Marty Kuchma, Senior Pastor
This edition of Highlights will bring us to Lent, which is yet another time for new beginnings in the Church-year calendar. It invites us to do something different or to do what we do differently. Originally, Lent was simply another name for Spring, when the green fullness of na-ture slowly begins to re-emerge from the cold and gray of Winter. Eventually, Lent was given special meaning within the Church as forty days of anticipating and preparing for Easter, the central celebration of Christianity, without which we would likely not be Christians at all.
The Latin word related to Lent is quad-ragesima, meaning fortieth day. It is often said to experientially parallel the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness in advance of the beginning of his pubic ministry. In that wilderness, Jesus un-derwent temptation and withstood all of the challenges. And he returned from the wilderness emboldened and ready to face what would come his way in the days and weeks and months and years ahead. He was grounded in his central purpose which, the writer of Luke says, was to take care of marginal-ized people and take on systems that held them down. Throughout the gos-pels, we learn that Jesus came to bring God’s love to every person, whether they had standing in society or not, and especially if not.
Lent invites us to get serious about re-evaluating our own mission as people who intend to be Jesus’ followers. It affords us to a chance to think again about our own temptations that might throw us off track and doom our inten-tions to be faithful people. It is a chance, as John the Baptist is quoted as saying, to repent, to turn around, to get our acts together as individuals and our act together as a congregation, so that we might be most useful in sharing God’s love with every person.
This particular Lenten season begins on Valentine’s Day, February 14, and ends with Easter, which coincidentally falls on April 1, April Fool’s Day. Perhaps there is something in those coincidences that can spark new thinking about what this season might mean this year.
I’d like your help in thinking about what we can do together to make this season more meaningful. Would it help to do some learning together? About what in particular? And when is a good time? If we did a special educational program after church on Lenten Sundays, would you come? As for potential content, there are myriad options – for example, thinking through the “stations of the cross” as a way of immersing ourselves in the biblical accounts of Jesus’ last moments on earth, or maybe drawing connections between Jesus’ teachings and current events and using this sea-son to re-ground ourselves in what we are supposed to be here for. If we had an educational program on Sundays from noon to 1:00, what would you want to learn about? And, more critically, what would you show up for? Let me know and we will make something good happen.
As for worship experiences, we will have our usual Chapel service at noon on Ash Wednesday. That will include Communion and distribution of ashes, as al-ways. There will also be a service that evening, done jointly with other Carroll County UCC churches. Plans for that are now being finalized and will be broadcast when known. In the past, we have offered Wednesday evening Taize (meditative) worship during Lent, but that has not been a big draw. Would you come now? The services can be remarkably healing and peaceful, invitations to take perspective and connect with God in new ways. Is there something else we can do with wor-ship to help you in your Lenten work? Let me know that also.
The bottom line is that Lent is both an invitation and a call to take our faith more seriously. Let’s do that, so that when Easter comes, we might experience joy in all of its fullness, and sing “Alleluia!” from the depths of our souls.