If there is one thing that all of us, regardless of faith commitment, church affiliation, political persuasion, economic status, educational background can agree on it is this: these are challenging times for churches, communities, and our nation. We can do three things when the going gets a bit rough. One, bury our heads in the sand and pray for things to just get better. Two, address the current challenges in the same way we did in the past. Three, remember that God is our refuge and strength a very present help in times of trouble. Together, we can turn to the God who is our refuge and strength to help us now – in these challenging times. Throughout the season of Lent, I invite you to join us for two promising opportunities to grow and deepen our faith together.
ON SUNDAY MORNINGS AT 9:45 IN THE LOUNGE:
The Journey to Jerusalem: A story of Jesus’ Last Days. In this imaginative retelling, author John Pritchard, a Bishop of Oxford from 2007 – 2014, explores the gospel of Luke by looking through the eyes of the disciple John. The Journey to Jerusalem provides weekday readings for Lent from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday, along with a poem for each Saturday.
ON WEDNESDAY EVENINGS AT 7:00 IN THE LOUNGE:
Last year’s Wednesday evening classes proved to be a source of inspiration and fellowship for all participants. I anticipate that we will have the same uplifting experience this year. Holy Solitude: Lenten Reflections with Saints, Hermits, Prophets, and Rebels by Heidi Haverkamp, a writer, preacher, and retreat leader whose focus is spiritual development. Our faith is full of heroes who experienced God powerfully in solitude. Heidi Haverkamp offers their inspiring stories, thoughtful daily reflections, and practical spiritual disciplines to discover how time apart can open our eyes, ears, minds, and hearts to the still, small voice of God – and transform us for a life of faith and service.
AN ON-LINE LENTEN COMMUNITY?
I am a novice at social media, but a novice who is willing to learn. I am looking for a way to open the above two discipleship opportunities on-line. Most all of us have access to email, the FPCE website, or Facebook page. I am sure we can develop a way for you (and your friends?) to deepen their faith using the social media technology that is all around us
“The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life that Follows” is the title of a “gripping, contemporary opera” recently performed by the Pittsburgh Opera Company on the stage of the theater of CAPA High School. “Gripping” only hints at the intense emotion and drama we experienced for over two hours with the others in the sold-out auditorium. The opera is a deeply personal exploration of a soldier’s return from Iraq where he served as an officer in an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit and his battle with what he calls “the Crazy” as he tries to reintegrate into his family life. The opera is Based on the novel by the same title written by Brian Castner. (go to
https://www.pittsburghopera.org/show/the-long-walk if you want to view an exemplary three-minute clip from the opera).
As the opera comes to a close, the shattered Castner family determinedly sings a piece that demonstrates the resolve and resiliency of the human spirit – “we have to begin again.”
Brothers, sisters, and friends of FPCE, those words could be sung by us, and mainline congregations across this country. The elderly, wise theologian Walter Brueggemann says something I have been attempting to talk about, preach, and teach for the past four years; Everyone now agrees that we are at a new season in the life of the North American church, a new season that is starkly different from what was but that has almost taken us by surprise. That new season of dislocation is surely to be seen as a profound challenge to the church.”
There are many explanations for how we got to this stage in American church life, but the dislocation is unmistakable.
At times, I sit on my back-porch rocking chair and consider all these tectonic shifts across the American landscape. I recall what I thought my ministry would be like when I started seminary in 1980 and what has emerged here in 2017. There are times when I am discouraged, disheartened, and lost.
But, as the Castner family learned, we have to begin again. In some ways, we do, too. I turn once again to Richard Rohr, an author, retreat leader, and teacher who has worked with the mainline church for longer than I have. He writes, “There is something the church has learned throughout its history that gives me hope. The word ‘change’ normally refers to new beginnings. But transformation more often happens not when something new begins but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart – disruption and chaos – invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites and sometimes forces the soul to go to a new place because the old place is not working anymore.”
In other words, we have to begin again. The season of Lent is a good time to do just that. An exciting adventure lies ahead of us.
In Christ’s service,
This is going to be a full and meaningful Sunday for all of us. It is Transfiguration Sunday. We will ordain and install newly elected officers and celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The transfiguration of Jesus certainly must have changed the lives of the three disciples who were witnesses to this extraordinary event. (See Mark 9: 2-9) The question for us to consider, have our lives been transfigured? Filled with light – in a way we cannot forget. The Light of the world shines on. And as long as that is true, our lives can shine as well.
See you Sunday,
Good morning good people of faith,
For those of us who are weary of winter, bad news - it is not over. Last week Punxsutawney Phil made his annual pilgrimage out of his hiding place, saw his shadow, and dived back into his hole in the ground - six more weeks of this cold, white stuff on the ground, if you buy into the groundhog’s prediction. Weary of winter? Jesus had an antidote. He too became weary at times, and he did not moan and groan about it. He did something. Made a mini-pilgrimage of his own. See Mark 1: 29-39 to uncover Jesus’ answer to weariness, confusion, and anxiety. We are merely one small decision away from making that very same, refreshing journey. What is holding us back? We will talk about that this Sunday.
And, lest we forget, FPCE is “home” to Boy Scout Troop #23. Charlie Huse, Wayne Dean, Liz Held, and John Foster are members of our congregation who work with the young men. Tomorrow is Scout Sunday and a few of the scouts will assist in leading worship. It is a special Sunday for them, you can make it even more special by joining us.
See you in church,
Most of us wait till the last minute to decide what we will do for Lent to deepen our faith, and we wind up doing the usual: giving up chocolate, etc. (fasting). But Lent calls on us to take part in praying and giving, as well as fasting. We have 2 weeks until the start of Lent; perhaps this will be the year we take on new activities in all three disciplines: read each day’s gospel or a new publication (e.g., Upper Room), make a charitable contribution each week, fast from a bad habit...and if you can do it for 6 weeks, who knows?! Lent could be the start of new habits and new blessings.