Saturday, February 25, 2012

Common Table

I am really excited about this new venture that we are taking as a church. Common Table has been talked about and discussed ever since we started WikiWorship. If you will remember ---- the last time we had WikiWorship it was on Sunday Evenings. As a result of this great time of fellowship and growing with each other we have decided to begin Common Table. This is a regular gathering on Sunday evenings at 5:30pm in our new fellowship hall. This will be a very relaxed atmosphere, where you will be encouraged to have a cup of coffee and sit in the worship service. There will be singing, praying, scripture reading, but also lots of interaction. The first week will be very similar to WikiWorship. We will address a question. That question is: "If religion is supposed to preach open-mindedness and forgiveness, why are they the first ones to close their hearts and minds to the other religions?" This will be discussed in light of the passage from Luke 23.34 where Jesus says from the cross: "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." Come on out for this wonderful time to grow in our faith and to share fellowship with one another at the table. There will be a meal right after the service.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday

This is an article that I wrote on Ash Wednesday. I hope this is helpful.

During the forty days leading up to Easter the church traditionally observes a time of penance and fasting. This time of preparation for Easter is commonly called Lent. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (which is March 9th this year) and ends on the Saturday before Easter. Ash Wednesday is a day that is set aside for us to remember that God created us out of the dust of the earth. While at the same time, it is to dust we shall return, like it says in Genesis 3.19: “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

An early church father, named Gregory of Nyssa, would take his students into the catacombs and show them the decaying bones. In Homilies on the Beatitudes, he wrote: “Have you not seen in the burial ground the mysteries of our existence? Have you not seen the heap of bones piled on each other, skulls stripped of flesh, staring fearsome and horrible from empty eye-sockets? Have you seen the grinning mouths and the rest of the limbs lying casually about? If you have seen those things, then in them you have observed yourself.” Ash Wednesday creates space for us to deal with our mortality. To stare into the eyes of death and see Jesus' passionate arms reaching for us from the cross.

What the church offers us on Ash Wednesday is not some quick fix—it is not some miracle drug—it is not some hair dying kit. Instead, what the church offers us is the opportunity to embrace our mortality. To look at the bones decaying and realize that we are dust—and to dust we shall return. We are not offering a picturesque stained glass Jesus or promises of the picture perfect family. Instead, the church is offering you what is real. That we all face our death, and that we all face our sin. God is the one who will make us clean—even in the midst of our death and sin. Let us find our hope in the one who overcame death and sin. The one we follow as we carry our crosses through this Lenten journey.

During Lent last year we celebrated Palm Sunday. During that Sunday we remember Jesus' triumphal entry where people waved palm branches and shouted Hosanna! For Ash Wednesday we take those same palm branches and burn them—saving the ashes that are left. Then we apply them to our foreheads—reminding ourselves of the sins that so easily ensnare us. How we participate in celebrating Jesus, while turning our backs on him when the going gets too tough. This is our calling to repent of our sins and embrace our crucified savior and Lord.

I would encourage you to attend an Ash Wednesday service this year. For it is an opportunity for us to remember that we are dust and to dust we shall return. While at the same time it helps us to remember that our hope and power come only from Jesus' victory over sin and death.