Question of the Week

Why does worship feel different during Lent?

We have now entered the season of Lent in the Christian year.  This is a forty-day period of renewal for people of faith in which we are invited to an intentional thoughtfulness about what we consume, how we engage with the world around us, and where we can draw strength and nourishment from our relationship with God.  Our Lenten worship changes over this period of time in order to facilitate reflection, to nurture a posture of attentiveness to our prayer and our faith.  Although nothing about Lenten worship is particularly ‘new’ – it follows rites which are offered in our Book of Alternative Services – it will feelsimpler and quieter.  No matter how this worship affects you, whether you find it refreshing or unsettling, note your feelings and reflect on what this is telling you about where and how you most naturally connect with God.   

 A few notes on the ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’ of our Lenten worship:

 No Procession –  We are used to worship beginning and ending with a great organ-led hymn as the choir and the worship leaders symbolically enact the journey of faith in which we all share by processing into, or out of, the sanctuary.  During Lent, we emphasize simplicity and reflection by quietly walking to our places from the side of the church.

Psalms – Normally our choir leads this part of our Scriptural proclamation through song.  The psalms are found in Scripture and are the most ancient hymns which we have.  Saying these words of Scripture responsively changes our focus and our participation and allows us to hear these words differently as we share in saying them together.

Peace – Normally we are in the routine of

‘sharing the peace’ in the middle of the service.  By sharing the Peace at the end of our worship, we again simplify and streamline our communal prayer.  We still enjoy this time of friendship and warmth with one another, but it becomes a transition from the formal to the informal part of our fellowship and gathering.  Theologically, the emphasis changes too:  rather than being reconciled with one another before we come to God’s table, instead we discover that we are reconciled with one another because of being at God’s table.   

No ‘Alleluia’ – Our Sunday School children helped us to prepare for Lent by ‘hiding’ the Alleluia last weekend.  Like many good and lifegiving things from which we might choose to abstain during Lent, this joyful and celebratory word becomes all the more powerful and meaningful at Easter for having intentionally gone without it for these forty days.  

St. Cecilla – by Cecilia Tatarnic

Cecilia lived about 100 to 150 years after Jesus. From the day St. Cecilia was born to the day she died, following God and serving him were her biggest priorities. St. Cecilia grew up with strong faith and helped those who were less fortunate than her. St. Cecilia’s parents wanted her to get married to a man named Valerian, but Cecilia was not content with this idea and prayed to the Lord to help her.

After the wedding of Valerian and Cecilia, she then told Valerian of her dedication and commitment to Christ. Valerian was deeply moved and decided to be baptised and to join Cecilia as a disciple of Jesus. Together Cecilia and Valerian became teachers of the faith and they may have brought up to 400 people to Christ.

Cecilia was a dedicated virgin. In those days to be a virgin meant to be a woman of selfpossession. This means that Cecilia was considered to be a strong, intelligent, and independent woman. This was very unusual for the time. Not only was Cecilia a dedicated Christian but she was a competent young lady. This was very dangerous! At this time being a Christian was also very dangerous and could get you killed. Valerian and his brother took it to them to bury the bodies of those who died for their faith, which was illegal. Soon the Emperor found out about this and had Valerian and his brother killed.

Even after St. Cecilia’s husband was killed she continued to preach about Christ and his ways. This made the Emperor very mad so he sent someone to suffocate her in a Roman steam house and made it so hot that it could kill someone, but this had no effect on Cecilia. So the Emperor sent a guard to behead her with his sword. The guard hit Cecilia three times with his sword but was unable to kill her. He ran away in fear.

After the guard ran away St. Cecilia was left to die on the street. When Cecilia’s friends approached her they found that she was not dead but alive. Cecilia was strong even in dying and continued to be a faithful witness to God’s love for three days, until she died and then was known as St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music.

St. Cecilia inspires me because back then Catholics and Anglicans didn’t really exist. The church was all one, and I feel that is nice because St. Cecilia wasn’t Catholic or Anglican, and I believe God doesn’t want us to be divided. Certain saints shouldn’t be just for certain people. Along with the fact that St. Cecilia was a very confident and independent woman, which back then you could get in trouble for having those traits. I feel the world isn’t any better now because you can get called some pretty nasty things for being strong and knowing what you believe.

Saint Bill and Intentionality -Paul Chapman

This material is adopted from a sermon at Advent Café on Wednesday night and for evensong on Sunday. I spoke about the Rev Bill Blott who was an Honorary Assistant here in the 1990s and dramatically impacted my own faith journey. Bill was truly a saint in so many ways. The most important thing that I learned from Bill was about intentionality. I see intentionality as listening, understanding and acting in a way that puts God at the centre of the decisions that we make in our every day lives. All easy to say but actually hard to do. In the reading from Luke 14, verses 25-35, Jesus is talking to us about what are the costs of being one of his followers, that is being intentional. The reading neatly breaks into four major points:
We must hate our family and ourselves;
We must carry our own cross;
We must give up all our possessions; and,
What are the costs of not following Jesus?
To hear Jesus say that we must hate our families and ourselves doesn’t sound like. His normal message. I believe that Jesus was making the point the point that we must put God first ahead of everything and everyone else. God must be our centre, not a peripheral concern. If God is the centre of our life, then we will be intentional in our daily lives and in our decisions. On the second point, we must carry our own cross as Jesus had to carry his cross. As a Christian, we must acknowledge that there are costs. American Express had a very effective advertising campaign to encourage people to get AMEX cards focused on “Membership has its privileges”. Membership not only has privileges, but also has responsibilities and costs. We must be prepared to act on our beliefs and be aware that there will be consequences.

Jesus said, “So therefore no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all of his possessions”. I believe He is speaking about how we use our gifts and resources. Do we put God first or our material well being? Recently one of Canada’s major banks had a campaign with the tag line, “Pay yourself first”. If we want to follow Jesus, perhaps our tag line could be “Pay God first”

The last point that Jesus makes is the cost of not following him. He speaks of preparing before you start building a tower or going into battle. There are consequences or cost of our decision to be a Christian. Do not make the decision lightly. Be intentional! As a Christian you must use your brain as well as your heart. You must know but must also act. Be intentional if you want to be useful to God. We are each on our own faith journey. As outlined in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, there are many callings to implement God’s plan ranging from being an apostle to various forms of leadership.

We are not called to be all things. In our bible study last fall we looked at the Book of Acts. We learned that many of the characters in the stories were everyday people who were called by God to act, that is be intentional. They were not heroes or government leaders. They were people just like us. At the time, they may not have understood their role in God’s story, but they acted on their beliefs. It is by the combined action of many people that God’s work is done. Jesus’ words are tough and demanding. What we are being asked to do is be intentional about what we believe. Act on your beliefs each day in all the decisions that you make. Develop your relationship with God through prayer and times of reflection. God’s love and salvation is free but to be a Christian, you must acknowledge that God is supreme, and that God is the centre of your life. In the end, it costs us all that we have in this world because we give it all over to God.

The current bible study is called “The Bible, the Sequel.” I invite you to be part of God’s story by being intentional each day. We are each given special talents and gifts, be intentional and use them for God. This is the message that ‘Saint’ Bill shared and acted upon in his own life. It is the message that made a lasting impression on me and significantly impacted my faith journey.

The following quotation from Goethe sums up what is required to be intentional as a Christian: “Knowing is not enough.
We must apply.
Willing is not enough.
We must act.”

“Saint” Bill stressed the importance of communicating with God through prayer as one of the many ways of being intentional. I want to leave you with a prayer entitled “How Shall I Pray” that Rev Bill Blott shared with us near the end of the Journey in Faith Program.

Are tears prayers, lord?
Are screams prayers, or groans or sighs or curses?
Can trembling hands be lifted to you or clenched fists or cold sweat that trickles down my back or the cramps that knot my stomach?

Will you accept my real prayers, Lord, my real prayers rooted in the muck and mud and rock of my life, and not just the pretty, cut-flower, graceful bouquet of words? Will you accept me, lord, as I really am, a messed-up mixture of glory and grime? Lord, help me! Help me to trust that you do accept me as I am, that I may be done with self-condemnation and self-pity and accept myself. Help me to accept you as you are, lord: mysterious, hidden, strange, unknowable; And yet to trust that your madness is wiser than my timid, self-seeking sanities, and that nothing you’ve ever done has really been possible, so I may dare to be a little mad, too. Amen

The Bible the Sequel – John McCormack

John McCormack, Tenor  by Doreen McFarlane

For Advent Café, we have been asked to preach about persons who have deeply imprinted their faith upon our hearts, and whose life moves forward the Biblical story of love and hope. In my case, that is without doubt, the great Irish tenor, John McCormack (1884-1945). A man of his time, his life and his singing touched hearts, gave courage in times of deep darkness, lifted souls to better understand the love of God. In addition to all this, he lightened every load with the sheer joy of his attitude about everything he did. When he was an opera singer in the world’s major opera houses, he made friends with fellow singers, spending tireless hours trying to teach the Italians to pronounce English. When world famous, he would still take the time to hold big parties in his apartments in New York that inevitably turned to music. He and Rachmaninoff would be found at the piano, gleefully performing and arguing about what the tempos should be, while Jasha Heifitz, the great violinist, would stay out of it by flipping eggs in the kitchen for a 4 am breakfast for all!

Dorothy Caruso, wife of the great tenor Enrico Caruso, said of him after his passing: “John

McCormack was so deep in loving kindness, so wide in understanding, so high in humility, that his voice, for all its beauty, might long ago have ceased, but still the measure of his great heart would have acclaimed him immortal.” John was a faithful and adoring husband, a wonderful father, a superb friend. He raised millions to help those in need during both world wars. He gave concerts to raise funds for the poor, for needy mothers, for the blind, and for his beloved Catholic Church. He sang recitals almost every day for 30 years, travelling by train from city to city. His recording legacy is vast, and still brings joy to adoring listeners. His great love of God serves as a clear model for us all.  Remembered as the “preacher of song”, his faith shone forth in everything he did. He was a man of prayer and deep religious understanding. The Roman Catholic Church made him a Papal Count and, of all his honours and accolades, it was this of which he was by far the most proud.

Listen to him on YouTube and you will hear how every word he sang was a love message from the heart of God.

The Bible the Sequel: Saint Brigid

St. Brigid – by Robert Beren

Likely you have heard of Ireland’s most famous patron saint, Saint Patrick. St. Brigid of Kildare is the lesser known, though equally as important patron of the Emerald Isle whose feast day just passed on February 1st.There are many stories and legends associated with St. Brigid. Brigid was born in the year 451 AD. Her father was a pagan chieftain of Leinster and her mother was his bondswoman, a Christian who was baptized by St. Patrick. When her father’s wife found out about his affair, she forced him to sell Brigid’s mother to a Druid while she was still pregnant. Thus, Brigid was born into slavery. As she grew older, Brigid performed miracles, including healing and feeding the poor. According to one tale, as a child, she once gave away her mother’s entire store of butter. The butter was then replenished in answer to Brigid’s prayers. Around the age of ten, she was returned as a household servant to her father, where her habit of charity led her to donate his belongings to anyone who asked.

According to tradition, around the year 480, Brigid founded a monastery at Kildare. This was founded on the site of a pagan shrine to the Celtic goddess Brigid and served by a group of young women who tended an eternal flame. Brigid, with an initial group of seven companions, is credited with organizing communal consecrated religious life for women in Ireland. She founded two monastic institutions, one for men, and the other for women. Brigid’s oratory at Kildare became a centre of religion and learning, and Kildare developed into a cathedral city. For centuries, Kildare was ruled by a double line of abbot-bishops and of abbesses, with the Abbess of Kildare being regarded as superior general of all the monasteries in Ireland. Brigid is credited with founding a school of art in Kildare, which included metalwork and illumination. The Kildare scriptorium made the Book of Kildare, a beautiful illuminated manuscript that contained the four Gospels of the New Testament, but unfortunately this book disappeared during the Reformation.

Brigid was also very close friends with Saint Patrick. The majority of the stories and legends associated with Brigid centre on her generosity to the poor, though there are accounts of other miracles as well, which relate to healing as well as household tasks.

She had a reputation as an expert dairywoman and a brewer, she was even reputed to have turned water into beer. (She is Irish after all!)

Tradition says that she died at Kildare on 1 February 525. Saint Brigid’s flame was kept burning in Kildare Cathedral and tended to by a long line of her sisters in Christ, until it was finally extinguished during the reformation. In 1993, it was rekindled by the Brigidine Sisters and is still kept burning and tended to by them in their religious centre, in Kildare.

So now that you know Saint Brigid a bit better, what is all this saying? What is the take home? Well, in true Irish fashion, I have put it into a triad, a traditional Celtic way of putting wisdom sayings into three-part verses. First, we can see that despite all the odds against her, Brigid possessed an unyielding Faith in God. She was born into slavery, yet still managed to become a great faith leader and establish the great cathedral city that became the Kildare we know today. She kept the Faith through it all. Second, she was well grounded in the material world. Though she was a woman of great heavenly qualities, she also knew how to get things done in the earthly realm. She was steadfast in her prayer and monastic life, but she also could bring about material goods to provide for her community. Third, and perhaps the most important take away from Brigid’s stories, is her habit of charity. Brigid never took anything for herself. From the earliest age she gave away anything she could to help those less fortunate than herself.

This is what we must remember about Brigid in this day, because we all have something to give. Whether it be our material wealth, our time or our talents, we can all do something to help those less fortunate than we are. So, to close this off, I will use a metaphor to help you remember this triad of Brigid’s lessons for us. Kildare means Church of the Oak, and the Oak tree was a sacred tree to the Celtic people; it’s not hard to see why. Oak possesses some of the strongest, unyielding wood, on branches that reach high into the heavens. This can be seen as a symbol of Brigid’s unyielding faith in God, and His heavenly nature. The Oak also possesses a great taproot that reaches deep into the earth for water and stability, symbolizing Brigid’s grounded nature and the earthly skills she possesses. Finally, the Oak tree produces an abundance of acorns that feed many creatures of the forest, symbolic of Brigid’s charity and generosity. Is it a coincidence that Brigid founded her first Church under an Oak tree? I don’t think so. So, let us remember Saint Brigid and her Church of the Oak with the triad of unyielding Faith, grounded earthliness and charitable generosity, as we go about our lives as Christian people of God.

The Bible the Sequel – Saint George

The stories of the Bible continue past the pages of Scripture and down through the centuries in the lives of ordinary men and women, through whom God does extraordinary things. Each week, our Advent Café sermon series looks at one of these people who has inspired faith, and we share our preacher’s reflection each week with the rest of our congregation

Saint George and Mark 8:34-38—By Lindsey Wilton
It is not certain just when or by what process the new church took the name of St. George’s, but all references after 1835 bear this title. There is no record of this decision being made by the Bishop or wardens or rector; it just seems to have happened. Very little is actually known about Saint George. It is said that he is one of the saints whose names are rightly reverenced among us, but whose actions are known only to God. What I can tell you is that it was believed he was born to a wealthy Christian noble family. 
While living in Palestine, he Joined the Imperial Roman Army and rose in rank. The emperor of the day demanded that the persecution of all Christians be carried out by the military. George objected to this and decided to resign his military post. George in turn was imprisoned and tortured but he would not deny his faith to be released. Eventually he was beheaded in the year 303. Just an ordinary man standing up for what he believed was right.
He was extraordinarily steadfast in his faith and devotion to his beliefs. It is said the torture he endured was extreme yet he did not waver. Right up to the moment he was killed he stayed true to what he believed to be right and I believe found great strength in knowing God was there with him. As his story became that of the dragon slayer, his Martyrdom showed to the people of his time and down through the ages to: 1) Stand up for what you know is right. 2) It is not an easy road to live out the teachings of the bible and to live a Christian life. 3) God will be with you even through your hardest trials to give you strength to persevere and 4) Good will conquer evil.
Today what do we label as a burden to bear? A strained relationship, a thankless job, a physical illness. Today how do we view the cross? a cherished symbol of atonement, forgiveness, grace, and love, but in Jesus’ day, the cross represented nothing but torturous death. Three things are asked by Jesus in the passage we read, not only of his disciples but of all that were there and even of us today. Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow him. To deny oneself does not mean giving up something of comfort such as at Lent. Another way to put this is to renounce our right to ourselves. Turn over the right to run our own lives and leave it in God’s hands. Also reject self-interest and self-fulfillment and diligently seek out how to fulfill the will of God. Have you put aside your own interests to do the will of God? Are there places in your life where you could step out of your comfort zone to do what Jesus would do? I challenge you to embrace those moments of being uncomfortable – when you feel called by the holy spirit to do something. To take up your cross does not mean we should be seeking out pain or death.
Cross bearing is an act of love that we choose to do. I read a wonderful way to associate what it is to be a cross bearer. I am sure you are familiar with the 1 Corinthians passage “love is Patient, Love is kind”. Simply replace the word “love” with “cross bearer”.

We need to be willing to carry our own cross one day at a time to do His will even when the work is difficult. Remember that the cross we bear is not above our ability, and God is there to help. Like Jesus needed a hand carrying his cross, we also can turn and ask for help. We can look for a helping hand, advice, and encouragement from friends, family, clergy, and especially through prayer.

Finally, we are asked to follow Jesus. Are there times you feel pulled in a direction of service but make up reasons why you will do it another time? I challenge all of us to say Yes. Yes, the next time I am called to lend a hand. Yes, to the next time someone looks like they need a kind smile and a listening ear. Yes, to the next time I am asked to do something I would normally always say no to.

Saint George; who better to represent our community of faith than the man who slayed a dragon? The man who denied himself a good job and freedom, bore the cross of standing up for the injustice being carried out towards Christians and regardless of extreme torture stayed true to himself and his beliefs up until his last breath.

Next time you are in the side chapel in our church look up and see Saint George above the door to the left. Remember him and the strength that he represents and hopefully encourages in you. Remember he was just an ordinary person like you and I who decided to do something extraordinary with this life. I hope you feel a little extra proud the next time you say the name of our church, Saint George’s, and I hope you feel encouraged to hoist up your cross with love in your heart and follow Jesus.

What do we need to know about the Gospel of Luke?

What do we need to know about the Gospel of Luke?

We are currently in Year C of our 3 year cycle of Sunday readings (otherwise called The Lectionary), and Year C has a particular focus on the Gospel of Luke (Year A focuses on Matthew, Year B on Mark, and the Gospel of John gets thrown in all three years here and there). Each of the four Biblical accounts of Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection brings with it a unique perspective of who Jesus was and what he was about. It is one of the cooler witnesses of our faith that all four accounts were included in the Bible, even though they can differ from one another. This tells us that, even very early on, there was a breadth and depth of belief and understanding within the Christian faith and that Christians have always made room for a variety of ways of relating to, walking with, Jesus.

As we hear parts of Jesus’ story week by week, you may begin to notice themes and currents that run through the Gospel of Luke, Luke’s picture of Jesus asking to take shape in our hearts and imaginations. Like all of the Gospel accounts, Luke’s was written anonymously. Luke was one of the travelling companions of the Apostle Paul, and although he is not named as the author, early on in Christian history this writing became associated with his name. What we do know about ‘Luke’ is that he was a
well-educated writer who passionately researched and compiled this account of
Jesus’ life and proclamation. His Gospel was probably written about the same time as Matthew’s (75-80 AD – although the dating of the Gospel is interesting and could probably use its own bulletin insert), likely using the Gospel of Mark as one of his sources. In fact, Luke is upfront about stating in his preface that he is not speaking from his own experience of Jesus – he is seeking to provide ‘an orderly account’ of the eyewitness reports and various stories that have been circulating about Jesus, addressing his Gospel to the mysterious “Theophilus” (Beloved of God).
There has been ongoing speculation about who this Theophilus might be.
Was he a Roman official? Is Theophilus a code name for a whole community of people, following Christ? Was Luke trying to convince someone to believe, or to strengthen people who already believe?

‘Luke’ is also unique in that his account doesn’t end with Jesus’ death and resurrection. He writes a sequel — “The Acts of the Apostles,” thereby providing a stirring witness to the conflict, challenge, and excitement as masses of people
began to follow Jesus.

Here are a few things to notice as we listen to the Good News according to Luke:
-universalism – Luke believed Jesus’ message was ultimately for all people, not just Jews
-social justice – for Luke, the proclaimed Kingdom is coming here on earth, changing the lives of those who are oppressed
-women – women have a special and unique place in Jesus’ ministry in this account

What else do you notice as themes through our readings this year? What do you hear in Luke’s unique perspective and account? Enjoy paying attention to these questions as our year unfolds and as we draw closer to this faithful and passionate writer in faith.

Blessings to you in the week ahead,
Reverend Martha.

A New Year Blessing of the Home

Leader: The Lord be with you;
All: And also with you.
Leader: Peace be to this house
All:  and to all who live, work, and visit here.
L: The Magi came to Bethlehem in search of the Lord. They brought to him precious gifts: gold to honour the newborn king, incense to the true God in human form, and myrrh to anoint his body, which one day would die like our own.
L: Let us pray. O God, you once used a star to show to all the world that Jesus is your Son. May the light of that star that once guided the Magi to honor his birth, now guide us to recognize him also, to know you by faith, and to see you in the epiphanies of the daily experiences of our lives.
L: Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord — Jesus
born of Mary — shall be revealed.
All: And all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.
Leader: As the Wise Men once sought your brilliant light, O Lord,
All:  So may we seek to live and work in your splendor.
L: O God of Light, bless this (our) house and this (our) family. May this be a place of peace and health. May each member of this family cultivate the gifts and graces you have bestowed, dedicating our talents and works for the good of all.
L: Make this house a shelter in the storm and a haven of rest for all in need of your warmth and care. And when we go out from this place, may we never lose sight of that Epiphany star.
All: As we go about our work, our study, our play, keep us in its light and in your love.
A Blessing of the Chalk for Marking the Door: 
Lord Jesus, through your Incarnation and birth in true human form, you have made all the earth holy. We now ask your blessing upon this simple gift of your creation — chalk. We use it as a tool to teach our children, and they use it as a tool in their play and games. Now, with your blessing, may it become a tool for us to mark the doors of our home with the symbols of your wise servants who, so long ago, came to worship and adore you in your first home.
People in turn mark the doorway with one or more of the symbols:

20 + C +  M +  B + 19

The Magi of old, known as
C         Caspar
M         Melchior
B          Balthasar
Followed the star of God’s Son who came to dwell among us
two thousand
19   and nineteen years ago.
+    Christ, bless this house,
+    And remain with us throughout the year.

L: O God, you revealed your Son to all people by the shining light of a star. We pray that you
bless this home, and all who live and visit here, with your gracious presence.
May your love be our inspiration, your wisdom our guide, your truth our light, and your peace our benediction;
All: May we be Christ’s light in the world. Amen 

What is Lent?

What is important to know going into it?  Should I be giving something up?

The word “Lent” comes from an old English word for “Spring,” which is a helpful starting place when considering what Lent is, what Lent is not, and what we might consider in the next few weeks before Lent begins.  In its most basic definition, the season of Lent is the 40 days (not including Sundays) which precede the celebration of Easter.  Modelled on the story of Jesus spending 40 Days in the wilderness following his baptism and before beginning his public ministry, this block of time is preparation for entering into the mystery of Easter.

One of the most well-known ways of observing Lent has been through the adoption of a particular discipline, or ‘giving something up.’  Chocolate, caffeine and meat are popular items to forego during this season.  It is important to know why we are doing this, however.  Lent is a time of renewal and regeneration.  Rather than merely a time in which we do something to please God, Lent also very much becomes another one of God’s gifts to us – an invitation to claim some space, or create some space, to focus on the things which (or The One who) truly gives us life.  The wisdom of the ages tells us that there are many powerful and creative ways of entering into this space.  Some examples:

Almsgiving – it is easy to spend money mindlessly, to consume food that is bad for us, entertainment that numbs us, to buy things that we don’t need.  Commit yourself to giving a certain amount of extra money away during Lent – to the church, to a cause you believe in, to someone in need, to St. George’s Refugee Sponsorship, to the Water Project – and then spend the smaller amount of money you have left with mindfulness and gratitude.

Service – our lives become cluttered with obligations, appointments, chaos and stress.  Make a choice to do something for others during Lent, to take on a project or service that is over and above what you normally do.  What do you need to let go of in order to do this?  How does this project give you life and energy?

Worship & Education – Lent began in the church as a season of catechism (i.e. teaching.)  It was a time in which Christians made a particular point of learning and growing in their faith, of making time for both spiritual and mental renewal, for nourishing the brain and the soul.  You can join us for our Super Tuesdays:  6:50pm to 8pm for one of two study options.

The first is the book study “Let Me Go There” by Paula Gooder; the second is “Just the Basics” – a look at the fundamental teachings of our Christian faith.  On Sunday mornings, you can participate in our “Following Jesus” Bible Study from 9am to 9:45am in the Asbil Lounge.  On Wednesday nights, you can share in our “Women in the Bible” sermon series & Bible Study from 7pm to 8:30pm.

Consumer Choice – rather than giving something up, try changing your consumption habits to more clearly reflect your values and beliefs.  Buy locally.  Eat food that was produced within a 100 mile radius.  Or commit to fair-trade coffee and chocolate.

Giving Something Up – Giving up meat or dessert, caffeine or alcohol, is still a viable Lenten option, just be clear about why you’re doing it.  If it’s because you want to lose weight, or because you think you should do something, it’s probably not the right choice.  If foregoing a luxury moves you to be more compassionate for those who have less, or if you simply want to create enough of a break in your regular patterns of consumption so that you can once again appreciate the blessings of this life, then go for it.

Lent begins on Wednesday, February 14th,  with Ash Wednesday.  Consider how you want to observe Lent 2018.  These questions may help you in your decision-making:  Where does my life feel out of kilter?  Where do I feel lost or hurting?  What do I most want/need to receive from God right now?  What questions are most persistent in my faith life?   With this in mind, give careful, prayerful consideration to where and how you might create the space or practices in which to bring these needs, hopes, and questions before God over the course of these 40 Days.

Blessings to you in the week ahead,
Reverend Martha.

What is Candlemas?

“My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,, a light for revelation”

The ancient church was adept both at piggy-backing on already established pagan festivals to create new Christian festivals, as well as lining their festivals up with the rhythms and seasons of the natural world.   Which is why the “Christmas   season” — a season that is obviously well past in the secular world — continues in the church until February 2nd .  Candlemas is the Christian Festival of Lights, and this celebration marks the end of Christmas.  Forty days after we tell of the birth of Jesus, we encounter the story of his presentation in the temple, and Simeon and Anna’s recognition that the light of God is revealed in this baby boy.  It falls at the mid-point of winter and also became a practical celebration — during the “candle” Mass, candles used in the church and in homes are blessed for the upcoming year.  (Interestingly, the secular world has used the same maneuvers of the early church, claiming February 2nd away from its Christian connotations and marking it instead as Groundhog Day).

Although we no longer rely on candles to light our homes and churches, Candlemas nonetheless invites a simple and meaningful expression of faith in our modern world.  This year, we will be celebrating Candlemas at Advent Café on January 31st at 7pm.  As part of our Sermon Series & Bibles Study (Women of the Bible), we will be reflecting on the prophet Anna, one of the first to recognize who Jesus was, even when he was just 40 days old.

The format of the evening is simple.  If you use candles in your home, bring them with you this evening to share in a blessing.  With that sign of light and blessing as a physical reminder, we can reflect together on what it means to be called into darkness, to be present ‘here in this place’ as bearing witness to, inhabiting, God’s light.  We conclude our evening with fellowship and refreshment as we enjoy a tangible sign of the joy that we receive in God’s life.