Robert Webber clarifies the purpose of Lent and worship during the season of Lent. Webber writes, “Lenten worship is a season for personal and corporate spiritual renewal. It is a time for intense study of God's Word, for meditation, and for prayer and for self-examination.
Yes, the Season of Lent is a time of spiritual preparation for the celebration of Easter. We need that time of preparation. As Advent serves as a time to prepare for the coming of the Christ child, so Lent is a period of self-examination as we look within, and consider the trajectory of our lives and the way we are living them.
For Christians, the weeks of Lent leading up to Holy Week are weeks of discipline and devotion. We often think about what we need to let go of. What is it that has a hold on us to the degree that it keeps us from recognizing the love and grace of God? During Lent we follow our Lord to the cross and reflect on his suffering and death. Traditionally, Lent begins each year on Ash Wednesday. As in years past, we will be observing the tradition of imposing ashes in the sign of the cross on each person’s forehead, or hand. The ashes symbolize the dust from which God made us, and remind us of our own mortality. The ashes also symbolize our grief; grief over our sin and separation from God.
Our Ash Wednesday service will be held on March 6th at 7:15 pm. in our sanctuary. Our theme this year is “Ashes, Ashes: We All Fall Down.” We will begin the evening with a pancake supper in Bethany Hall at 6:15 pm. Please join us for this inspirational time of fellowship and worship. Also during Lent, I will be leading a class on Wednesday nights entitled “Simon Peter: A Flawed yet Faithful Follower of Jesus”. There is much to learn from Peter. Next to Jesus, Peter may arguably be the most significant person in the New Testament.
Peter was an ordinary fisherman who was transformed into a follower of Jesus. He was faithful, yet flawed. Peter was the first to profess Jesus as the Son of God, yet he later denied knowing him, but he went on to give his life for the sake of his call. I hope you will participate each Wednesday as we take an in-depth dive into the life, faith and character of Simon Peter.
I will also be preaching a series of sermons about Peter each Sunday in March and April. The Series is entitled, “A Man Called Peter.” We will examine Peter’s life and his relationship with our Lord. So get ready! Be prepared! Easter is coming; worship and study will help us prepare the way for a joy-filled Easter Sunday.
In Christ, Pastor Joel
I was scanning a recent blog by best-selling author and Life Coach Susie Moore, in which she shared 9 little known reasons why we should say “yes” in our lives, and how there is power to be found in saying “yes”.
Too often, churches find themselves saying “no” in a myriad of different ways, often without recognizing it. When churches do this, they may be blocking the movement of God’s Spirit among us and within us. And, they are most likely stifling the creativity, imagination, new ideas, and heart-bursts of God’s people. People need to be unleashed for ministry!
During the month of February, (and one week in March) I am planning a series of sermons on the “Power of Yes!” I hope you will be present each week as we ponder the following topics:
~In Christ, Pastor Joel
One of the things I appreciate most about Montgomery Hills Baptist Church is our rich tradition of worship. I am grateful for our “balanced” style of worship that allows us to use traditional hymns as well as more contemporary choruses and praise songs, and grateful too, for Cheryl and Jonathan and our praise team, and all those who lead us in worshipping God.
Our worship in January begins with a celebration of Epiphany. Epiphany is a rather strange sounding word I suppose. It comes from a Greek word meaning “manifestation or showing forth.” Epiphany marks the day on which the Magi, (or Three Kings, or Wise Men) following the light of a star, arrived in Bethlehem, bowing in worship before the Christ child.
Of course, a number of legends have grown up around this story. We don’t really know how many kings there were. We read of three gifts given so we assume there were three kings, but we don’t really know. There is no mention of a manger. In fact, the Bible speaks of the Magi entering a house, and their visit may have been as much as two years after Jesus’ birth.
The Magi were outsiders. They did not “belong.” They were Gentiles, not Jews, but they acknowledged by their worship and gift bearing that this child was Lord not only of Jews, but Lord of all people. The journey of the Magi speaks to us of God’s all inclusive love, and proclaims God’s salvation to all people. To be sure, Christ’s church can and must do better in mirroring such love.
Many call them kings; others say they were priests, still others say astrologers or astronomers. Whatever their vocation, Lee McGlone says, “They represent that noble spirit of curiosity that searches for truth and goes the distance to find it, and having found it, recognizes its deity and bows in worship and praise.”
The Sundays after Epiphany also afford us the opportunity to reflect on the acts and deeds of Jesus that reveal and show forth the power of God. We will consider for example, his baptism in the river Jordan; we will unpack his first miracle at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, where Jesus supplies that which is running out, the wine. And, we will retell the story of Jesus going back to his hometown of Nazareth to preach. That didn’t end so well.
Peter Bohler once said to Charles Wesley, "If I had a thousand tongues, I would praise Jesus Christ with every one of them." Wesley was so impressed by that statement, that he wrote the matchless hymn, "O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer's praise."
Well, we may not have a thousand tongues to sing every Sunday, but we can all glorify God, thank God for his blessings, pray for the needs of others, listen to the Word read, sung, and preached, respond in faith, and testify to what God has done for us. Please join us each Sunday in January. “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice!”
Blessings, Pastor Joel
Pastor Joel Hawthorne