The season of Lent is fast approaching, beginning with Ash Wednesday on March 5th. We will gather on Wednesday evenings for soup & sandwich suppers, worship, and Easter cantata practice. The format of our weekly Lenten worship this year will be Holden evening prayer, with an emphasis in the sermon time on the topic of making change. Change is a constant in our lives. Some changes mark gradual transitions, as when daytime shifts toward twilight or winter turns to spring. Others happen in the blink of an eye, separating time into “before” and “after.” We choose to undergo some changes after carefully considering our options, while other changes are forced upon us.
Throughout the Wednesday evening worship opportunities, I will touch on such different types of change as: the change of season, the change of habit, the change of circumstances, the change of heart, and the change of plans. The Gospel readings for the Sundays in Lent also emphasize change and new life in Jesus Christ. Jesus challenges Nicodemus to be born from above. Jesus offers a Samaritan woman the living water that quenches all thirst. Jesus gives sight to the blind man. Jesus raise Lazarus from the grave. The events of Holy Week will show the changes experienced by the disciples, from the approach of the gates of Jerusalem, to the arrest and trial of Jesus, to the crucifixion of Jesus, to his resurrection. Change indeed!
I have been so grateful for those who have been able to read with me Mark Allen Powell’s book, Loving Jesus, during our Faith Wednesdays. One of his main points in this book is to have a dialogue about the need to love Jesus in a complicated world. He writes “As spiritual pilgrims seeking to love Jesus in this complicated world, we require faith to let go of every hindrance God has removed in baptism, strength to deal appropriately with those problems that will be with us till death, and discernment regarding which are which.” Change is hard, for all of us. Often we find ourselves in the midst of uncertainty and the unknown, rather than in places that are familiar. The God that we worship, the God who has claimed us in baptism, is the God who loves us in the midst of change with a steadfast and everlasting love. God loves us during all of the changes of life, even in changes of which we cannot predict the ending.
During the days of Lent, I would like all of us to pray a prayer attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr. This prayer is often called the Serenity Prayer, and it speaks to change and God’s loving presence in the midst of it all.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as the pathway to peace; taking, as God did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that God will make all things right if I surrender to God’s will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with God forever in the next.
Living in God’s amazing grace,
Pastor Matthew Groenke