Sunday, February 25

Reconciler Weekly Update

"To bow the head in sackcloth and in ashes, or rend the soul, such grief is not Lent's goal; but to be led to where God's glory flashes, his beauty to come near. Make clear, make clear, make clear where truth and light appear." -- Quittez, Pasteurs; The Episcopal Hymnal 1982

Lent may be a penitential season, but for me it's not about beating ourselves up or wallowing in a sense of our baseness. Rather, Lent is a time to recognize our brokenness and strive for greater wholeness. There's a lot of hope in Lent.

It's key that we know the aspects of ourselves that are unkind and uncharitable, that can hurt others. All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. 1 John 8 says: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Being able to recognize our shadow sides is key to both spiritual and psychological health. When we tell the truth to ourselves and another about our brokenness and/or wrong-doing, and accept responsibility for it, we begin to heal and move forward. That's hopeful.

Pastor Monte Johnson says that in Lent we allow ourselves to be un-done, in order to be re-done. In his Ash Wednesday homily, Monte said that in Lent we symbolically enter the desert and take a journey. Our trek parallels that of the Israelites, who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, and Jesus's 40 days in the desert, where he fasted and was tempted by Satan.

In Lent we allow ourselves to be un-done, in order to be re-done.

We start by acknowledging our sinfulness and mortality on Ash Wednesday: "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." We ask God to transform us; we seek a changed mind (metanoia). Over the next 40 days we venture to the desert -- a place of unknowns, a place of some peril -- to cleanse ourself and be transformed. Recognizing our shadow diminishes its power over us. As the days lengthen, we journey toward the light of Easter, when we celebrate Jesus's liberation of humanity from sin and death, through the cross and resurrection.

Like all liturgical seasons, Lent has its own unique character and purpose. Like the earth in winter, our souls need time to lie fallow, so new seeds will take root and grow. My hope is that we will experience Lent not as a time of doom and gloom but as an opportunity for genuine growth. There is a quiet excitement that comes along with waiting for spring, and seeing those first flowers unfurl.

I wish you a blessed, reflective, and hopeful Lent.



Yet More about Lent

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church includes this information under its entry on Lent:

"...In the Western Church the penitential character of Lent is reflected in various features in the liturgy, such as the use of purple vestments and the omission of the Alleluia...Lent is generally observed as a time of penance by abstaining from festivities, by almsgiving, and by devoting more than the usual time to religious exercises. Of recent years in the Western Church more emphasis has been placed on these aspects than on physical fasting..."

Larry notes: "If you would like to read up on the various spiritual disciplines, a good place to begin is Richard Fosters' book, The Celebration of Discipline. One of the pastors or someone in the congregation might be willing to lend a copy if you need to borrow one. Ask around."

Tripp has written a sheet with additional information about Lent that includes helpful information on fasting, and has posted in on the myspace site -- soon to be posted on the Reconciler blog.

Holy Week and Easter:

We are having joint worship services Holy Week and Easter Day with the Immanuel and St Elias Lutheran congregations. On Easter Sunday, we will not be having our regular evening service at 6:00 p.m., but will have a joint service with Immanuel at 10:30 a.m.

For Holy week, there will be a Maundy Thursday service at 7:30 p.m., a Good Friday service at 7:30 p.m., and an Easter Vigil service on Holy Saturday at 7:30 p.m. There will also be a festive reception following the Vigil. These are wonderful services, each with their own unique character and flavor. We hope you will join us for as many of them as you can.

If you are interested in taking part in lay leadership roles in any of the above services please talk with Laura, Larry or Tripp. Monte Johnson is asking for volunteers from all three congregations to read Scripture, help with artistic displays in the sanctuary and Founder's Hall (where part of the Vigil will take place and the post-Vigil reception will be held), and to help set up Founder's Hall for the Vigil and after the Vigil (for Easter Sunday). Also, if you would be interested in singing in the Immanuel Choir -- and are willing to attend at least two rehearsals, Wednedays at 7:30 at Immanuel -- let one of the pastors know. Thanks.

Bible Study:

Our Bible Study on Praying the Psalms resumes on February 28th. We will be looking at chapters 6 and 7. We meet in the chapel at 7:30 p.m. There is a prayer service with Immanuel at 7 p.m. that some of us have been attending and all are welcome to join.


Tripp has been in conversation with Prior Peter Funk at the Monastery of the Holy Cross in the Bridgeport area of Chicago. We are looking into the possibility of a one-day retreat -- probably a Saturday -- at the monastery. Let us know if you're interested. This is a great opportunity to worship and spend a quiet day within a community of Benedictine monks.

The Rev. Laura Gottardi-Littell
for The Pastoral Team
The Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler