When I was a little girl, I was very interested in the difference between the crosses that hung in my best friend’s church and my own. Why, I wondered, did her cross have on it a man – Jesus—looking down on us during worship, while my cross was empty? Our parents and our Sunday school teachers explained to us the difference, (one focusing on the crucifixion and one the resurrection) and my friend and I spent many conversations discussing which cross was the “best.” As I grew, however, I began to realize the full beauty of each. The emphasis on Jesus’ death on the cross reminds us that we all suffer and die, and that Jesus can show us how to do so with courage and grace. The emphasis on Jesus’ resurrection helps us to remember that God has promised us much more than the lives we live today. Two different crosses, both telling a truth.
Later on I learned that the shape of the cross is an almost perfect representation of what God asks of us: the horizontal line speaks to the call to love those all around us, while the vertical line calls us into relationship with God. We need them both– loving the world, and loving our God. Immanence and Transcendence.
For many Christians, the cross is an old friend. It is a symbol of our faith and a reminder of our history. Yet the cross evokes a myriad of feelings in people. For some, it is too stark an image, one that focuses too closely on death or punishment. Others feel that it can be used to exclude people of other traditions, and so they choose not to wear or display it. Still, throughout the history of Christianity, the presence of the cross has been undeniable in shaping our theologies and spiritual lives.
What does the cross mean to you? Do you have a special cross or a special memory that you turn to when you need grounding in your faith? I hope you will join us for a morning of reflection this coming Saturday (more info on next page), as we encounter the cross in new ways, through art and prayer. Rev. Susan Kemper, retired United Methodist pastor and Spiritual Director, will be leading us. We will touch on this very rich topic together, as we open our hearts once more to the beauty and the meaning of the cross.
This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. Traditionally, these next six weeks have been about immersing ourselves in the life story of Jesus, and as we do that, examining the story of our own lives. The scriptures shared in churches during this time typically emphasize the days of Jesus’ ministry, leading up to his death and culminating in his resurrection.
As Christians, this is the central story of our faith. How did Jesus live? What did he teach? How did he handle suffering? – betrayal – disappointment? What did his final days show us about forgiveness and acceptance? How can we draw on those stories as we live our lives, seeking to love as fully as possible?
This Lent, I invite you to immerse yourself as much as you can in this story. In addition to our regular worship services, there are several meaningful ways to experience this season here at First Church.
*We will be sharing a morning “mini-retreat” with Rev. Susan Kemper on February 28th, as she leads us through a new look at what the Cross means to our spirituality. (see page 6 of the Newsletter)
*There are Lenten devotional booklets available to you again this year, containing short daily readings for each of the next 40 days written by our much loved UCC Writers group.
*Finally, we will be participating in a shared Lenten series with several UCC churches during the month of March, as every Wednesday we will gather at one of the host churches for a simple service and shared supper. (see page 8)
Instead of giving something up for Lent, I hope you will choose one or more of these things to add into your life for the next six
weeks. It’s a short time, really. But it is an opportunity to
connect more deeply with the story that grounds us all. Jesus’s story. Our story. I look forward to sharing that with you this Lent – the next six weeks.
“Lent… is something we do in response to God’s love, to bring about change within ourselves. Think of it this way. If your garage is full of clutter, and you’ve just bought a shiny new Prius and you want to use the garage for its intended purpose (to shelter your car rather than your junk), then you have a job to do. You need to clean out the garage. Likewise, Lent is a time when we try to clean out the clutter in our hearts and minds and souls, to prepare ourselves for the joyful gift of new life, freely given to us through the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection.”
Last week, we reflected on… “Soon” is a placeholder. “Now” is a life. Life is a gift. May we all be blessed to live our lives as fully and as deeply as we can, for as long as we can. Starting now.
This week, we share part two (below) from ucc.org.
Photo credit Sue B. Donnelly; ucc.org
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
Some days I see the world through the prison bars of my own time. When has the beauty or tragedy of world news or the tender daily life of my next-door neighbor been dimly perceived and seen only through the stark clock of my obligations?
God, give me a time for the babies and a time for those who are dying, a time for the gardeners and a time for the green-activists, a time for boycotts and a time for negotiations. I have my own weeping and laughing times down pat – open my heart to the dancing, embracing, losing, silence time of others close to me and far away. Amen.
I always think I’m going to have time for the important things – soon. Maybe not now, because I’m busy at work or have chores to do, but soon. Soon I will contact that friend I’ve lost track of. Soon I will make that phone call or write that thank you note. Soon I will reconnect with my spirit and become more involved with my community. Soon.
If I have learned one thing in the past few years, it is that if I want to be brave or faithful or more loving, I need to do it now. Soon might never come. The season for my being the person I want to be is here; the time for living the life I want to live is now.
I recently read a short reflection that touches on this. I am sharing it with you, below. I hope as you read it you reflect on the person and life you most want for yourself, and decide to go for it. If you want community, make time to be part of it. Show up. Reach out. If you want to deepen your faith, pray and read and listen to words that inspire you. If you want to be closer to your family or connect with your neighbors or help a friend or find out about an issue, make the time.
“Soon” is a placeholder. “Now” is a life. Life is a gift. May we all be blessed to live our lives as fully and as deeply as we can, for as long as we can.