Sunday’s Scripture ~ Colossians 1:15-17
This week we celebrate Ash Wednesday and cross the liturgical threshold into Lent. During this 40 day season we remember the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness. There he was tempted. There he defended his faith. “No, I will not test the Lord my God. No, I will not bow down and worship any other.”
Jesus fasted while in the wilderness. Surely hungry, the tempter suggests Jesus turn stones into loaves of bread. But Jesus resists. He does not want to break his spiritual focus. He does not want to give into the appetites of the flesh at the expense of the appetites of his faith – to seek God and only God, and to trust God to provide for his needs.
Many folks join Jesus in the wilderness during Lent by choosing to “give something up” so that one of their resources – be it time, energy, money, or others – might be channelled into either their relationship with God or into strengthening their service to others, which brings glory to God. Similarly other folks “add something on” during the Lenten season with the hopes that they will accomplish the same goal.
I have done both – given something up and added something on. It’s hard work for me to make sure these Lenten disciplines do not follow suit of my New Year’s Resolutions, which are usually a vague memory by the time Ash Wednesday comes to pass.
This year, for the second time, I am giving up wheat and flour and all related substances, as an extended mediation on Jesus’ defense to the tempter, “humans do not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
I am adding on the disciplines of several daily readings and prayers:
(1) Conference Social Justice devotions – these devotions will subject social justice passions and concerns throughout our annual conference. The purpose of these devotions is to raise awareness about these passions and concerns and to begin to create space for dialogue as to how Florida United Methodists can go about responding to them. You may access these devotions by visiting www.willtheyknow.com.
(2) Imagine No Malaria witnesses – these witnesses will lift up testimonies from the global neighborhood about the struggle with malaria. Remember that TUMC is seeking 100 giving units to give $65 between the seasons of Advent and Lent ($1/day) for a total of $6500 to benefit the annual conference’s support of the Imagine No Malaria Campaign. If your family is committed to being one of these giving units, please write your name on a mosquito and place it in the mosquito net in the Narthex gathering area beginning this Sunday. These devotions will be posted to the TUMC Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/TuskawillaUMC.
(3) #Picturelent devotions – these devotions and family activities have been written by clergy throughout the Florida Conference for the purpose of engaging families in creatively picturing their way through Lent. Each week of Lent will have a focus word that we are invited to focus into our camera lenses – phone, digital, or film! – to capture what Lent looks like to each of us. You may register to receive these devotions by visiting www.picturelent.com
(4) Continuing participation in our Church Family Prayer Focus. We will strengthen the ties that bind our congregation together by praying for one another, by praying for the folks we meet in our daily lives, and by praying for the folks God is sending our way. These names can be found printed weekly in your Sunday bulletin. If you do not receive a bulletin, you may call the church office to receive the list of families for the week.
That sounds like (and looks like!) quite an undertaking, but I am hopeful for this experience. To fulfill these “additions to” I will have to create time by cutting out some other activities, which I will draw me towards greater holiness.
During this season I am anxious to see how Jesus will be revealed as “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). How will you experience Lent? What do you plan to give up? What do you plan to add on? Prepare yourself for this journey. It will be long. It will lead us to some uncomfortable places. But ultimately, this journey is leading us to life eternal and the first step is the one across the threshold of Ash Wednesday.
Rev. Melissa Cooper will lead the Tuskawilla Community in worship this week. I hope you will enjoy your time with her and share the warmth of our hospitality with her.
Prayer: “O God our deliverer, you led your people of old through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land. Guide now the people of your church, that, following our Savior, we may walk through the wilderness of this world toward the glory of the world to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen.”*
*”Lent,” The United Methodist Hymnal 268.