A Holy Lent
These first few weeks of 2018 have seemed to fly by so quickly! It is hard to believe that the season of Lent is about to begin in just a weeks' time on February 14th. Lent is the 40-day (not including Sundays) season leading up to the celebration of Easter (this year on April 1st - no fooling!). The purpose of Lent is for us to reflect on our spiritual health, to turn back to God, and to seek to grow deeper in our discipleship. The forty days remind us of the time Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing for his ministry, the years that Israel spent wandering in their travels from Egypt to the Promised Land to be ready for the blessings God had in store for them, and the days of the flooding rain that Noah endured upon the ark preparing for a new start, among other such journeys.
The journey of Lent is one marked by a focus on spiritual disciplines: prayer, reading Scripture, worship, giving, and fasting. It is this last one - fasting - that has come most to be associated with Lent as people choose to give up something - sometimes trivial, sometimes big - for the season. Fasting from something, whether it be food for a day or chocolate or TV for a few weeks, is a matter of faith as we choose to change our daily patterns of life and focus on God. Sometimes the temptation to break the fast rears it head, and it is in those moments that we rely on the strength of the Spirit to make the decision we want to make. It is not that the things we fast from are inherently wrong to enjoy; fasting is rather about practicing the ability to choose God over other good things in life. The Apostle Paul once wrote that because of his own worldly nature that he did not do the good he wanted to do, but the evil he did not want to do was what he did instead. Fasting helps us to put aside that tendency and practice choosing what good we want to do for the sake of God through the power of the Spirit.
Next Wednesday, we will enter into the season of Lent with our Ash Wednesday service at 7 pm. During the service we will make our commitments to have a holy Lent in which we renew our focus on God. I hope you will be able to join us as we begin our 40-day journey together. In the meantime, consider where your spiritual life is and what you can do during this Lent to grow in your discipleship.
Blessings on the journey, Jim
Sunday's Sermon Snippet
To the Horizon: Reaching the Horizon
(Matthew 10: 1, 7-8; Luke 10:17-20)
Last week, we talked about what happens when we fail in our journey of following Jesus. But what happens when we succeed? What happens when we reach that spot on the horizon that we were aiming for?
To see how the disciples handled their success in following Jesus, we first take a step back to the instructions he gives them in Matthew 10. He commissions the twelve disciples to go out and proclaim the good news, heal the sick, drive out spirits, and raise the dead. What an incredible calling! No one could blame them for being overwhelmed or feeling a bit inadequate to do this kind of work. "Freely you have received," Jesus reminds them, "freely give." In Luke 10, Jesus sends out seventy-two disciples with similar instructions, and we get to hear about their return. They come back excited and tell Jesus that even the demons submit to them in his name. Jesus' reply is sometimes seen as a rebuke of their pride in this, but I think there is something more going on here.
The disciples recognize that it is the name of Jesus that holds the power, but they are amazed that they are able to wield it against demons. Jesus himself shows a bit of pride in them - like a parent's pride when a child does something they weren't sure they could do - as he responds that he saw Satan falling like lightning. This may be more than hyperbole meant to build up the disciples. Jesus may be pointing out the greater work they are doing that they themselves are unaware of: "You were not just defeating individual demons but Satan himself with each small success!" Jesus then reiterates the authority he has given to the disciples, implying that they are to continue their good work in his name. Just because they have completed the work he first sent them out to do does not mean that they are done. Having arrived at that point on the horizon they had taken aim at, Jesus now points out another point on the horizon. The journey of faith and ministry continues. Lastly, Jesus corrects the disciples to focus not on the success of their work or their own power but rather on the fact that their names are written in heaven. Instead of rebuking their pride, here Jesus is helping the disciples to focus on what will help them continue in ministry, whether they succeed or fail. It is not their power to do his work that is the privilege here; rather their privilege is merely being a part of what God is doing to redeem the world. Keeping the focus on the privilege of being with God and working by the power of Spirit, even success become irrelevant. Success can sometimes breed complacency or a lack of excitement as we do the same things over and over, albeit successfully. By focusing on the privilege of being a part of what God is doing, it is not about our success or the novelty of what we are doing. It is about the fact that we are on this amazing adventure with God, and we get first-row seats to the miracles of grace. It comes back to Jesus' instruction: "Freely you have received; freely give." We follow Jesus by giving thanks for the privilege of being a part of what God is doing in the world. What are you excited about doing for Jesus? What is God calling us to be a part of?
"God has been good to us..."
In light of Jesus' instruction - "Freely you have received; freely give" (see Sermon Snippet above), enjoy this story from our youth group's recent experience:
During the past 3 months, the senior high youth studied Dave Ramsey’s Generation Change, a study that leads teenagers to a better understanding of God, themselves, their money, and how it all works together. During the class, students were equipped with biblical principles to apply in their everyday life. These principals included; BE who God created them to be, DO more with their money, and GO out into the world ready to write their story.
At the conclusion of the course, the youth were given the chance to apply what they learned at our celebration dinner. Their mission was to take a specific amount of money ($196.93), buy lunch, and then bless others with the money they had left over. They decided to have a spaghetti meal because it’s cheap, and they wanted to spend a lot of money on other people. With cash in hand, they comparison-shopped and then returned to the church to begin cooking. To everyone’s surprise, the total was $19.42 for 11 people to eat!
The teens were elated they were able to eat the cheapest meal possible so they could complete Part 2 of their mission. They now had $177.51 to bless others in the community. Their first stop was to buy clothes for South River Elementary School clothes closet. They got 60 pair of children’s undergarments, 18 child socks, 4 kid’s shirts and 5 kids pants. If you said $143.47 you guessed right!
Next, they trucked over to Food Lion with $34.04 to collect hot and cold cereal for their local food pantry. After every teen had 1-2 boxes of cereal, the treasurer estimated how much the total to would be so they didn’t come up short in the cashier’s line. He estimated high just to make sure they had enough. After paying for 16 boxes of cereal, the teens still had $7.00 left! They were wondering what to do with it. They noticed a lady behind them in line with a few items in her cart. They gave the money to her and said they wanted to bless her. The lady was shocked, and so was those around her. The teens were full smiles and laughter. “God has been good to us and we would like to pass on the goodness.” This lady’s misty eyes and stunned expression turned into a radiant smile as she replied, “Amen”.
Inclement Weather Policy
With recent winter weather, we want to remind you of our inclement weather policy. For Wednesday at the Port, we cancel if the Rockingham schools are cancelled or released early due to weather (this would not include cancellation due to lack of electricity as we had last week). For Sunday morning worship, we will have worship if it is possible for Pastor Jim to be at the church and for the parking lot and sidewalks to be cleared. We want everyone to be safe, so please exercise good judgment as to whether you are able to make it safely from your home. If you are not able to be with us for worship, we will miss you but will certainly understand. If you are not able to come and have a responsibility at church that morning, please let us know and we will adjust accordingly. Be safe and stay well over these next couple of months!
Living in Community
Thank you, Susie, for offering such a beautiful prayer in worship on Sunday!
Thanks to all of our worship volunteers who came out on Sunday despite the threat of bad weather!
We couldn't do it without your dedication!
Thanks to everyone who came to our VBS Planning Meeting!
With your help, we are looking forward to another great year!
This Week at Port Church
Wednesday, February 7
Office Hours and Wednesday at the Port cancelled due to weather
Thursday, February 8
9:00 - 11:45 am - Office Hours
Sunday, February 11
9:30 am - Worship: "To the Horizon: Finding Safe Haven"
11:00 am - Sunday School
12:00 noon - 225th Anniversary Planning Meeting
Monday, February 12
9:30 am - Bible Study at Dianna's house
Tuesday, February 13
7:00 pm - Bible Study at Dianna's house
Ash Wednesday Service, February 14, 7 pm
VBS tentatively scheduled for June 25-29
News and Updates
Find out what is going on at Port Republic UMC this week and in weeks to come!