10 Reasons to Come to CIC’s Ash Wednesday Service

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent and it is a great way to begin your Lenten journey.

We will celebrate Communion.

The choir will sing.

Receiving ashes is an ancient tradition acknowledging that we belong to God in life and in death.

The Ash Wednesday service is interactive and engaging. We will have “Prayer stations” which will equip you to consider your identity in Christ, your faith journey, what God is calling you to consider during Lent and prayers for those in need.

There will be a special children’s time during the Ash Wednesday service led by Mrs. Keven.

A great time to begin your “Be Holy” Lenten Devotional.

This service engages your creative self, even if you aren’t traditionally creative.
Easter is most fully enjoyed when the Lenten journey is most fully engaged.

It’s an opportunity to worship God…

                                        and God wants to meet you there.

 

Ash Wednesday Service

is at 7pm on February 10, 2016

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The Sunday After Paris

Scripture Lessons: 1 Samuel 1:4-20, 1 Samuel 2:1-101447690902108

When I picked today’s scripture lesson, I had visions about a nice little sermon about Hannah.  She had it rough. She really wanted kids and she couldn’t have them.  To make it worse, her husband had another wife who rubbed it in.

Then she prayed and offered a bargain to God- If you give me a child I will give him back.  Eli, the local priest heard her, thought she was drunk, and then heard her explain that it was a prayer.  He blessed her and sent her on her way…to get pregnant.

There was going to be information about how I think Eli was trying to start a conversation rather than actually thinking Hannah was drunk.  I was going to make the case that Hannah’s song and Mary, mother of Jesus’ Magnificat in Luke are basically the same song, meaning that Hannah was likely a hero to Mary.

And, I would have surely talked about Hannah’s baby boy Samuel, the Kingmaker- of Israel’s first king Saul and Israel’s favorite king, David.  All this because Samuel drew so close to God that his visions and the ways God’s voice came to him were astonishing clear, even for Old Testament times.

But, the truth is that cute little sermon just doesn’t seem to fly today.  Today we stare at Hannah’s song and so much of it seems to ring hollow after the tragedies around the world, just on Friday alone.

Hannah’s song speaks on behalf of the feeble, the hungry, the barren, the poor, the low and the needy.  But today, the blood of the feeble runs in the streets of Paris. Our city is hungry. The poor and the low and the needy are not lifted up.

One day, Jesus would proclaim from a mount that these lowly would be blessed.  In the Gospel according to Matthew he said in chapter 5:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

But, today we do not feel comforted, though we mourn.  We do not see the meek inheriting the earth.  No, this week it is the terrorists who seem to inherit the crown of blessing.

Where o where is this mercy that is promised?  Where o where can a peacemaker be known as a child of God? And when, O Lord will the righteousness for which we hunger be given?  When will we be satisfied?

In 39 days we will gather by candlelight and sing of angels heard on high about a savior born away in a manger on some silent night.  Our hearts will melt and tears will swell as the words from O Holy Night echo in our ears…

“Fall on your Knees! O hear the angels’ voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
O night divine, O night
O night divine

Terrorists be damned, the gates of hell cannot stop the power of Christmas Eve candlelight service.  God puts on flesh and moves to the neighborhood, first stop a manger in a cave out back, swaddled in strips of cloth.

Kneeling at the manger is easy.  Kneeling in Bethlehem demands nothing more than to see God in a baby.  So, by all means, let’s break out the Christmas carols and have our hearts warmed, wrapped up in swaddling clothes and sipping on eggnog.

Anybody can see God in a baby. It demands little of us other than to hope in the future.  It’s the thing babies do best.

We will sing of the Prince of Peace, a promise in which we hope, but not too much, and not too loudly, because at the end of the day, our hearts demand blood.

I confess that my own heart cries to unsheathe the sword, to cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the dogs of war.

How can such terror be permitted?  How can we allow the innocent shot out of the sky and gunned down in the streets?  If this cause to protect those in the path of ISIS is not just, then could a war ever be just?

But then there is Jesus.  Like he did with Peter upon his arrest he commands us to put away our sword.  And, it leaves me speechless.

Kneeling in Bethlehem is easy.  Kneeling in Jerusalem is much, much harder.  Being faithful to Christ’s command all the way to Golgatha…well, it seems we have always left him there, alone.

My heart grows cold and demands revenge.And somewhere outside the cock crows.  I have denied him again.

The Christ who comforted me in the worst of times, the Christ who called me to proclaim the Good News, the Christ who goes to the cross for me…and for you.

The cock has crowed, and I hide in shame, because yet again I cannot go to Golgotha.  I cannot stop my own hatred for those who bring terror.  My heart is not ready to love my enemy and to pray for them.

How about you?  Can you lift ISIS in prayer alongside those who were slain?

This Jesus we sometimes think is easy to follow…demands so much from us.  He says “take up your cross and follow me.” I don’t know about you but I get pretty cocky about my willingness to do so.  Do you know where that guy is headed?  Do you know what they do to him there?

And then when something like this happens, Christ’s words ring in our ears as he calls his disciples to be witnesses to the Kingdom of God; and we struggle to remember the sort of word we are supposed to proclaim and the sort of song we are supposed to sing.

And there, right there stands Hannah.  Hannah who proclaims God’s healing in her own life brings us truth.  Hannah brings us hope.  Hannah inspires you and me…and even the mother of the Christ.

Hear her song…

God lifts up the needy from the ash heap

and makes them sit with princes

and inherit a seat of honor.

Oh, God, please let it be so.  With advent on the horizon we need your Good News and we wait for it with baited breath.

We desire a savior.
We desire a healer.
We need a messiah.
We desire the one who brings peace.

Oh, God, our fidelity to your word and your commandments are weak, but you are strong.

Lord have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord have mercy.
Amen.

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Paris was not the only place where life was lost last week.  Here is a prayer written by Presbyterian Disaster Assistance to consider as we remember all of the tragedies…

CALL TO PRAYER AFTER TERROR ATTACKS in Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad
November 13, 2015

God of mercy, whose presence sustains us in every circumstance,
in the midst of unfolding violence and the aftermath of terror and loss,
we seek the grounding power of your love and compassion.
In these days of fearful danger and division, we need to believe somehow that your kindom of peace in which all nations and tribes and languages dwell together in peace is still a possibility.
Give us hope and courage that we may not yield our humanity to fear.., even in these endless days of dwelling in the valley of the shadow of death.We pray for neighbors in Paris, in Beirut, in Baghdad, who, in the midst of the grace of ordinary life–while at work, or at play, have been violently assaulted, their lives cut off without mercy.

We are hostages of fear, caught in an escalating cycle of violence whose end can not be seen.

We open our hearts in anger, sorrow and hope: that those who have been spared as well as those whose lives are changed forever may find solace, sustenance, and strength in the days of recovery and reflection that come. We give thanks for strangers who comfort the wounded and who welcome stranded strangers,for first responders who run toward the sound of gunfire and into the smoke and fire of bombing sites.

Once again, Holy One, we cry, how long, O Lord? We seek forgiveness for the ways in which we have tolerated enmity and endured cultures of violence with weary resignation. We grieve the continued erosion of the fabric of our common life, the reality of fear that warps the common good. We pray in grief, remembering the lives that have been lost and maimed, in body or spirit.

We ask for sustaining courage for those who are suffering; wisdom and diligence among global and national agencies and individuals assessing threat and directing relief efforts; and for our anger and sorrow to unite in service to the establishment of a reign of peace, where the lion and the lamb may dwell together, and terror will not hold sway over our common life.

In these days of shock and sorrow, open our eyes, our hearts, and our hands to the movements of your Spirit, who flows in us like the river whose streams makes glad the city of God, and the hearts of all who dwell in it, and in You.

In the name of Christ, our healer and our Light, we pray, Amen.
Prayer by the Rev. Dr. Laurie Ann Kraus
Coordinator, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

 

From the Pastor’s Desk- an Unexpected Lent

lent-newWhile in the middle of discussions about cancelling a third service in two weeks (two Lenten prayer services due to weather and a Sunday service for lack of water), I was talking with the Lou Anne Gaffney, who is the chair of the Worship Committee.  I mentioned that I was sad we would not have this Lenten prayer service because it was meant to help equip the congregation for this year’s Lenten journey.  She said, “Rob, I think this Lent the focus is going to have to be on how to be faithful when nothing is working out the way we planned.”

It was the perfect response.  In fact, I wish I had said it.  In this season of crazy weather and a slew of cancelled or postponed events, many things have not gone the way I planned or expected.  There were times I was frustrated and after a while there were times I was just resigned to North Carolina ice being my new nemesis.

But, it is in the moments when our plans fail and our expectations shift that we are called to stop- and to listen.  It is these moments we are called to listen for the small, still voice of God in the midst of chaos.

So, this year for Lent, I would like to challenge our congregation to use our breaks in the weather to stop and listen.  Pray.  How is God calling in our lives to be part of God’s mission in the world?  How are we being called to worship and love God?  How are we being called to love our neighbor?  How are we called to do these things as individuals and as a community of believers together?

Lent gets a bum rap sometimes.  Maybe it can even feel like a downer.  But the heart of Lent is the burning question, “How may I go deeper in my relationship with God?”  And, who knows, maybe you will hear the answer in the middle of a snow day?!

Pastor’s Picks: Online Resources for Lent

ash-wednesday-clipart_13922520451Online Resources for Lent: Lent is a time to deepen our relationship with God.  There are many, many resources online to help you in your daily journey through Lent.   Here are a few “Pastor’s Picks” to get you started.

 

Presbyterians Today- Daily Lenten Devotional

http://www.presbyterianmission.org/calendar/lenten/
Presbyterians Today is the award-winning, general-interest magazine of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).   The Lenten devotional is available in online or print editions and provides a brief reflection and questions for reflection.

d365.org- Journey to the Cross

d365.org
The d365.org daily devotional is a site produced by Passport, Inc and supported by the Presbyterian Mission Agency, The Episcopal Church, and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.  Designed for students (but enjoyed by all ages) this devotional experience is available 365 days a year, but with special emphasis on Lent and Advent.  This devotion gives invitation to Pause, Listen, Think, Pray and Go.

Book of Common Worship: Daily Prayer App

http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/worship/daily-prayer/
This is an app for your smartphone.  The Office of Theology and Worship has developed a smartphone app for daily prayer. The Daily Prayer app provides simple, yet rich devotional resources for morning, midday, evening, and close of day. Each service includes psalms and readings from the confessions. Other elements include opening and closing words, biblical canticles, a thanksgiving for light and a prayer of confession. An advanced features menu allows users to customize which elements appear.   The app is available for both iPhone and Android devices.

Creating a Lenten Prayer Space at Home

http://www.buildfaith.org/2015/02/09/creating-lenten-prayer-space-home/
Article with practical ideas on creating space for Lenten prayer at home.

Video explaining Ash Wednesday and Lent in 2 Minutes

Lent on Social Media

Interact with others via hashtag #lent2015 on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.  Reflect on Lenten themes through a photo a day challenge like this one put together by https://www.facebook.com/LENTPHOTOADAY

40days

And finally, a challenging prayer for Lent…

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