It seems hard to believe that it
has been nearly a year since we have had “normal” church. Everything that has
defined our church has been different in this past year: the Flower Cross,
Birthday Gift for Christ, Musicals, VBS---so many things have been different.
But here’s the good news (well, Jesus is the Good News!) we can see the light
at the end of the tunnel. I’m excited about what lies ahead for our church in
the coming days, weeks, months, and years.
In light of where we find ourselves in the moment, moving into the season of Lent, I want to encourage our church to enter into some shared discipline. As I thought through and prayed about what we as a church family should do in Lent, I felt the Lord leading us. In this time when we can’t all be together as we would like, there is something powerful about uniting in some shared disciplines together. I think that as we “give up” some things and “take up” some things, as Jesus gave up Himself by taking up the cross, we will give God space to speak to us as individuals and as a church.
Here’s what we are asking you to do this Lent. First, we are encouraging everyone to fast in this season. I know that fasting may be a challenge because of health and other concerns for some. With that in mind, we will provide another option for those who want to be a part of this shared exercise but cannot fast. We will also be teaching more on fasting as a part of our Wednesday Night Live Bible study (you can live stream at 6:00 p.m. at www.stm-umc.org/live). Fasting is not dieting, but it is giving up something to allow space for God to speak to us in unique ways. Normally, it is food (and that is what we are encouraging on Fridays), but it is not only food.
Wesley encouraged the early Methodists to fast on two days, Wednesday and Friday, each with a specific prayer purpose: missions on Wednesday and the cross on Fridays. In light of that, we encourage you to be a part of our shared Lent through opportunity on Wednesday or Friday.
Kids – Kate Gibbs has prepared a wonderful treat for our kids this Lenten season, with our Lenten “Map.” This tool will provide fun and imaginative ways for kids (and their families) to grow through sacrifice, service, and learning to see God in new and old ways in this Lenten season. We encourage all our families to journey through Lent together and pick up one of these maps in worship or through contacting Kate.
Youth and Adults – We encourage you to “give” up social media or screen time for this day. We encourage you to “pick up” avenues to strengthen your relationships with God and others. Some useful suggestions may include additional time reading Scripture and prayer; quiet meditation; intentional conversation with your loved ones; a kind act for a neighbor or co-worker. In short, we are exchanging the comfort and patterns of screen time for disciplines of loving God and Neighbor more fully.
On Fridays, we are encouraging people to fast from a meal of their choosing. But it is not simply about “not eating,” but it is about using this space to seek God. We are encouraging you to take that time in which you would be eating to instead read Scripture and pray. This is a way that we can quiet the chaos around us and find that space to experience God.
We are also asking this: we are encouraging you to take the money that you would have spent on your meal and give that money to Rise Against Hunger. We will be giving up a meal as a spiritual discipline, but for many, they miss meals for lack of food. Each year during Lent, we focus on this ministry that allows our church to literally feed thousands. In this, not only will we be giving ourselves space to experience God, but we will be blessing those in need.
We want to make this quick and easy to do, so we encourage you to use our text-to-give service to make this donation. You can text the amount you will be giving to 84321 along with the message rise, and this will go immediately to our Rise Against Hunger fund. For instance, if your meal would have normally cost $10, you can text $10 rise to 84321 to make this donation. After your first donation, you will receive a link where you will be asked to enter your payment information. We encourage (but do not require) individuals to enter in their banking information instead of a debit or credit card; this allows you (and the church) to save on processing fees. After this one time entry, you will be able to simply text the amount and rise to 84321.
Through these shared disciplines, we will be able to experience and grow closer to God while also loving and serving our neighbor, collectively and individually. Each year on Ash Wednesday, we are called to observe a Holy Lent. Together, through these shared disciplines, I know that we will truly experience the power of God in this season.