Our Lenten theme for this week’s Wednesday Live Worship service was Joy. We read the 15th chapter of Luke (parables of the Lost Coin, Sheep, and the Prodigal Son and his brother). In our conversation about these verses we lifted up what brought joy and what prevented joy. The story of the Prodigal Son elicited the most spirited of conversations as many of us related to the grumblings of the older brother…of course the well-behaved, respectful brother was upset! His father bent over backwards for the younger son’s disrespectful and wasteful behavior! For all of us who are the well-behaved rule followers, we feel little joy when the son who was thought to be dead returns to the Father’s open arms.
But it brought up the question for me about the relationship between grace and joy. Sometimes we are hesitant to allow ourselves to feel joy, to share it with others because maybe we don’t feel as though we deserve it. And sometimes, as in the case of the older brother, his resentment of his brother and his resentment of his Father’s unmerited kindness (aka grace!) meant that the older brother sat outside of the party and pouted.
I know that when I am grumpy, feeling stressed, or in a downright foul mood, it is easy for me to resent all of the happy news or social media posts of others. As I see and hear of people beginning to travel, restaurants opening up, kids going back to school, and families reuniting; sometimes my grief and resentment that I can’t travel or see my family can bubble up and prevent me from celebrating their joy. It is at those times, when I am unable to feel that vicarious joy that I need a come to Jesus moment—and that I need to cultivate joy in my life. Cultivating joy takes effort and a bit of self-awareness. Cultivating joy usually means I need to step away from a situation, perhaps step outside and ground myself in the goodness around me. A process that has worked for me is this:
It is a mental exercise that helps me cultivate joy. As we live into this week’s theme of joy, I hope it can be a tool for you and your family, too. When you are feeling grim and grumpy, unable to see or experience joy try it out. And thankfully, we have a God and Savior who deeply understands the idea of resentment, so much that he based an entire chapter of his gospel to teaching us grumbly types about the gift of allowing grace and joy for one’s self and for others
Wow! We are only a little over a week into this Lenten Shenanigans season and the outpouring of creativity and thoughtfulness has been both inspiring and joyous. Thank you to everyone who has chosen to participate!
When Pr. Sara and I were thinking about how to make this a Lent different, we were concerned that folks would lean a little more to the pranking side of this opportunity, so we thought it best to limit the circle to only those people who chose to participate.
But, God bless you, Prince of Peace, you have shown up with an abundant love and passion and so - along with more than a few of the participants who have already expressed their concerns - we want to open the actions of this season to everyone in the congregation.
So, even if you did not sign up to be a part of this tomfoolery and hijinks, please know that your church community holds you in its heart and wants to reach out to you in love. And you might get a random package on your doorstep this season. Please accept it as a sign of love and faith, trusting that you do not need to reciprocate, but only accept the love that is given. It’s a little bit like grace! In Lenten Shenanigans form!
Follow the Shenanigans by joining the private Facebook group
I will weep when you are weeping;
Looking up or looking down? I know many of us are out walking, running, and hiking in our local neighborhoods and open space areas. A question for all of you who are able to move and walk around in these days: where do you focus your vision? Up and around to see the beauty? Or are you a careful foot placer, cautious of uneven ground, rocks, or steps?
We all need to be careful of foot placement and falling, but how often can we miss a fleeting view or a bit of nature because we are looking down? Likewise, if all we do is look up and out, we may well fall on our faces!
Certainly, this whole introduction is a metaphor for our faith journeys, too. It is important to look both up and down as we navigate this life and our relationship to God. Looking up, pausing to experience the beauty of the faith we hold on to and its end goal. And looking down, watching our step, and choosing our path carefully as we navigate the steps ahead. This part, the careful looking, is what I think Lent can do for us.
You are invited into a new way of looking for this Lent, as we encourage acts of joy and kindness, steeping ourselves in the spiritual gifts of curiosity, wonder, joy, hope and generosity. Your staff are each and all hopeful that the pathway through and past this unique time in our church and world’s history might reveal some amazing gifts, gifts that have been here - ways of relating that will carry us through this isolation - and new opportunities to connect and share the endless joy that flows from our God through us.
Christ has been with us all along the way. And like the resurrection stories from the gospels, the first witnesses after Easter were afraid and unsure, but like always, Jesus surpassed their hopes and expectations. God is, I firmly believe, with us all along our way. I am eager to hear how the discipline of looking down and around, looking for joyful surprises boosts your faith.
Blessed be your Lenten Journey!
On Wednesday we sent an email about how we are inviting you to a deeper sense of God’s joy in your life for the season of Lent (Feb 17-April 4 ). The entire email is linked here if you missed it.
As we look to the first days of Lent (Ash Wednesday is the 17th) you will be receiving a Lenten Care Package with tools, resources, and encouragement for the season sometime before Wednesday. If you don’t receive one by Wednesday morning, email Pastor Sara and she will get one to you. The main item to be sure to have ready are your ashes. There are careful instructions on how to mix your ashes. Allow me to reiterate…don’t use water when mixing your ashes.
+Ash Wednesday - We encourage you to tune in to our Ash Wednesday worship service on YouTube, it will be a live stream on Wednesday premiering at 12:00PM. You can also watch it in the evening at 7:00PM. The noon premier time will ensure that our young families and folks who go to bed early can wear their ashes longer. Of course, if you miss the worship you can also watch it on Thursday or any other day!
+Lenten Shenanigans - Please sign up here to be part of Lenten Shenanigans. Please know that only those who are members of this church will have access to this form. Those who sign up can easily see who their local church member “neighbors” are. You can, of course, seek out friends you know, but we also encourage you to connect with those who live closer to you!
+Keep in Touch - check our Facebook page for ideas on how to be involved with Lenten shenanigans.
+Wednesday evenings in Lent - Beginning the 24th, join us on Zoom for a 25-30 minute live worship service. We will pray, we will talk, we will experience the calming gift of guided meditation. All you have to do is show up!
+Sunday Morning - 10AM worship services will continue.