The pattern of the church year is full of sharp contrasts. One Sunday we hear of Jesus transfigured, bedazzling on the mountaintop, so that his closest friends mumble in confusion and cower in fear. That Wednesday we gather around gritty ashes to hear the words, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
Sometimes we want to hold the glory, we want to step outside of the normal concerns of life, we want to see only Jesus (Matthew 17:8) rather than the people around us. But there’s no holding that other-worldly glory because Jesus is already on his way down the mountain, hurrying back into human concerns. He heals a sick child and then begins to talk about death and taxes!
Which suggests that those are the places we should still look for him, among less-than-perfect people and less-than-perfect situations. The forty days of Lent (we don’t count Sundays) are not meant to draw us out of the world; rather they are meant to help us see Jesus with us in the dailyness of life.
Our Lenten journey begins with an Ash Wednesday Service, March 5th, at 7:00 p.m. as we gather with our brothers and sisters as St. Thomas Anglican on Signal Road. We will offer Marking with Ashes and celebrate Holy Communion. (You may also participate in an Ash Wednesday service at noon at All Saints’ Anglican downtown at Hardin and Manning.
If you’re looking for Lenten devotions in email format, check out www.luthersem.edu/lent/ for devotions from our colleagues in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
Blessings on your journey.
Pastor Susan Horton
I was in the antique story to look for a 50th anniversary present for friends. I passed a vintage kitchen display and picked up an old egg beater because its red handle reminded me of the one my mom had used. When I went to put it back, it seemed to stick to my hand; it was as though I could hear the stories of the women who had used it and the events they had been preparing for. That egg beater came home with me as the start of a collection that is now too big to display at one time. I’m fascinated by the mechanical variations in such a simple kitchen tool. When we travel it’s great fun to seek out more vintage beaters, helping to save them from a landfill somewhere.
Today, suddenly, I realized the connection between my collection and the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19. Jesus gathers up this outsider, says that he is still part of the family, and declares, “For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” Earlier in Luke’s gospel, as he tells the stories of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son, Jesus pictures the delight when recovery happens. It is a delight “in heaven” – read that as a delight in the presence of God, delight to God.
The innocent amusement I get from my collection is nothing compared to the joy of God when our relationship is rebuilt through Jesus Christ. We may be somewhat battered; some people may think we should be replaced with an up-dated version; but we still have value to God. So don’t be surprised if Jesus (or his friends) come poking around in some dusty corners looking for you to join the party in God’s presence.
Pastor Susan Horton
“How long have you been here?” It’s the standard get-acquainted question in Fort McMurray, and often brings up comments about the three-year plan or the five-year plan. We don’t usually ask, “Is this home for you, or are you just passing through?” But maybe we could start that discussion too, especially with the people who feeling like they are “in exile” here at the end of the road.
A recent meeting of the FM Christian Ministerial Association considered a verse from the Old Testament, Jeremiah 29:7. It is addressed to exiles, people forceably removed from their homes and full of grief. They were deeply surprised to hear the prophet of God telling them to seek the welfare of the city where they were living, to seek its peace and prosperity. “You mean we don’t have to just suffer through this? You mean that we should get involved in long-term relationships and celebrations that happen here? You mean that we should care about the future of this place? What a concept!” They were even more surprised that they could be the people of God in that time and that place.
Doug Doyle, pastor at the Alliance Church, paraphrased the verse: “This is the mind of God: wherever I have you, be all there.” So what would it mean for you to be “all here” in the community where you live? Invite family and friends into the discussion and see where it takes you. See where the Holy Spirit takes you as you pray for this place and the people who live here, for a short time or a long time.
The answers may surprise everyone.
Pastor Susan Horton
Please join us for our Christmas Eve Worship at 7:30 on Tuesday, December 24th at 7:30 p.m. at Timberlea School Gym. We will share familiar carols, enjoy songs from some of the children, and brighten the night with candles and glow sticks.
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There’s something about this time of the year that brings out the creative spirit. It seems more songs and poems are written, more new recipes are tried, and people who don’t think they have a crafty bone in their body make new tree ornaments. (On the other hand, there may be a lack of creativity in the hours and hours of Christmas-themed movies on TV. Sometimes it is better to watch the fireplace channel!)
Where does this creativity come from? I think it comes from our creating God, and the baby who entered our world in Bethlehem. New life sneaks into life-as-usual and we start to see that we can be new. This isn’t the New-Years’-resolution kind of change that wears out willpower in a few weeks; this is God-with-us new life. This is Jesus hanging out with the most ordinary people, speaking the words of forgiveness and healing and hope that make new life possible.
Christmas is fulfillment, interruption, and promise all rolled into one; Christmas is God getting our attention with the ultimate gift. The gift of Jesus will take all of the year to unwrap, all of life to unwrap, maybe even all of eternity to unwrap.
Now that’s good news!
Blessings on you and those you love as you travel, celebrate, and rejoice.
Pastor Susan Horton
An elf in a Saskatchewan Roughrider Hat? A lawyer as a Wise Man? What can it be except our Congregational Christmas program? Join us Sunday morning, Dec. 15th, as we tell the gospel story in a variety of ways, involving as many adults and children as possible. There are people practicing their numbers, but there will also be that impromptu feeling that comes as the cousins gather after a holiday meal to entertain the rest of the family.
But make no mistake – God will be praised as we gather; the love of Jesus among us will be celebrated as we ponder and laugh together. So join us at 10:30 a.m. Sunday and enjoy the blessing.
Our Christmas Eve Service will be held Tuesday, Dec. 24th at Timberlea School with traditional carols and non-traditional glow sticks to light up the night.
As you make your final preparations to celebrate the birth of Christ, consider an idea that came from a Lutheran pastor in New York, who wrote an Advent reflection for Luther Seminary God Pause on Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.” He wrote of a friend who, before she leaves her car, spends 30 seconds in prayerful meditation before she goes to the next place in her very busy day. It seems such a hopeful recommendation for those who worry about “spiritual discipline” as this time of year. Commit to those small moments, and who knows what might happen next.
May the Christmas music that you hear everywhere strengthen your faith in the days ahead.
Pastor Susan Horton