A Look Ahead Toward Lent, Holy Week, and Easter!
In February, we begin the walk to the cross with Jesus that the church calls Lent. Based on the Book, “The Gifts of Lent” by Donald H. Neidigk, this year I want us as a church to emphasize the opportunity to recommit what we have and who we are to Jesus. So, while others think about giving things up period, I want our focus to be the title of our theme, “Giving up to God for Lent”. We will witness several real life Biblical characters in monologues and dialogues meant to inspire us to take account of the fact that we all have something to offer. Christ can use our lives, our characters, our material possessions, and even our flaws to the greater glory of God’s grace revealed. We will all be faced with the same question throughout lent, what do we have to give?
Here is the basic outline…
Ash Wednesday (Setting the theme), March 6: A brief service observed at church at 5:30M in the Fellowship Hall.
Lent 1, March 10: “A Widow Gives Her Mites” Luke 21:1-4 Giving out of what we think we lack.
Lent 2, March 17: “Mary Gives Her Perfume” Matt. 26:6-13 What extravagant gift might you have to offer God that you cherish deeply and you know that God can use in a deep and personal way?
Lent 3, March 24: “A Family Gives Their Home” Luke 22:7-13 Jesus calls us to sacrifice our creature comforts for the needs of others at times. Is there a situation in your life that God is calling you to open up and be a host to those in need of shelter physically and spiritually?
Lent 4, March 31: “Simon Gives His Strength” Mark 15:21 Every one of us knows that if we can make it to church and enjoy the fellowship of First Presbyterian we can also serve in some way giving physically. Serving others by cooking, cleaning, doing something unexpectedly kind to make it easier for those we encounter on life’s journey, maybe even something simple like kneeling down and praying for someone who needs it are ways we can all give of our strengths!
Lent 5, April 7: “A Soldier Gives His Wine” Matt. 27:45-54 Even out of the most tragic occasions, even when we find ourselves caught up in the sin around us and in us, even when we think we have nothing to offer and do not measure up to offering anything of use to God, God knows us and is calling us to service regardless.
Lent 6 Palm Sunday, April 14: “A Man Gives His Donkey” Matt. 21:1-11 What do we have that we use daily that can be used towards.
Maundy Thursday, April 18, 6pm (Church Fellowship Hall): We will gather in much the same way as the disciples did on the night of Jesus’ arrest we will eat and drink and remember the eternal presence who loved the world so much as to walk this walk of lent before us and within us. This Bread and Cup reminds us of the very life of Christ within us and potentially within others. Let us live up to the gift of this meal!
Easter Sunrise, April 21, 6:30 a.m. (Pavilion at the church ): “Joseph Gives His Tomb” John 19:38-42 and following. We all are marching toward the same reality at the end of our time on earth. I have met those who proceed toward the end of this parade and are kicking and screaming and regretfully complaining with no sense of inner peace whatsoever. Then there are those who refuse to stop giving of themselves. These are the ones that you come to pray for whose time you spend with them is like a prayer that empowers you more than you can ever imagine. Joseph’s offer of the tomb to Jesus and those who loved him strikes the same cord. Can you afford to give away your last moments? That is a great resurrection theme!
Easter Sunday, April 21, 11 a.m. Special Easter Celebration… Let’s sing praise together for He is risen indeed!
Beginning the new year the mission committee felt that expanding our connections with missionaries abroad in the PCUSA would be a good idea. This not only may help us to come alongside them at times of need, but it will help us as we strive to be all that we can be serving Christ in our local mission field as well. After reviewing many fine biographies we settled on Dessa and Cobbie Palm who are mission workers in the Philippines.
This may give me an opportunity to meet with them as I have travelled there from time to time, also I am hoping to host them when they are available in the States. Here is a little bit more about them from
Cobbie serves the church as a mission facilitator. He leads seminars for local church pastors throughout the Philippines, enhancing their skills in church development and revitalization. He also develops curriculum and trains churches in peace and reconciliation for the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform. Dessa coordinates the UCCP’s Theater for Evangelism and Advocacy, which seeks to train church workers and members to creatively communicate the gospel and bear witness to the transformative role of a caring and compassionate church.
Cobbie, who has served in mission for more than 20 years, says he has been “taught to appreciate the wisdom of the Asian proverb, ‘To hear is to forget, to see is to remember, but to feel is to understand.’” Dessa says, “My mother, a nurse who became a teacher, instilled in us a deep sense of duty rooted in a strong Christian ethic of service, love and compassion.”
Cobbie works to nurture and strengthen churches and communities that are hindered by realities of fatigue, fear, apathy, and conflict caused by the lack of resources and an overwhelming disbelief that change can help their lives and communities.
“I look into the eyes of an impoverished child, and I am told silently by that face of anguish that God demands that I care enough to give my life to building a world in which each child has a future in societies where faith leads to the transformation of communities from death to life,” Cobbie says.
Dessa traces her calling to mission to age 13, when she was a “sickly asthmatic girl who went to a theater workshop.” She says the experience turned her life around. “The adage that ‘the creative allows you to touch the Divine’ became real and compelling for me,” she says. “I was born anew.”
After she married Cobbie, Dessa began to sense a natural kinship to Cobbie’s work. She is grateful for the opportunity to pursue her calling through Christian theater. “I feel deeply connected to what God has tasked me to do, especially in using my gifts to educate, to heal through the arts, to minister to children, youth and women,” she says. “Doing this makes my heart feel so alive.”
Both Cobbie and Dessa were born in the Philippines. Cobbie’s parents were longtime Presbyterian missionaries James and Louise Palm, and Dessa is of Filipino descent.
“I have been deeply blessed by the opportunities the PC(USA) has offered me to serve the Lord,” Cobbie says, “in all that I do, and into each new ministry where God leads me, my presence brings to that place the presence of the PC(USA).”
Here is what Cobbie briefly shared with me in our initial correspondence.
“I have taken the opportunity to learn a little about FPC from your website and was excited to see your connection to CCI in Thailand. The work of Dessa will have many points of common interest with your partner in Thailand. My work is local and national. Locally, I work with communities in need of clean water in rural communities and I also conduct peace training, preaching, and church growth seminars nationally for the churches and church leaders in the Philippines.
I hope by looking over our newsletters on the PCUSA mission connections website you will come to know more about us.”
I hope you take a brief moment to read this and if you would like to be more involved in keeping track with them please let me know.
This Advent we will be looking together to discover the plan of redemption as we remember what was told of this event in scriptures and as we remember the hymns affirming our expectation of Jesus entering anew in our lives today and in the future.
We have already witnessed to the fact that this was an eternal plan that fills the yearning not only of the nations but all creation. Mary and Joseph would travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem in her ninth month of pregnancy. This was an arduous trek through hills and mountains totaling nearly 90 miles. Why would Joseph take his pregnant wife on such a trip?
Think about the times of trial in your own life and recognize this journey is a sense the journey we are all a part of. Many years the prophets foresaw the birth that would take place in Bethlehem. And when finally the time comes it is a long and trying final chapter. We too are part of that waiting and all waiting leads us to spend ourselves on the way. But take heart God lights the way not only for Joseph and Mary, the Shepherds and the Wise Men, but for you and I.
Right now, for you, there may appear to be no way things can turn out right. But you belong to the God who led them all to Bethlehem. It was a difficult process, but God delivered them exactly where they were supposed to be. And God is working to shine a path ahead for you as well.
God can do and will do what must be done so that your life might be a reflection of the real Star of Bethlehem, Christ Jesus in You!
O taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are those who take refuge in him.
O fear the Lord, you his holy ones,
for those who fear him have no want.
The young lions suffer want and hunger,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Which of you desires life,
and covets many days to enjoy good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good;
seek peace, and pursue it.
The young lions suffer want and hunger…There is no accident that we call a group of lions a pride. The competition involved in remaining a vying male in a pride whittles away at the lifespan of a male lion. In much the same way we can literally strive ourselves away on things that in the end may mean little or nothing. When I spent my time with young Marines I was reminded of this myself. I took part in their bull sessions joining the topics of the day, within reason. I took part in many of their physically demanding exercises, again within reason. Often at the end of a long day with them inside I sighed calm down Ed, you’re not a young lion anymore. We all at times live the life of the pride until the pride becomes who we are. The fear of God is not really fear in the sense of dread as it is the awe of discovering there is much more to life if we just let go of the reigns, stop all of our senseless yearning and pursue the yearning of goodness and peace and grace that is our life in Christ.
No matter how old we are the young lion is always in us. We feel it when we try to dominate conversations. We may not understand the implications when we are quick to criticize and complain in order to gain control of situations, but it’s the young lion in us still wanting to roar. I have seen it in the best of churches, small and large, and I know it’s prevalent not because I am completely innocent myself.
I was once a young lion and in many ways a young lion I remain. I crave attention. I don’t mind some of the finer things in life when they can be placed within my paws. I want to win often rather than seek a win/win situation. It doesn’t always happen but in those moments when after the service a parishioner walks up to me and shares that what I said that day really made a difference, really hit home. You may not see it but often I feel myself smiling even too deeply inside. Like I said it doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does the young lion arises.
If we are honest with ourselves we need not be ashamed of such moments. They define our humanity over and over again. But, perhaps as I mention this you may develop a keen ear to the words of the psalmist and a keen sense of humor and humility about what your feeling deep within. Beyond the striving…the vying…the hurting…and the need to roar once again, lies the healing and the wholeness that is the peace that passes all understanding.
Come children both young and aged, let us seek and help others who are searching as well for the presence of God.