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    'Ash Wednesday 2019' Pastoral Letter

    March 8, 2019

    Ash Wednesday, 2019

    Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord, your God?

    Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy. Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep. Let them say, “Spare your people, O Lord, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”

    Joel 2:12-17

    Dear church family,

    Seeing “Ash Wednesday” at the top of this letter may worry you concerning your new pastor, or simply make you wonder. You may know that in some mainline churches, people have ashes smeared on their foreheads as a sign of repentance. Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent, a 40 day period leading up to the high point of the Christian year, Easter, when we celebrate Jesus' resurrection from the dead. Lent is traditionally a time of repentance and self-examination concerning our tendency to sin and self-sufficiency. These verses from Joel 2 are from one of the readings appointed for Ash Wednesday. They are a powerful call to seek first God's kingdom and his righteousness.

    We might question whether there is any value in Lent: it's not in the Bible and doesn't it come under what Paul refers to as “observing special days and months and seasons and years” (Gal. 4:10)?! It could, if it was just an outward observance, just as any merely outward observance could be empty. But I have found that a spiritual season can get my attention in a different way just as the seasons of the earth do. It's an opportunity for a specific period of time to be challenged about my routines and habits. I have fasted from desserts or coffee for Lent, not as a “work” or to win some brownie points, but rather to help me realize how much I depend on those things, rather than depending on God. Or, we could think about it in a positive light. What new discipline would help me to grow spiritually? Perhaps memorizing a Psalm or portion of Scripture, perhaps studying a book of the Bible, perhaps volunteering at New Life/Mustard Seed, perhaps visiting some seniors who can't get out, perhaps spending 10 minutes a day thanking God for blessings and encouragement? Whether you give something up or take something on, my prayer is that the Lord will draw us all closer to Him, as we draw near to Easter!

    Some upcoming news and reminders:

    Prayer during and after worship service: Just a reminder that prayer is available at the “open altar” during the prayer time in our worship service and also after the service. After the service, someone will be available to pray with anyone coming with a need.

    Vern and Jackie's return: Vern and Jackie will be back in our midst on Sunday, March 17. Please welcome them back and continue to make space for them to be retired, and adjust to a new phase of life.

    Equipping Nights: As you know, I have begun monthly Equipping Nights, to train, encourage, equip this body for spiritual growth and service. The next one, I had planned to be about outreach and witness. I actually hope to make that outreach Equipping Night recur on a quarterly basis, with the main theme of encouraging one another in joyful witness. However, as I have been praying, I sense that the Lord would have me bring forward a different focus at this time. So, the March Equipping Night on Wednesday, March 20, will be “How to Listen to God.” There will be some teaching and some practicing of listening together. Everyone welcome!

    During spring break (for my children, March 18-31), we will be away on vacation for a week, March 25-31, visiting family and friends in Edmonton.

    RG and bishop's visit: We are hosting the BC Regional Gathering of the Free Methodist Church in Canada, on April 6th. Bishop Cliff will be with us that weekend, and will preach and lead Communion in our worship service. More information about the RG will be forthcoming. Everyone in our congregation is welcomed to attend the meetings on the Saturday. There will be an opportunity for our leaders to interact with Bishop Cliff on Saturday afternoon, and for everyone to meet and greet Bishop Cliff on Sunday at an informal breakfast before church.

    Week of Prayer: April 8-14th will be our next Week of Prayer, a periodic focus and opportunity for more intentional corporate prayer. There will be extra opportunities to gather for prayer, a longer “perimeter” prayer walk in Brocklehurst, and possibly 24 hours of round the clock intercession.

    The beginning of Lent signals that Holy Week and Easter are not far off! April 14 is Palm Sunday, when Jesus entered Jerusalem as King, and then we journey with Jesus to Gethsemane on Maundy Thursday, and to the cross on Good Friday. We will mark those events following the traditions of this congregation. And then, we will celebrate on Easter Sunday morning the glorious Day of Resurrection and the beginning of God's new creation!

    I want to thank you as a congregation for welcoming me and my family as you have done, with hospitality and encouragement. We are still transitioning to our new lives and roles here among you, and we are grateful for God's grace and presence in the midst of our congregation. I also realize that this transition entails many changes for you, and I want to invite you to speak to me about anything that challenges you or is uncomfortable or confusing. Please know that you can call me and speak your mind and I will try to listen.

    Grace and peace,

    Pastor Shelley

     

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