. 7:9)
The Deuteronomist declares that faithfulness lies at the very core of the nature of God, and is expressed not just in terms of his faithfulness to his people (though that is one great way it is expressed) but also in faithfulness to his purposes for his creation (which is what his covenant with this particular people is all about). The Creator is so faithful to his purposes for his creation (broken and rebellious and helpless as it is), that he binds himself faithfully to this people (weak and wayward and unfaithful as they are), through whom and by whom he will bring those purposes to their consummate end. There is nothing in all creation that can hinder the faithfulness of God being expressed in and for his creation.
I was also struck this morning by how the Scriptures declare that the faithfulness of God is meant to evoke and empower the faithfulness of his people (a faithfulness both towards him and towards his purposes for his creation). That is the essence of the Christian life.
But here’s the rub: it is difficult to live a faithful life in relationship with this faithful God in the midst of this broken, rebellious and hostile world! Read David’s psalm set for this morning and this will jump out at you (Psalm 37). There is much to ‘fret about’ in the world we live in. There is much that is and remains wrong with and within the world we live in. There is much that discourages us and distracts us from living a faithful life in relationship with this faithful God awaiting the consummation of his faithful purposes! But this is exactly what God’s people MUST do!
Note David’s imperatives: ‘Trust in the LORD, and do good… Delight yourself in the LORD…. Commit your way to the LORD…. Be still before the LORD…’, and all of these summed up in the words of verse 34:
‘Wait for the LORD…’
We are to wait for the LORD to fulfill his purposes, not only for us, but through us for his creation! We are to remind ourselves of his faithfulness- the essence of his being and the essence of his doing – and build our lives upon that foundation.
We are to ‘wait for the LORD’, but while we are waiting we are also to ‘keep his way’ – that is, we are to live our lives faithfully towards and with this faithful God, regardless of our context! And what is the promise?‘and he will exalt you to inherit the land; and you will look on when the wicked are cut off.’
The promise is that God will fulfill his purposes for his creation; that he will find a way to deal with the problem of evil within his good creation; and he will do this faithfully with and for and through his faithful people.
At the beginning of Lent we would do well to heed the message of the Scriptures and reflect on the faithfulness of God, that we might truly become and be the people who reflect that faithfulness within his creation.
ASH WEDNESDAY: We come at last to the beginning of Lent! For those who can make it safely to church this evening, we will join together in our Ash Wednesday Service beginning at 6:00 pm. (I am at church today and the main roads were decent and the secondary roads passable – at least for this former Canuck). If you cannot be present this evening, I encourage you to take some time at home to consider the great Lenten Invitation:
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance, by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.
Ask yourself how you will respond to that invitation this year, and do so prayerfully, intentionally, and expectantly.
LENTEN FAMILY EVENT: We gather as a church family on Saturday, February 21 from 4:00 – 7:00 pm for a time of fun, fellowship and preparation. Bring something to share with others for the pot luck.
LISTENING FOR GOD: Learning to Read and Meditate on the Scriptures’ begins this Sunday morning (and continues for the next 5 Sundays) from 9:00-9:45 am. If you are wanting to learn a simple way of embracing the DailyOffice while ‘listening’ to and for God, then join us in the Christian Ed space next to the Women’s Rest room.
Let’s look forward to a wonderful ‘observance of a holy Lent’, and let’s do so together!
‘Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the LORD hiGod.’ Psalm 147:5
I was triggered again today, and I trust you were as well!
Over the years my soul has been trained to leap within me whenever I read about the ‘blessed’! It seems that the Spirit has taught me to respond to the word with an aching, hope-filled longing. When I read the word I imagine myself ‘hearing’ the Spirit say, ‘Take note of THIS! Take note ESPECIALLY of THIS!’
Whenever the Scriptures speak about ‘blessing’ or describe the life of the ‘Blessed’ they are making a statement about reality—about the ways things truly are. In this sense, all of the statements about the ‘Blessed’ are statements of revelation, statements from the Creator to his creatures about the essence and the ways of his creation- statements that in our fallen, rebellious world seem ludicrous and unbelievable.
But more than that, whenever the Scriptures speak about ‘blessing’ or describe the life of the ‘Blessed’ they are implicitly or explicitly issuing an invitation! The declaration of God’s revelation is, at one and the same time, God’s invitation into that reality. Another reason for our hearts to be stirred.
But then I turned from the Psalm to the Gospel lesson for today, Mark 10: 17-30, the story of the Rich Young Ruler, and discovered a possible reason for the Spirit’s triggering. The story is sobering for all of us who think that our ‘hope is in the LORD God,’ for this is exactly the stance of the Rich Young Ruler. He comes to Jesus searching for more, but leaves Jesus with far less—and all because it was revealed to him that he trusted in something other than God more than God, and then refused to abandon that trust!
Jesus’ disciples were dismayed as they watched him leave, crying out: ‘Then who can be saved?’ To which Jesus answered: ‘With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.’
We tend to think that this is a statement about the source and the beginning of the ‘blessed life’—and it is! If God does not act, then we have no hope. But, this is also a statement about the continuation of the ‘blessed life,’ that is, it is life lived WITH God, inpartnership WITH God. That ‘life with God,’ that partnership with God is utterly exclusive and absolute—it will not, can not, brook any rivals! And yet, it is also utterly glorious, utterly life-giving.
Do you desire to live the ‘blessed life’?
Ask the Spirit to ‘trigger’ you this day.
Ask the Spirit to reveal to you any ‘rivals’ to God within your soul.
And then ask Jesus to give you the courage to renounce them, to say ‘No’ to them; and then say ‘Yes’ to the One who alone can lead you into blessedness, the only One who can lead you deeper into ‘life with God’!
Learning to listen to the voice of God speak to us in and through the Scriptures in the midst of our ordinary lives is one of the prime tasks of the disciple of Christ.
If you are struggling in that task, or wish to discover and practice a new way of engaging that task (the ‘Anglican Way’), or simply want a way to walk through Lent listening to God in a supportive communal environment, then plan on joining us on Sunday mornings during Lent from 9:00 – 9:45 am.
You will be asked to make some basic and life-giving commitments during Lent:
Commitment to read and pray through the Daily Office;
Commitment to keep a simple journal of your Lenten journey;
Commitment to participate in as many sessions as possible during Lent;
Commitment to being open and expectant throughout the season.
When: Sunday mornings in Lent, 9:00 -9:45 a.m.
February 22 through March 22
Where: CTR Christian Education room next to Women’s restroom