Ash Wednesday is March 1, which is traditionally the start of Lent, a time of preparation for Easter. During Lent we take time to draw closer to the Lord by examining our lives, repenting from sin, and deepening our prayer life. The six weeks of Lent lead up to Holy Week, where we focus on the final week of Christ’s life.
During Holy Week we remember Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), the Last Supper (Holy Thursday), and his death on the Cross (Good Friday). Finally, we celebrate Jesus’ victory over death when we remember his resurrection from the dead (Easter).
Taken together, these are a dramatic six weeks! New this year: We will be celebrating Good Friday here at SUMC with Tenebrae, the service of shadows that is a remembrance of the last day of Jesus, beginning the night he was betrayed up until the crucifixion.
During Lent I encourage you to commit to one practice that helps you draw closer to the Lord. Included in the newsletter is a guide, though there are many others. Read this article from Upper Room ministries for other ideas: http://www.upperroom.org/lent101. The article also gives a nice backgrounder.
The sermon series for Lent will focus on some key characters from the Gospel of John – Nicodemus, the Samaritan Woman, the Blind Man, and Lazarus – and what they can tell us about drawing near to God. The 4- week series will be bracketed with a look at Jesus’ temptation in the desert and Palm Sunday. I hope you will join us each week to dive deeper into your relationship with Jesus.
There is a traditional hymn that sums up the purpose of Lent: Take Time to be Holy. I leave you with the first verse as an encouragement for your Lenten journey:
Pastor Eric Nelson
One of the main ministries of the church is caring for the sick. We do this in various ways - through prayers, sending cards and making visits. One of the most powerful ministries any Christian can have is visiting the sick. Although I have a role to play, you can too.
Sometimes people are uncomfortable visiting. They may wonder, “What do I say?” Just showing up, asking simple questions, and listening is enough.
Avoid platitudes. “There’s a plan for everything.” “God will heal you.” “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” These things may be true, but let the sick person come to these realizations.
Listen more than you talk. However, sometimes sick people don’t like to talk a lot. Just your presence will mean a great deal. That said, some people have the gift of cheering people up. If you have it, use it!
Make your visit short. Sick people are tired and need to rest. Long visits can wear them out.
Offer to help with something practical. It’s better to offer something concrete rather than say, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.” Instead, say: “I’d really like to bring you a homemade meal.” “Could I come over and keep your walk clean?” “Would you like a ride to your doctor appointments?”
Pray. If you’re comfortable, say a prayer with them. Most people welcome a prayer when they’re sick.
Touch. Squeeze their hand or put your hand on their shoulder. Sick people sometimes feel cut off from human contact and touch can be very reassuring.
As your pastor I also visit the sick. One thing that has changed in recent years is that hospitals do not automatically inform the pastor about their hospitalization. You have to request this. The spiritual care staff of the hospital (chaplains) generally take care of this.
If you, or a family member, is sick and would like a visit, please let me know. Don’t assume that someone will tell me. It doesn’t always happen. Ask a family member or friend to contact me (or the chaplain). Calling my cell phone is the best way. I need to know soon because hospitalizations tend to be short.
Thank you for caring for one another. When we show care to the sick, we are following in the ways of our Master, Jesus Christ.
See you in church, Pastor Eric