Lent is traditionally a time of...

Lent is traditionally a time of fasting, prayer, reflection, and study, leading up to the solemn events of Passion Week. Lent is usually associated with giving up something, making some small personal sacrifice in order to better understand the immense sacrifice made by Jesus the Son of God.
How many of you remember as a child giving up something for Lent? Do you remember what you gave up? Maybe you gave up sweets, or you gave up meat, or you gave up cartoons, or movies.

Whatever you gave up for Lent, it was with the strict understanding that as soon as the resurrection was successful ly accomplished, you would stuff your face with candies and honey#lazed ham, zone out in front of the TV.
Lent isn't about giving up small indulgences or small vices. Lent is a moment in time when Christians are given the profound luxury of looking at ourselves and seeing what we lack. In other words, Lent is less about giving up than taking on. Lent is our annual opportunity to "TAKE ON" that which will enable us to draw closer to the presence and power of God. Lent isn't a time to give up so much as it's our opportunity to add on, opening ourselves more fully to that unpredictable Spirit which blows where it chooses and that we don't know where it comes from or where it goes.

Lent isn't to give up a bad habit that one shouldn't practice at any time, but to give up something good in order to receive something better.

Instead of giving up for Lent, why don't we take on . . .? Take on what, you ask?

  1. How about take on family prayer time? When is the last time you as a family conducted family devotions?
  2. Or here's another take on. If tithing is seen as giving up 10% of your income, what if you were to take on 10% of the needs of some family or the needs of some ministry of this church for Lent?
  3. Or instead of watching those soaps or reading those novels, what if during Lent you were to take on the reading of a devotional book a week?
  4. Or what if you were to take on the spiritual discipline of daily meditation? I like to step inside church to rest and think and pray, the quiet calm and holy place can drive all cares away.
  5. Or what if you were to take on the discipline of only saying nice things about people?
  6. Or what if we were to take on someone's grief? Every week some member of this church suffers a death in the family. Are we being present to each other's grief and sorrow?

After 9/11, a program was created by Congress in which each victim of 9/11 was guaranteed a minimum of
$250,000, a projected payment of 1.5 million (tax free), and a maximum of between 8 and 9 million. At its final re 8orting, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund delivered $7 billion to the families of those killed on Sep tember 11. Some of the awards were $6 million or more. All you had to do was apply, and Kenneth R. Feinberg, a Washington lawyer who worked free of charge, computed your share of the pot.

Taking on leads to taking up . . . the cross.

The whole point of a Lenten season is to lead us to the foot of the cross, to bring us to our knees in gratitude and awe at the love flowed from the cross of Christ.
Lent isn't a season of barren, joyless, selfdeprivation. Lent should be the annual opening up of our soul's windows, allowing new possibilities and greater responsibilities to find their places in our lives.

What will you take on for these next few weeks, so that you may be ready for resurrection, the greatest event in the history of the universe, even ready for the arrival of the Kingdom of God? One way is to join us for a special Lenten series of worship services for Lent called "Questioned for Christ" Each service in the series focuses on figures from the story of the Passion of Christ who are questioned concerning their relationship to Jesus Christ. Is there enough evidence to convict them of being followers of Jesus "Is there enough evidence to convict each one of us?" We are going to try and answer the question, “What is the cost of following Christ?”

See You there!
Pastor Tim

Universal Holiday

tim 004Did you know that New Year’s Day is the one holiday that is almost universal? It is the world’s most observed holiday. 

I trust you’ve made your New Year’s resolutions one of which is to be in worship each week. I won’t ask you if you’ve resolved to lose the weight you gained between Thanksgiving and Christmas, or if you’re planning on joining a health club, or if you’re going to run five miles a day. 

The late Erma Bombeck made some memorable resolutions over the years:
1. I will go to no doctor whose office plants have died.
2. I’m going to follow my husband’s suggestion to put a little excitement into my life by living within our budget.
3. I’m going to apply for a hardship scholarship to Weight Watchers.
4. I will never loan my car to anyone I have given birth to.

I have some words of comfort for those of us who try to make changes in our lives and are making New Year’s Resolutions: “Don’t worry about keeping those 2018 News Year’s resolutions, you only have to deal with them until February and then you can give them up for Lent.” 
It’s good to make changes in our lives and resolutions, for the most part. As we are often reminded by our critics, our spouses or our children, none of us is perfect. In fact, some of us might have some deep regrets about the way we’ve lived our lives. 
The beginning of the Gospel of John puts the emphasis not on our past, but on our future. Not on our regrets, but on our possibilities. Here are a few selected verses from this passage:

"In the begging was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him, nothing was made that has been made... He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God."

What a positive theme for this New Year! The beginning of John is focused not on what we have been, or even what we are now. Rather it focuses on what we can yet be: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God . . .” 

Isn’t what you really want as you begin this New Year to know deep in your heart that you can be more than you are today that you have a right to become a child of God? Isn’t that what you really want to know that you can live the next 365 days confidently aware that your life matters to know that God is with you and that you can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens you? “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” 

All of us have unrealized potential. That’s the first thing these words say to me. We are children of God. When each of us came into this world, we brought with us an amazing amount of potential. 

I hope you begin this New Year also with the realization that you are an heir to the throne, not because of anything you have done, but because of what Christ has done in your behalf. You have enormous potential physically and mentally. You have even greater potential spiritually. You have the right to become a child of God, and, indeed, by your baptism, you are a child of God. That’s something powerful to live up to. The right to live like Christ, the right to have God as our Father. 
Go into this New Year aware of who you are, and to Whom you belong. 

Happy New Year! 
Pastor Tim

 

Contact Info

First English Lutheran Church
1013 Minnesota Street, 

Oshkosh WI 54902 920-231-9890


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