Lent Worship 2016

Lent is a forty-day season of reflection, repentance, and preparation, running from Ash Wednesday until the day before Easter.  During this time Christians focus on fasting, prayer, and almsgiving as a means of deepening one’s faith.  Often Christians give up something (food, activity, etc.) to remind themselves of the many sacrifices Jesus made for them.  Lent is understood to lead to spiritual renewal, culminating in Easter and the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.

Ash Wednesday Worship

February 10th  – 12:00pm and 7:00pm

Midweek Lent Services

Ash-Wednesday1-2Wednesdays – 7:00pm

Maundy Thursday Worship

March 24th  – 12:00pm and 7:00pm

Seder Meal at 5:00pm

First Communion Class Blessing at 7pm

Good Friday Worship

March 25th  – 12:00pm and 7:00pm

Tenebrae Worship at 7pm

The holidays are coming!

The holidays are coming!peace-and-quiet-typography-terry-fleckney

The holidays are coming!

The holidays are coming!


Do you feel like that announcement sounds more like a call to action from Paul Revere riding through the streets than a call to greater rest, peace and joy?  If holidays (I believe the etymology is holy-days) are, by nature, times when we rest from our regular work and are meant to make deeper connections with God and with those in our family and community, why do so many of us make them times of frenetic activity and frazzled nerves?

If you read through the Old Testament you’ll see God wove many holidays (feasts and celebrations) into the very fabric of life of the Hebrew people.  Some of these lasted a day, some a week or more.  Besides the many special holidays/feasts, God gave his people one day each week to be at rest and connect more deeply with him and each other.

Sadly that day became the most abused and shackled day of the week by the time Jesus walked this earth.  Instead of the freedom, rest, and joy it was meant to bring, hundreds of extra rules and regulations had made it a burden to conscience, a denier of justice, and and a miscommunication of the nature of God and the peace found with him.  As you read through the Gospels you’ll note many times Jesus directly challenges the popular misconceptions about the Sabbath that had grown up around it.

Those misconceptions remain.  I must confess I have misunderstood and misapplied Jesus’ words on the Sabbath for the majority of my life.  His words, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” were meant to free people to experience the joy of Sabbath once again.  I have often interpreted and used them to the other extreme: rejecting the need for Sabbath in my life and thus depriving myself of one of the most basic rhythms for which I was created in God’s image.

I know I am not the only one.  Busyness, overworking, and overloaded schedules have become pervasive idols in our society, even, and perhaps especially, among Christians.  To slow down, yes even stop regular activity (a “day off” to catch up on all your other business is not a Sabbath), for one entire day each week and extra time on vacations and holidays is often seen as lazy, self-centered, and unproductive.  Don’t believe me?  Have you ever come back from a vacation feeling like you need to recover from your vacation?  I rest my case.

This is not how God made us.  This is not what he made us for.  Jesus was saying that the Sabbath is meant to serve us, refresh us, heal our hurts, restore our weariness, and help us understand the very nature of God’s grace toward us.  As one theologian taught, “To fail to see the value of simply being with God and “doing nothing” is to miss the heart of Christianity.”  He means grace.

You will be greatly tempted during the holidays to just add to your schedule and (once again) miss the purpose of holidays.  I pray you have the power to resist that temptation and take this season to connect more deeply with God, your family, and community of faith.  You’ll note we have plenty of things happening around here during the holidays.  They aren’t meant to be a burden, they are meant to enhance your celebration of the story above all stories: the life and work of Jesus our Savior.  Take them in as they enhance your connection to God and others.  Rest alone with God if you need to.  Above all remember that Christ entered this world in human flesh to save you from your sin, make you a brother or sister in his father’s kingdom, and bring you home to rest and rejoice with him for eternity.  What a holiday that will be.

– Pastor Dan

A note for the Pastor…

     O Come, Thou Branch of Jesse’s tree, 

     Free them from Satan’s tyranny, 

     That trust Thy mighty pow’r to save, 

     and give them vict’ry o’er the grave.

So sings the fourth verse of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel in the Lutheran Service Book.  Originally written in the 12th century, this song has struck a nerve in generation after generation of those seeking hope through Jesus Christ.  It is a call and a cry to be released and delivered from the bonds of the evil one that seeks to steal, kill, and destroy.  This song catches the prayers of peoples through the ages as we await, with hope, the salvation of our God.

The great prophecy called the Valley of the Dry Bones found in Ezekiel 37 contains these words, “Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’”  These are words of despair, a constant tempter to all, even to those who have the hope found in Jesus.  For it doesn’t take long in perusing the News to find evidence of dry bones, of broken lives, of shattered dreams, or of hopes dashed upon the rocks of the abyss.

Whether it is terrorism or addiction or abuse or violence or homelessness or (insert your common worry here) it is easy to feel dried up.  The great evil foe, Satan, is a master at lighting and/or fanning into flame these seeds of doubt to the point many fall into despair, apathy, or fear; each of which locks the power of God in our lives.

So we sing the victory o’er the grave.  We ask God to pour out the pow’r to save from Satan’s tyranny.  We implore God to give us eyes that see clearly, not dimly as through a fogged up mirror.

Consider the great stumbling block that is illustrated in the image from the seventh New Testament lesson of the Bethel Bible Series.  To a world shrouded in darkness a baby came.  A carpenter worked.  An itinerant rabbi gathered disciples and walked and talked with them.  A “rebel” betrayed by a friend died a slave’s death, a shamed death, on a cross of wood with a crown of thorns added for good mocking measure.  I’m not sure how much worse things could have looked and felt on that Friday afternoon on Golgotha so long ago.

And yet, that was the victory over the grave.  Not in spite of it.  Because of it.  Through it.   It was in those ridiculously humble and shameful circumstances that God defeated sin, death and hell.  It was there that the steadfast love of God won the victory of victories.  This is why today, 2,000 years later, we celebrate the advent of our king, our God, born in a manger, died on a cross, resurrected to new life, and sing of the faith that saves lives, the hope that transforms the world, and the love that conquers the power of sin, death, and hell.  It is why we look forward to the next Advent of the King of kings and Lord of lords, when all will at last be well and we can sing the final verse not in expectation, but in fruition:

     O Come, Desire of nations, bind

     In one the hearts of all mankind;

     Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,

     Ad be Thyself our King of Peace.  

In this Advent season may our Lord and Savior fill you with faith, hope, and love despite, or maybe because of, the struggles you see around you.  The apostle Paul tells us the greatest of those three is love.  And God is love.  May His steadfast love for you, and yours for Him, pour out through you throughout the holidays and new year as you celebrate his first advent, and look forward to His final advent.

With faith, hope, and love,

Pastor Dan