Dear MLEPC Members and Friends:
As I write this letter, today is Ash Wednesday, and we enter the season of Lent, a 40-day period (excluding weekends) that runs from today through Holy Saturday. Lent ends with the most significant holiday of the Christian church year, Easter Sunday, as we celebrate Jesus' resurrection. Lent is a time to prepare for Easter through spiritual disciplines like prayer, repentance, self-denial and giving. You will often hear people say they are fasting or giving something up for Lent - like chocolate or fast food. This is certainly appropriate, but adding something in - a devotion or extra time of Bible study or prayer - is a wonderful way to focus on a spiritual discipline that will help you draw closer to God. Note: there's still a place for you in a small group study, and if you are not already signed up for one, please get in touch with me and I'll help you find a group that will fit your schedule!
This weekend, you may be one of the 100+ members and friends who will be "retreating" to Laurelville, a church camp near Mt. Pleasant, PA. As you study Luke 14 and other passages with retreat leader Dan Dupee, you will be learning about "radical hospitality" and what that might look like within MLEPC and outside of its walls as we live out our vision, drawing children and their families to Jesus. We at home will be meeting as a church family together, one service at 10 a.m. We will be reflecting on a time when Jesus is a dinner guest at the home of a leader of the Pharisees. The "table talk" begins with "tension" as Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath. Jesus then tells two parables, one to the guests to "teach" and one to the host to "train". The Parable of the Wedding Feast, Luke 14:7-11, might be called the "parable of humility" as once again we see a reversal of expected behavior which characterizes Jesus' teachings. The Parable ends with a wisdom saying that appears other places in scripture, "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." In the Parable of the Great Banquet, Luke 14:15-24, three guests offer absurd excuses as to why they cannot attend, and the host instructs his servant to invite the poor, crippled, blind and lame to the banquet. When this is done and there is still room, the servant is told to go beyond the city walls so that the house will be full. This is practice that we want to put into place at MLEPC as we reach beyond our walls to show others the love of Jesus.
So - if you are going to the retreat, you've received an invitation to a wedding reception on Saturday evening, complete with a Pittsburgh cookie table. If you are back at MLEPC, I can promise you coffee and cookies in Fellowship Hall IF you forget to spring ahead or simply come early. Wherever you find yourself this weekend, may this first Sunday in Lent be one where you draw closer to Jesus in this special season.
Love, in Christ,