Palm Sunday 4/9 Worship 11am
Maundy Thursday 4/13 5:30pm
Good Friday 4/14 5:30pm
Easter Vigil 4/15 5:30pm
Easter Sunday Breakfast 4/16 9am
Festival of the Resurrection Easter Sunday Worship 4/16
Please join us for Ash Wednesday Worship with Holy Communion and the Imposition of Ashes at 6:30pm. Come early for soup supper at 5:30.
Here we begin our Lenten journey, the 40 days of preparation for Easter. It is the beginning of our journey to the cross. Seems like just yesterday we were celebrating the coming of the wise men to see the new born king. Lent comes early this year and we are barely beyond the start of the new calendar before it is upon us.
Lent really is an odd season. I’ve heard some people compare it to off season training for an athletic sport. Like baseball players who go away to spring training to work on the fundamentals of the game, we take time during our Lenten spring training to work on the fundamentals of our faith; the skills of what it means to be a Christian. Many take Lent to be a somber, serious time intended for self-reflection, repentance and returning to God humbly to ask for forgiveness. Some fast during Lent and some add a practice like additional daily prayer or bible study. Some might perceive Lent as that time when we determine which addictions we may still have some sort of control over. And some Christian denominations find it too problematic and skip Lent altogether, opting to begin the celebration of the resurrection as early as possible, well before Easter Sunday actually arrives.
A friend of mine seriously questions the practice of giving up something for Lent and said, “I don’t get what fasting is going to do for you. God gave us good things! God does not want us to suffer and we can’t earn God’s love by doing anything like that, so what’s the point? Makes no sense to me!” Well, he has a point. No amount of sacrifice could ever earn us God’s love that is already freely given to us. So, what IS the point of Lent?
In many ways, Lent is about losing. I know that is not a popular idea; losing. We avoid it desperately. But Lent won’t let us forget it. The big symbol of the beginning of Lent is a cross made of ashes, an unmistakable image of loss. But it isn’t that we are supposed to make a sacrifice or perform an act to appease God during Lent. We cannot out-sacrifice God. Lent teaches us that regardless of what we lose, give up, or give away, God has given us all that we need. No matter how much of a loser we are, in God all our needs are fulfilled.
It seems like we panic when we think we can’t have something. It can sometimes even make us think that God wants to punish us when something is taken away. Our culture is very good at teaching us how to win, acquire, obtain, maintain, and horde, but not so good at teaching us how to lose graciously, how to give up, release, surrender, or grieve.
There has been much made over Cam Newton this week, the Carolina Panther’s quarterback, and his behavior at an interview just following the SuperBowl. So many people judging him as a poor sport for abruptly leaving a post game interview, calling him a pouting adolescent. Others pointing out the loud conversation going on behind him, which included the boasting words of a Broncos player, mitigated his behavior. Regardless of the hows and whys, Cam Newton had lost. A really big, really public loss, perhaps the most public of losses possible these days, and did not know what to do or how to escape this loss.
He has no doubt spent his career focusing on winning. Professional athletes do not get paid to lose, they get paid to win. That is really all there is. But he and his fellow celebrity athletes are not alone. We in this constant consumption, moderation-is-for-idiots, “winning”, desperately searching for a perfect hero to worship, shame driven American culture are just like this. Even if we have a stoic and less emotional response, most of us do not know how to stand in the presence of loss and still know it is well with our souls. Even though it is.
For most of us at best, the practice of being a good loser is nostalgic, a remnant of a bygone era and while we expect our heroes to know how to lose gracefully, the truth of it is that none of us know how to do it.* We don’t know how to do it because it is a practice and when we are faced with losing, the suffocating shame of losing, we too will do nearly everything to avoid it.
We blame others. We get angry; angry with them, angry with those people who did this to us, angry with God. We resist it. We fill the holes in our soul with anything we can to staunch the emotional bleeding, usually with things that make us feel like winners anyway, illusions that make us feel like we were wronged or new ways to win at any cost.
OR join us for worship at 6:30pm Wednesday, February 10th.
Is it really the first Sunday of Advent? Are we sure about that? This week I opened a new folder on my computer; I have one for each church year which begins with the first Sunday of Advent and ends with Christ the King. “Sermons Year C 2015-2016” and only one little sermon in it now. And I see blue on the altar, so yes, it must indeed be the first Sunday of Advent. Happy Church New Year! A whole, fresh, new cycle lies ahead of us.
On Monday of last week, we had a campus ministry thanksgiving dinner in the fellowship hall and all of the students brought food for a covered dish dinner. Someone once told me that’s what you call a Friendsgiving—thanksgiving with friends. I like that because, since you replace “thanks” with “friends” in that little made up name for a big dinner gathering, it makes “friends” and “thanks” synonymous. At that dinner we told stories about funny or interesting family and friend traditions or experiences we’ve had during the holidays.
Thanksgiving in particular has always been a curiosity to me because it was not a huge celebration day for my family. It mostly centered around football and relaxing. Each year I remember the many times I spent Thanksgiving afternoon watching my mother’s neighbors decorate their home for Christmas, with their blinking lights, six foot candy canes, and a colossal half inflated Santa that never seemed quite able to stand up straight and always spent most of December in a half bow, bobbing up and down with the breeze. And of course the inflated NASCAR with three snowmen climbing out. As over the top it all was, watching them was part of my Thanksgiving tradition and I will admit that I miss it just a bit.
One month ago today I was in a store and the clerks were already shifting over Halloween costumes and autumn themed decorations to make way for the earliest Christmas items. I heard Christmas carols on the radio on Monday and I will even confess to a brief post-thanksgiving shopping trip where there were swags of red and green everywhere. It was nearly impossible not to see the angels and santas and sleighs and elves in all directions. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. But it’s still November……………..
The remainder of this sermon can be found here
Or, join us for worship at 11am 749 Highway 107, Sylva, NC
Sign up for our Women’s Bible Study coming next month. We will be studying the book of Esther.
You can sign up here: Shepherd of the Hills Bible Study