Meeting Times at 4th United Presbyterian Church

Cafe' Worship: 9:15 a.m. each Sunday in Gathering Hall (activities provided for children; coffee; snacks)
Adult Sunday School: 10 a.m.

Sunday Worship: 11 a.m.

Bible Study: each Thursday at 6 p.m.

Community Forum: last Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. with meal (no community forum in November, 2011)

About the 4th United Presbyterian Bible Blog

Posts on this blog are from me, Rev. George H. Waters, one of the two organizing co-pastors of 4th United Presbyterian Church. Our other organizing pastor was Rev. Sonya McAuley-Allen, who is now pastor of a church in Charlotte, N.C. Since June of 2011, Rev. Elizabeth Peterson has been our parish associate pastor for new church development. The earliest posts are sermon notes from the few I have typed the last two years. Then, there is a series of notes posted on the book of Romans. After that, it varies from week to week, sometimes church news, sometimes reflections on a happening, a passage of scripture, or even some pictures. This blog is meant to open the conversation we have going on in our church to others in our community.

The picture below is of our church's sanctuary, built in 1913.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Good Friday Reflection on the Meaning of Lent

Many Christians observe "Lent" and practice "giving up things" for Lent. Some give up chocolate, others give up t.v., others give up soft drinks or coffee or wine or beer.

I don't ever give anything up for Lent - at least not voluntarily. But, this Lenten season, I ended up pretty much giving up two things: coffee (which I love, but which was hurting my stomach) and blogging (which I just lost the desire to do).

It occurred to me tonight that Lent is the voluntary practice of giving up things, because in life we have to undergo and survive the experience of involuntarily giving up things. We have to learn to give up so much that is so important. We have to learn to give up our health eventually, our ability to control this and that, and even our loved ones. It is actually a pretty solemn spiritual discipline, learning to give up things in preparation for giving up what is most precious in life and even life itself.

Life is a joy, and life is a struggle. As OCMS sings: "Walking a line between faith and fear." And, though we have each other to travel with, there is something deeply personal that each of us has to bear. There is a moment when you just plain have to bear it by yourself.

I always liked a song by Jackson Browne called "For a Dancer." Here are a couple of lines from it:

"Just do the steps that you've been shown
By everyone you've ever known
Until the dance becomes your very own
No matter how close to yours another's steps have grown
In the end there is one dance you'll do alone."

In worship this Sunday, we sang: "Jesus Walked this Lonesome Valley."

"Jesus walked this lonesome valley. He had to walk it by himself. Nobody else could walk it for him. He had to walk it by himself."

When we come to understand this, then we can help each other out, not necessarily by taking the load off of each other, but by understanding something about the load each other is bearing. In that way, we really do help each other bear the load.

These two thoughts are before me: one, about learning to give things up and reflecting on that as being a central learning of life, and two, about the deeply personal nature of that learning process.

As I have watched people I have known and loved die: some younger, some older, they have to learn to give up this and that precious part of life. For one, it was financial security, for another, it was sanity, for another it was the ability to walk, for another, the ability to drive, for another it was the ability to live on their own. But, nothing is more painful to give up than those we love. As we lose those we love to death, we learn the meaning of Lent: learning to give up that which is most precious, while learning the courage to live with the loss. At some point, even those with faith cry out to God: "My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me!?" Faith outlasts that cry in the end, endures it. Or, maybe that very cry is at the heart of faith - completely pouring out the deepest heartfelt experience of life and death before God. And, that painful question gets an answer - someday, it gets an answer, not in words, but in the shocking appearance of God in our midst, the life-giving presence of the Holy. I guess that is what Easter is all about.

No comments:

Post a Comment