What Is Ash Wednesday Anyway?
This Wednesday, March 1st, is Ash Wednesday this year, so I want to take a pause in our discussion of the PATH to Prayer to focus on this important day. Ash Wednesday is 40 days before Easter Sunday - not including Sundays - and marks the beginning of the season of Lent. Lent, of course, is known as that time when we are supposed to give something up. Many people decide to give up eating chocolate or desserts, to cut out caffeine, to stop watching TV, or to refrain from logging onto Facebook. All of these are little ways of giving up something that we normally enjoy without a second thought. So what's the point of this?
Historically, the season of Lent was meant to be a period of preparation as potential new members awaited their opportunity to be baptized and join the family of the church at Easter. The forty days of Lent recalled Jesus' forty days in the wilderness before he began his ministry, the forty years the Israelites spent wandering the desert between their escape from Egypt and their entering the promised land, and the forty days of the flood in the time of Noah. During this final time before taking the baptismal vows, the new converts spent extra time praying, studying, and fasting. In time, those who were already members of the church began to join with those who were preparing in their dedication to these disciplines, and it became a season of repentance and renewal for the whole church. It is this practice of fasting that lies at the root of our tradition of giving something up for Lent. Giving something up is simply a discipline to help remind us of the vows we've taken to follow Jesus and obey God.
(On a side note: The Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter are not included in the forty days of Lent. While Lent is somber time, each Sunday is considered a celebration and remembrance of the resurrection of Easter. Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French) is the last day before the beginning of Lent and became a festival to use up all of the rich foods (eggs, butter, sugars) that were given up during the Lenten fast and might otherwise spoil before Easter - thus the association of pancakes which use these ingredients as a typical Shrove Tuesday food.)
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent and is a day in which we worship in a unique way. During our worship, we respond to the call to repentance and the invitation to focus on spiritual disciplines by marking a cross with ashes on our foreheads. This cross reminds us of whose we are and who we have committed to follow. The use of ashes to make the cross echoes the "ashes to ashes" line that we hear at funerals and is a reminder of where we come from and where we go. These ashes are made from the palm branches that we used in our celebration of Palm Sunday (a week before Easter) the year before. This cycle from celebration to repentance and back to a new celebration in a few weeks symbolizes the way we live and grow in faith - commitment, failure, repentance, forgiveness, stronger recommitment...
What will you give up this Lent? What good thing might you take on in its place? I hope to see you at our Ash Wednesday service this week, March 1st at 7 pm, as a part of our Wednesday at the Port. Adults and children alike are encouraged to participate. Blessings on the journey, Jim
Called: Worshiping and Fasting
Sunday's Sermon Snippet: Worshiping and Fasting (Acts 12:24-13:3)
With Barnabas' encouragement, Paul was finally on track to live out his calling to become a missionary to the Gentiles, but he was not quite there yet. One day, as Barnabas and Paul gathered with other leaders of the church in Antioch for worship and fasting, the Spirit spoke to them: "Set apart Barnabas and Paul for the work to which I have called them." With that, the community continued to fast, blessed the two missionaries, and sent them on their way. After over a dozen years of preparing and wandering, Paul was finally fully on his way! From this moment, we can learn a couple of things. First, we hear God's call when we actually spend time with God. It was in worship and the intentional act of fasting that they heard God's call. Further, it is in worshiping together that the Spirit was heard. We can hear a lot when we spend time with God alone but even more when we spend time with God together. Second, the Spirit does not speak to Paul and Barnabas alone but to the whole community gathered there. The instruction is for the community to send them out. We often think of our calling - our purpose in life - as a very personal thing just between us and God. This encounter shows us, however, that the calling belongs to the whole community. Sending these two missionaries out is God's gift to the whole church not just to the two being sent. When we are called, we are called for the sake of the whole church and its work for Jesus Christ. That is why it is important that we listen for God together, because what we hear is a message for us all to set apart those being called. Following God's call means spending time with God together.
Living in Community
Thank you to Linda, Jason, Brad, Tyler, Keith, Liz, Gretchen, Sue, and Pam
for your faithfulness in leading our music in worship each Sunday!
Thank you to Pam, Debbie, and Martha for helping to fold bulletins
and mail newsletters to our shut-ins each week!
This Week at Port Church
Monday, February 27
9:30 am - Bible Study at Dianna's
Tuesday, February 28
9:00 - 11:45 am - Office Hours
7:00 pm - Bible Study at Dianna's
Wednesday, March 1
6:00 - Wednesday at the Port
Menu: Breakfast for Dinner
7:00 - Ash Wednesday Service
Thursday, March 2
9:00 - 11:45 am - Office Hours
Sunday, March 5
9:30 am - Worship with Communion
"From Garden to Garden: Twisting the Truth"
11:00 am - Sunday School
6:30 pm - Financial Peace University
March 17 - Paint Night
April 23 - Youth Sunday
June 26-30 - Vacation Bible School
News and Updates
Find out what is going on at Port Republic UMC this week and in weeks to come!
8525 Water Street
PO Box 116
Port Republic, VA 24471