Here Comes Lent (Spring)

The season of Lent begins next Wednesday, March 6, with what we call Ash Wednesday. We will have an Ash Wednesday Service at 12 noon. Lent is a season of 40 days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “lencten” which means “spring.” The season is a preparation for celebrating Easter. The First Sunday describes Jesus’ temptation by Satan; and the 6th Sunday (Palm-Passion Sunday), Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his subsequent passion and death.
I hope you can come to our 12 noon Ash Wednesday service next week. It is a good way to start the season of Lent. Here is the way the United Methodist Book of Worship describes the Ash Wednesday service. Ash Wednesday emphasizes a dual encounter: we confront our own mortality and confess our sin before God within the community of faith. The form and content of the service focus on the dual themes of sin and death in the light of God’s redeeming love in Jesus Christ. 
 The use of ashes as a sign of mortality and repentance has a long history in Jewish and Christian worship, and the Imposition of Ashes can be a powerful nonverbal and experiential way of participating in the call to repentance and reconciliation. This practice is the historic focus of Ash Wednesday observance and gave the day its name. 
In a time of uncertainty in our United Methodist denomination and in our world, the season of Lent can be an important and powerful journey for us to take together.

General Conference

I call your attention to the message in these Thursday Thoughts from our Bishop Minerva G. Carcano about the General Conference of the United Methodist Church in St.Louis starting this Saturday, Feb 23 and concluding on the 26th. This General Conference is for the sole purpose of determining the policy of the United Methodist Church on the inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the life of the church. 
This has been an area of contention in the life of our denomination since 1972. Societal attitudes have changed.The American Medical Association no longer considers homosexuality to be a deviant lifestyle choice but an orientation that one is born with. Battles have been fought and won against housing and job discrimination and now a same sex couple can legally marry. I have provided pastoral care to many LGBTQ persons and even commitment services for same sex couples before marriage was legal. I have seen people leave the church because they felt unaccepted or because they felt the sting of judgement on a son or daughter or other family member. I have seen others leave because they felt the UMC was too accepting of what they considered to be a sinful lifestyle. 
Now we are coming to a crucial decision in the history of our denomination. I don’t know what will happen — a split or a plan that allows us to disagree and still go on being the church together. This I know — the God I meet in Jesus the Christ is bigger than the United Methodist Church and any other denomination or faith understanding. Thanks be to God for that! I also know that I love the United Methodist Church that nurtured and trained me in the faith, and helped me grow as a disciple and a human being. I love the United Methodist Church that I have served as a pastor for about 35 years now. 
I am praying tor the leading of the Spirit as we approach this General Conference and the days of February 23 – 26. I invite you to do the same. Blessings, 

Pastor Steve Lundin