Many Christian churches use an Advent wreath to mark the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Each week, another candle is lit, and some Advent wreaths include a fifth candle in the center, lighting the “Christ Candle” on Christmas Eve.
I grew up in a non-liturgical church. We didn’t celebrate the seasons of the church year – at least not the way our mainline sisters and brothers did. Sure, we had Easter and Christmas, but Lent and Advent? Pentecost? Ordinary time? I had no clue.
Coming into a congregation that observed these sacred seasons shifted my perspective. I grew to love the rhythm of the church year: the waiting, the working, the worship. So when, a few years ago, someone asked if we could do a “reverse Advent wreath” for Lent, I took it as an invitation.
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March 15, 2019
Last night, just as I was turning out the kitchen light, I heard a crashing thump. At first, I thought that Bruce had fallen while getting ready for bed. I called upstairs, “Are you all right?” “I’m fine, but the gutter isn’t,” he answered. I stepped outside and looked at the roof of our porch. A giant ice dam that had been melting over the past couple of days had fallen, and it had taken a four-foot length of rain gutter with it.
Years ago, I started calling this time of year The Season of Rotten Snow. Just as we are getting into the season of Lent, when we ask God to reveal to us the dark corners of our souls and the sin we hide there, a winter’s worth of snow is melting away. The pristine white landscapes of December are gone. Now there is only this gray, slushy mess, revealing all the trash and dirt that has accumulated over the winter.
The Season of Rotten Snow reminds us that we have work to do in our hearts. It’s time to clear out the anger and animosity, the complacency and self-centeredness, the resignation and hopelessness that have been building up in our souls. As melting snow reveals all the dirt of a winter, Lent reveals all the sin that we’ve let slide undetected into our lives.
And if we don’t want that sin to bring us to ruin, just as that ice dam brought the rain gutter to ruin, it’s time to acknowledge it for what it is: sin. It’s time to give it over to Christ, ask forgiveness, and be healed. May this Season of Rotten Snow reveal not only your sin to you, but Christ’s abundant, gracious, forgiving love. May you find healing in repentance, and peace in forgiveness, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
March 3, 2019
This message is based on an outline provided by J.D. Walt for the Listen to Him Lenten study series.
A lot has happened since we left Jesus preaching on a level place last week. He has traveled all over Galilee, healing, casting out demons, preaching and teaching about the Kingdom of God – and it seems that everywhere he goes, the Pharisees are on his trail. They question him and challenge him. They invite him to dinner, and then criticize him to the other guests. Those Pharisees…
By the time we get from chapter six – where we left off last week – to today’s reading in chapter 9, Jesus has even raised a young girl from the dead. He has fed 5000 people and calmed a storm in the middle of the lake. He has sent out his apostles on their first mission trip, and explained that whoever wants to follow Jesus must deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow him. Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for his sake will save it.
And then he tells them something really amazing. Jesus says, “there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God.” (9:27) He isn’t predicting that some of the disciples will live until the second coming. He’s telling them about an event that is just around the corner. Continue reading →
February 1, 2015
The farmer from North Dakota shook his head as he looked out the bus window. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many rocks,” he said. We were in the middle of day three (or was it four?) of our pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and I realized that a farmer from North Dakota probably had a unique view of the landscape of Israel.
Rocks mean work. Rocks must be cleared before plowing and planting can happen. And the farmer was right: rocks were everywhere we looked. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus talked about seed landing on rocky soil. Here was clear evidence that Jesus used common experience to get through to his listeners. They would have known exactly what he meant by “rocky soil.” Rocks dotted every green hillside, every lush valley. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many rocks.
The season of Lent begins in a few short weeks. These 40 days of preparation for Easter have traditionally included the spiritual practices of prayer, fasting, and giving to the poor. We often describe the season of Lent as a journey toward the Cross, a path we follow to become more faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.
But that path can be a rocky one. The roads Jesus walked were not always smoothly paved. When we choose to follow Jesus, we accept the challenge of walking where we might not otherwise want to go. The season of Lent gives us an opportunity to examine our hearts, and to recommit ourselves to the Way of the Cross. This Way is often steep and difficult to follow. It may be littered with rocks that can trip us up if we aren’t careful. But Jesus leads us forward, giving us sure footing if we look to him.
Will you come join the journey this Lent, and learn what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?
“Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” – Matthew 11:6
You can find the original of this post on my church’s webpage under “From the Pastor’s Desk” for January 23, 2015 or click this link.