Maybe every winter feels long when you are wandering through it. I am not much of a winter guy. I don’t like the snow, especially if I need to be somewhere. I don’t like the sun going down so early. I don’t like the way that gray winter clouds form a heavy sheet over the earth. I think we’ve had enough winter.
The Church of the Brethren ministers manual, called “For All who Minister,” defines Lent with these words: “The forty days of Lent are most frequently identified with Jesus’ fortyday fast in the desert, the forty days Moses spent on Mount Sinai, and Israel’s forty years of wandering in the wilderness. The season of Lent focuses on discipline and penitence and is a time for increased reflection on the life, teaching, and sacrificial death of Christ.”
The sign of any great moment in life is that we do not want it to end. Moments like singing Silent Night in our candle lit sanctuary or slowly sipping coffee on Christmas day surrounded by family. In these moments, we are keenly aware of our emotions and the Spirit’s presence. We just want to breathe it in and stay there like Peter on the mountain with a transfigured Jesus.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere you go!” It was amazing to me how quickly the Christmas season came upon us this year. I was still marveling at the colors of fall and the beautiful leaves of orange, red and yellow all around me — summer was still a not-so-distant memory — and then one day I drove to church and the garland and lights were around the light posts and the Christmas tree was set-up downtown. Christmas decorations seem to be hung up in people’s homes and in stores earlier and earlier each year, which means the time of anticipation for Christmas gets longer and longer. I honestly hope this trend doesn’t make the time of anticipation and excitement less meaningful.
Despite communicative technology that brings people together with immediacy and clarity, many scholars speculate that people living in our society today are some of the loneliest ever. While communication is easy, the medium does not promote intimacy. Thus, many people in our society do not understand real intimacy and thus struggle to understand real community.
Starting in October, we will have a special worship series using the Living Peace Curriculum put together by On Earth Peace, an agency of the Church of the Brethren. This is a six week study that would encourage us to consider what it would look like if our congregation lived like a peace church led by God, following in Christ’s footsteps, and inspired by the Spirit. Along with these topics in worship, we invite you to join us in a daily Bible study and weekly reflection questions. The Living Peace Gathering group will also be hosting four lunch conversation opportunities in the Fellowship Hall after the 11:00 AM worship (October 11, 18, 25, and November 15) for us to continue the conversation together.
The Church is buzzing. Summer vacations have mostly come to an end. August has reminded me of the many important ministries that happen through this congregation. In August, church workers plan and prepare for a year ahead. Wisely, we lay a foundation from which God can construct lives of discipleship. It reminds me of Christ’s classic parable from Matthew 7, where the wise man’s house is built on rock so as to withstand rain, flood, and wind. The Church was buzzing this August laying a foundation from which our ministries can flourish.
At the end of August you will have an opportunity during worship to participate in a service of anointing. Anointing is one of those things we do in the Church of the Brethren that is unique. I have profound memories of anointing at National Youth Conference held every four years. I was anointed when I was a youth at this conference and that moment initiated my first steps along my path toward ministry.
Summer is such a sweet time of the year. The cherry tree behind our house has bright red, tart cherries. The orchards around Hagerstown will be advertising fresh peaches and watermelons. These fresh fruits hit the spot with delight and satisfaction on a hot summer day.
The first Sunday of May was All Music Sunday. Our two services came together into one service so that we could raise our voices and instruments in common song to our God. Praising God through music is a common topic in the Bible, especially in the Book of Psalms, which is no surprise, given that the psalms are written as an invitation to praise God in all aspects of life. The psalms are rich with heart-felt words of both sorrow and joy and speak to how we can praise God in the midst of both of these.