Accent on Worship
I’ve started reading Soul Mending: the Art of Spiritual Direction, by Deacon John Chryssavgis, who was also our wonderful speaker at the Liturgical Conference last month. At the very start of this book he wrote something that has been sticking with me in the week since: “We have become so accustomed to thinking of repentance as an unpleasant, though necessary and obligatory rejection of the sin we “enjoy,” that we have tended to lose sight of repentance as a fundamentally joyous, restorative return to life in its fullness.”
Repentance as a joyful return to life, that’s what’s been working its way through my mind as we approach Lent. Because Lent does have a rather dour reputation as a season of giving up things, a season of minor keys in music, a season of focusing on the terrible death of Jesus, a season of thinking about how awful and sinful we are. That it ends in Easter is considered a grace, but we often hear people speaking of Lent as something to be endured.
But Fr. Chryssavgis is right, that’s not what repentance looks like in the Scriptures, or even in the lives of believers. We are called to “return to the Lord” by the prophet Joel, “who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love.” (Joel 2:13) Repentance, turning to God, isn’t actually a gloomy proposition at all because in it we are turning to life from death, to health from sickness, to goodness from evil, to loving action from sinful deed. It is a recognition that our lives are only of abundant value when they are lived in the life of the Triune God who loves us from before all time and into eternity, who is gracious, forgiving, merciful, and abounding in steadfast love.
I wonder what Lent would feel like if we lived it more joyously, as a time of renewal which brings us life from God’s grace, not grumpily as a time of sacrifice of things that normally we enjoy. Perhaps our New Year’s resolutions, which typically are intended to restore us to a better way of living and being, are better placed here, as pathways not to a six-week deprivation of things we long for but to the beginning of a life-long set of habits and ways that actually bring us life and joy. “Lenten discipline” need not have the connotations of a harsh school teacher for us. Rather, the disciplines of Lent could be for us the pathway of life and grace in the love of God we’ve been hoping to find all our lives.
I invite us all to consider this joy as we begin our discipline, as we intentionally begin to think on our being disciples once again. Jesus’ disciples didn’t follow him because of his threats or his stringent requirements. They followed him, and yes, learned the discipline of a life in Christ, because of his loving grace that drew them in, because of the life he brought them, even after dying himself, when he rose from the dead. Let us therefore joyfully repent of our sins, and turn to our God, in whom we find life and grace, a thing to celebrate even in this season of Lent.
In the name of Jesus,
2013 Lenten Devotional Booklets Now Available
Return to God: A Lenten Journey Into Wilderness, To Jerusalem, written for the Mount Olive community by Susan Cherwien, is now available at church. Pick one up for use in your Lenten journey this year. They are in the narthex and Chapel Lounge at church.
The devotional is also available online in a daily blog at www.journeyintolent.blogspot.com.
Upcoming Adult Forums
Sunday, February 17 – “The Work of Common Hope,” led by the Ruff family and Louise LeGrand.
Sunday, February 24– “The Art of Lectio Divinia,” presented by Sister Carol Rennie OSB and Sam Rahberg from the Benedictine Center.
Lent Procession to be Held This Sunday, February 17, 4 p.m.
Join us for another contemplative service of lessons and carols – for Lent! This service is offered on the First Sunday in Lent as an opportunity to withdraw from the busyness of life to pray, sing, listen, smell – to fully enter into the season of Lent, a time to renew our life as baptized children of God.
Midweek Lenten Worship
Wednesdays in Lent
Noon – Holy Eucharist
7:00 pm – Evening Prayer
Church Clean Up – Mark Your Calendars!
The next church clean-up day will be held on Saturday, February 23, from 8:30 am – 2:30 pm. Plan to come and pitch in – many hands make light work!
Book Discussion Group
For the March 9 meeting, the Book Discussion group will read Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie. For the April 13 meeting they will discuss In the Company of the Courtesan, by Sarah Dunant. Looking ahead, in May we will discuss Children of God by Mary Doria Russell. This is the sequel to her novel The Sparrow which we read earlier.
Lenten Bible Study: Practice Faith
Christian faith practices are widely accepted, but not broadly understood outside of a moral/ethical understanding. Of course we should be hospitable, of course we should give to the poor, and of course we should be in service to our neighbor. Other faith practices take on the sense of duty and obligation. We’re called to pray, observe Sabbath, share the gospel, etc.
But what is the Biblical root of these practices? Why are these things so important that they are mentioned over, and over, and over again in the Bible? What have Christians done in the past and what can we do now to keep these practices alive in our lives?
Come to the six week Lenten Bible study starting February 14th from 6-7:30pm in the Chapel Lounge to explore these topics in scripture and community.
February 14 – Hospitality and Welcome
February 21 – Tithing and Generosity
February 28 – Prayer
March 7 – Celebration and Sabbath
March 14 – Sharing the Gospel
March 21 – Serving our Neighbor
Meals on Wheels
Thanks to the following members of Mount Olive who delivered Meals on Wheels for TRUST, Inc. during the last quarter of 2012: Nancy & Gary Flatgard, Elaine & Art Halbardier; Bob Lee, and Connie & Rod Olson.
Thursday Musical Concert to Be Held at Mount Olive
For more than 120 years, Thursday Musical has been dedicated to presenting fine classical music programs featuring outstanding local musicians and offering educational opportunities to artists and audiences alike.
On Thursday, February 21, at 10:30 a.m., as part of their Thursday Morning Artist Series, their concert will be held at Mount Olive, and feature David Cherwien and Kathryn Moen, organists, and the Semada Trio (oboe, bassoon, and piano). The concert is free and open to the public. All are welcome!
For the past month a Vision Task Force comprised of Andrew Andersen, David Cherwien, Pastor Crippen, Judy Hinck, Adam Krueger, Connie Marty, Peter Tressel, and Donna Neste have begun to develop a process that will allow the congregation to discern God’s vision for Mount Olive Lutheran Church and our shared ministry to our neighborhood and the world. A number of events have converged that make this an ideal time to undertake such a process: We have just completed a (quite successful) 5-year campaign and building renovation, Pastor Crippen is well into his third year as our pastor and has a stronger sense of who and where we are, and Donna Neste’s retirement as our Neighborhood Ministry Coordinator will occur in the spring of 2014.
Through a study of God’s word, prayer, visits around the neighborhood, interviews with community leaders, together we will work to match information gained with congregational interests and assets. A series of three congregational meetings will occur this spring and summer to build community around our history, our values, and God’s vision for our future as his people in this place. The task force will compile the information provided and present the findings and proposal for next steps to the October Semi-Annual meeting of the congregation.
How can you be involved in this important work? Following are some of the needs already identified.
• Pray for this important effort and correct discernment of God’s will; specific requests will be posted from time to time, but you can begin now to lift up the process that Christ’s church and God’s people are served by it.
• Commit to study God’s word; specific “vision passages” of scripture and others will be provided as a guide
• Get involved; volunteers will be needed for the following; contact any member of the Task Force or the church office.
Augment the Task Force (especially those who are gifted in strategic thinking)—needed now through October
Triads of people to visit, observe, and pray about what they see in our neighborhood—commit to 2-3 visits as a group over a 2 week period
People to interview identified community leaders about what they see in and hope for the neighborhoods around Mount Olive—commit 2 to 3 visits over a 2-3 week period; sample interview questions will be provided
People to help provide childcare at the three congregational meetings
People to provide refreshments at the three congregational meetings
People to provide transportation to/from the three congregational meetings
Engage with and encourage other members to join you in these activities to help discern God’s vision for us and shape the direction of our journey in the coming years.
It is exciting to think about being deliberate in seeking what God has planned for Mount Olive, her people, and our neighborhoods. Won’t you join us in the discovery of what that is and how it could look for our life together?