“Shrove Sunday… Ash Wednesday… Easter!”
So we are at the entrance to Lent with Ash Wednesday on March 6 this year. For Lent we line up with the lunar calendar following our ancient faith-lead of Passover and marking time with the risen Savior in the celebration of Easter. So usually Easter is the Sunday after the Saturday of Passover and takes place on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox. Excluding the Sundays, Ash Wednesday falls 40 days before Easter. There will NOT be a test on this! As a result, Ash Wednesday is therefore a little late this year. But here it comes. And this year our Youth will help us start off on the right foot with a Shrove Sunday breakfast on March 3. Usually held on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, a shrove meal is to be an introduction to the days of “shriving” ahead. Old words often connect us with good old ways. Shriving is the old word for confession and absolution, for repentance that turns away from sins and to God’s mercy. In Lent it is connected with turning from fleshly indulgence and toward the things of God. The idea is to enjoy a little but to put your rich food away after you receive the Ashes on Ash Wednesday. This kind of fasting is not a Christian requirement but can be in the words of Luther “fine outward training.” I find that withholding something in Lent reminds me of repentance.
But there is a second part to this Lenten practice: turning to God in faith and in the good work of giving to others in need. Because God gives us grace and mercy as we turn to him, we also give to others. Whatever we have saved by withholding in our lives, we give. On March 3 we will give graciously in advance to the need of the 19, yes 19!, youth who are in need of support for their National Gathering trip. Or maybe you will recall the sermon from February 24 and leave 20% for those good restaurant servers during Lent-including Sundays! And Holy Week, a special offering to the Treasure Chest Oncology kids (talk to Todd and Cindy Miller) would be good and pleasing to the Lord. Not just giving up, but giving is the way of the people of God. We follow in Lent the living God who so loved the world that He gave His only Son.
Shriving with you,
“Going Forward with God”
Year of Our Lord 2019. Or is it just 2019?
As we enter the New Year, we are encouraged in faith to go with the hope and strength that comes with God’s presence.
One of my favorite devotional writers over these now many years has been Rev. Herman Gockel. In a devotion entitled “Our God Is at Both Ends,” he tells the following story:
“The story is told of a farmer boy who was hauling his first load of hay to town. Perched high on the mound of hay above the wagon, the hay bulging on both sides, he guided the horses along a country road until he came to a covered bridge. The bridge was long and, as he looked, it appeared funnel-like with a small patch of light at the end.”
You guessed it. He turned around, assuming he would never make it through.
That boy was a victim of an optical illusion. Life is full of illusions. It may be that as you consider the challenges of the year ahead, that health condition, work issue, or family struggle seems to close in on you. We all have something this side of heaven, don’t we?
How often in the middle of the night when our weak faith is faltering have we lost sleep to worry only to find the truth of the Psalmist’s words: “When I awake, I am still with Thee,” Psalm 139:18.
Our God is Emmanuel through Jesus Christ, God’s Son and our Savior. Jesus promises, “Lo, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” Matthew 28: 20. This promise is sure through the redemptive love revealed in Christ crucified and Christ risen!
Gockel concludes the devotion: “No matter which end of the bridge we are standing on, we can be sure: our God is at both ends! On whatever end of the bridge we may be standing at this moment, let us put our hand in His-and go courageously forward.”
The Year of Our Lord 2019!