Dear Members and Friends of St. Paul’s,
As we enter the season of Lent, it is a time for the church to get back to the basics of our faith, immersing ourselves in prayer, study, worship and the sacraments. In worship, we’ll hear many well-known stories, such as the temptation of Jesus, God’s covenant with Abram, the Prodigal Son, and Mary anointing Jesus. These stories help center us on the most important aspects of our faith, reminding us of God’s great love for us, God’s mercy and forgiveness, God’s promise of protection and endurance, and our response of faithful worship and thanks.
Returning to the basics isn’t always easy. In fact, we often refer to this time of year as entering into “the Discipline of Lent”. Faithful living takes time, energy, focus, and generosity. During Lent, God challenges us to examine ourselves, repent, and serve one another. God challenges us to live more deeply into our faith.
Over the last two years, it has been difficult to practice even these basics and live deeply in our faith as the pandemic has turned the world on its head. Perhaps, as the COVID numbers improve, we can get back to some of these basics even more deeply than we had before. Certainly, the pandemic is not yet over, but as the weather changes and cases decrease, I encourage you to consider coming back to church when you feel it is safe to do so. Join us for worship, attend a Bible study, gather with the men’s prayer breakfast, visit the Needle & Thread group, try an aerobics class, participate in the youth group, or more.
I love to lead Bible studies, and so this Lent, I’ll be leading a study over Zoom on Monday nights. You are invited to join me as we read through the seasonal study published by ELCA World Hunger called A Way in the Wilderness. More info about the study is available later in the newsletter. This is one way in which we can get back to the basics of our faith, by immersing ourselves in the Word and contemplating how it reaches into our world today.
The Church Council will also be going back to some of the basics over the next several months. After several years of transition, St. Paul’s needs to examine how God is calling us into the future. What is our mission? Who is God calling us to be? The Council has begun this process by sharing their faith stories during our devotion time at meetings. This way, we begin to understand where we have come from and what is most important to each one of us. Soon, we will begin to identify some of the church’s core values, and eventually, we will form this into a mission and vision for the future. It will take time, but as we ground ourselves in the basic and most important aspects of our ministry together, God will guide us as we look to our future vision.
As the Council engages in this work, I encourage you to also take time to reflect during Lent: What is the foundation of your faith? How can you live more deeply into your faith? What do you value most about worship and life at St. Paul’s? Who is God calling you to be in the years ahead?
As we say on Ash Wednesday, “As disciples of Jesus, we are called to a discipline that contends against evil and resists whatever leads us away from the love of God and neighbor. I invite you, therefore, to the discipline of Lent — self-examination and repentance, prayer and fasting, sacrificial giving and works of love – strengthened by the gifts of word and sacrament. Let us continue our journey through these forty days to the great Three Days of Jesus’ death and resurrection.” (ELW Ash Wednesday, Invitation to Lent)
Peace, Rev. Jessica Hahn