LIFE AT THE CROSSROADS: LENT 2017
What might be a crossroad for you? A crossroad may be defined as the intersection of two major roads. In the context of Lent, the crossroad is the place where the life and ministry of Jesus meets the life and times of you and me. The forty day, six week season of the Christian year is our time to journey with Jesus on the “crossroad” leading from his temptation, to the Temple and onto the cross & tomb. Each Sunday and week offers opportunities for worship and learning to help us to intersect our faith lives with the crossroad of Jesus’ life. Where does his crossroad lead us and will be find saving grace, forgiveness, mercy, friends, a mission along the way?
The Lenten season is a chance to get back on the path, return to the road, recover your footsteps and find focus for your faith. The early Christians established the season as a means to prepare new converts to the Christian faith. Easter and the season to follow became a time to welcome new Christians into the faith through baptism. Using the six weeks Lent provides to us, we can find and remove those things in our lives which distract us from following the way of Jesus. The season also offers us the chance to take upon ourselves new practices (such as daily prayer, service opportunities, meditation, exercise, and more) that can enhance our ability to listen to God’s wisdom and to travel more closely to Jesus in the ways of wisdom, mercy, and justice.
Your crossroad may be very different from that of another traveler. The intersecting place where your life and the lived experience of Jesus may reveal some hard choices and difficult experiences. It may be a time of reflection upon faith that has withstood a trial or test or you may confront a failure in your life and how you did or did not overcome it. At the crossroad you may discover the gift of forgiveness or find yourself needing more grace as you engage the work of healing and reconciliation.
Throughout Lent, I invite you to explore the crossroads and what they mean for you as an individual, a family, as part of this community of faith and member of humankind. Finding “Life at the Crossroads” is our hope and goal as we enter Lent and anticipate Easter. See you on the road.
Blessings as Lent begins,
INAUGURATION WEEK & FAITH IN ACTION
Even though the cold winter has arrived early, our nation’s political climate remains heated. As of the end of December, the week of the presidential inauguration from January 15-21, 2017 will have predictable moments of pageantry and unpredictable ones of protest. Whatever your political persuasion, consider putting your faith into action in ways that help to provide for the common good. Use a day or evening of the week to do something that will benefit our communities, country, its citizenry and the earth. What form that takes is up to you but here are some suggestions that might help you commit to responding in a good and positive way:
• become a teachers’ helper at a local school,
• take a language class,
• volunteer with an at-risk youth organization or at the nursing home,
• plan to have your own garden come the spring,
• learn about a foreign culture and make plans for a learning vacation,
• send letters to our newly elected public servants (locally and nationally) extending your prayers and appealing for God’s wisdom to guide him/her in decision-making,
• serve in your community on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on January 16,
• help someone to register to vote,
• invite neighbors to join you for a meal in your home,
• step out in faith and with your convictions to demonstrate against injustice,
• make peace with someone for whom you carry a grudge from last year,
• do not remain silent when your voice is needed,
• use your Christian faith to help shape your engagement in advancing human rights,
• pray for wisdom and your own personal calling to be a servant of Christ’s love…
Constructive, creative and compassionate responses can help to shape a society for the better.
I sit and wonder in the middle of December for what January will bring. I sit and listen to the cranes and geese trumpeting their goodbyes to the Midwest as they leave for warmer terrain. I sit and look at the snow upon the ground and am curious as to its longevity. I sit and feel my heart as it beats with love for the One who is to come with Christmas; more of Jesus will be revealed with the Epiphany season. I sit and pray for the church and what will be and I am assured of God’s wisdom present to us – each of us – in our senses, intuition, curiosities and dreams. Maybe it is enough to wonder and allow God to guide the way into what can be without seeking to maneuver or tempting to manage or giving mandates as to how it will be according to my imperfect specifications. I will sit a bit more and with a good full breath abide in God’s time.
Give your soul time to wonder, listen, look, feel and pray in this time of Holy Light as the New Year approaches.
OUR CHURCH: UNTIED OR UNITED?
Untied or United Methodist Church?
The General Conference of The United Methodist Church will soon be meeting (May 10-20, 2016) in Portland, OR. Approximately 800 delegates from the United States and portions of Africa, Europe and the Philippines along with about 1,000 volunteers and staff will gather for the quadrennial meeting of our denomination. I have been to three of these meetings (Denver 1996, Pittsburgh 2004, Ft. Worth 2008) volunteering with Reconciling Ministries Network and Methodist Federation for Social Action. Lately, for United Methodists, these conferences reflect the “best of times and the worst of times” for our denomination.
The best of times is found in the worship services, presentations on global ministries, inspiring testimonies of personal and societal transformation and the gathering of the diversity of humankind as represented by delegates from the Ukraine to Uganda to Utah. The worst of times is to be found in and during battles over legislation and disciplinary language that continues to do harm to lgbtq persons, racial and cultural insensitivity, vitriolic speeches and floor debates that injure the body of Christ we are called to be as the church.
This year, delegates will gather to discern questions of unity in our diversity, how we can “love alike” in the spirit of Methodism’s founder John Wesley even as we think dissimilarly over social issues near and far, the re-structuring of the denomination in an era of decreased membership and financial resources as well as general disinterest in organized religion as practiced in the 20th century. There will be many things to consider. I pray that God’s Holy Spirit will “show up” to guide the deliberations of the delegates and the work of the denominational meeting. I invite you to pray as well.
Are we to be “untied” from our past in order to find a more relevant, dynamic and just future? I ask this as one who longs for a church that can stand with one voice to combat evil, oppression, sin and injustice in whatever forms they present themselves including prejudicial language in our denomination’s Book of Discipline and principles that shape our witness – for better or worse – within the greater world.
Are we to be “united” in essential things, at liberty in non-essential things and compassionate in all things? How these things will be determined by the delegates and the General Conference is yet to be seen and legislated. Within our Northern Illinois Conference and our congregation, more conversation will occur including a June 12 information session and debriefing sponsored by the Reconciling Task Force to be held here at FUMC. For additional information, I invite you to go to www.umc.org and the link to General Conference 2016. Updates will be shared from me and on the FUMC Facebook page, too. Again, I invite you to be in prayer for our delegates and our denomination. May God’s wisdom abound.
See you in church,
THE BELIEVING LIFE
In such a complex world, how do we formulate beliefs, maintain our beliefs and live our beliefs in Jesus Christ? What tools can help us to grow in our new life of faith? What tools can us to believe faith in Jesus’ resurrection can make a difference in the world? Whether you’ve been around church for awhile or it is a brand new thing for you, April’s message series “The Believing Life” is an opportunity to believe anew, again or for the first time.
Though the first Sundays and weeks of Eastertide (March 28-April 24) we will explore the resurrection appearances of the Risen Jesus Christ to his disciples and followers then and now. We will appeal to our senses (sight, sound, touch, even smell) to connect us to the living Christ as well as the gifts of scripture, human reason, church tradition and our shared experiences of resurrection. I’ll be referencing a few books in the series: “Living a Life That Matters” by Harold S. Kushner, “The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion to a More Authentic Contemporary Faith” by Marcus Borg, and “The Rising: Living the Mysteries of Lent, Easter, and Pentecost” by Wendy W. Wright.
The season of spring is a great time to find the presence of new life. Can it be found in your heart, in your home, in your habits and in your hope for our world? When was the last time you became aware of Jesus’ resurrection in your own life of faith? Come to discover or rediscover your believing again!
See you in church,