Dear Friends in Christ,
Though it seems we have just finished celebrating Christmas, our church seasons continue to carry us into the New Year at FCOA, and by the time this reaches you we will be on the eve of Lent. This 40-day season has carried special significance in the church for many centuries, probably rooted in specific preparations the earliest apostles made each year to remember and celebrate Jesus' resurrection until he came again.
As the time between Jesus' time on earth and the Second Coming lengthened, the church developed various observances and seasons to tell and re-tell our history as God's people, and to help us prepare ourselves for the gift of God's love given to us in the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Lent is a very unique season, one which offers us amazing opportunities to grow spiritually and to deepen our love of and service to God.
But here's the catch-Lent means change! Literally the word "Lent" means "Spring", derived from the Anglo-Saxon words "lencten", meaning "Spring" and "lenctentid, which not only means "Springtide" but was also the word for "March", the month in which the majority of Lent falls.
Just as Spring brings us out of winter by sometimes slow and gradual change, sometimes amazingly dramatic and cannot-be-missed changes, Lent also is meant to bring change to each of us. A season of reflection, penitence, prayer, and self denial, Lent brings new opportunities to turn, re-turn to God and become ever more the people God created us to be-and to CELEBRATE being changed-really CHANGED by God's forgiveness and love.
So-Lent means Spring. Did you know that Lent also means Love?
In his book, "Season of the Spirit", Martin Smith speaks of Lent as the season of truth-of stripping away illusions about ourselves, about God, about the world. When we allow ourselves to be driven into that wilderness as Jesus did, Smith suggests, we, too find what Christ did-the abiding, sustaining, infinite love of the One who has created and redeemed us so that we might live fully, wholly, completely in that Love.
Lent is a powerful invitation to discover Love beyond our wildest dreams. But first we must trust God enough, and risk all of ourselves, in telling the truth to God. In confessing those things that separate us from God and from our truest selves-in confessing our sins, we don't tell God anything God doesn't already know. Rather, as Frederick Beuchner once wrote, until we confess our sins, they are the abyss between us-when we confess them, they become the bridge.
God is waiting-patiently, lovingly, for us to "get it". To understand, however dimly, that repentance is not about putting ourselves in the way of judgment-it is about putting ourselves in the way of God's love. Repentance is about facing ourselves squarely, knowing we are safe enough in God's loving hands to confess what separates us, what holds us back from being right with God and with ourselves, and literally turning around, re-turning to God and walking in new, life-giving ways.
I invite you therefore to the observance of a holy and life-changing Lent. We begin our observance of Lent on Ash Wednesday, February 26, with our service at 7:00 p.m. I invite you also to take a quiet hour for yourself with God and the community, to breathe and be refreshed on Wednesday evenings sharing a simple dinner and Lenten program, time to be determined by you all. Details coming soon-plan to join us!