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Archive for March 2017

Journey to Jerusalem

We are near the end of our Lenten Journey. Up to this point, the path has been pretty well-paved; a comfortable path for walking with a group of people and to stop and admire the view and drink in the goodness of our story together. But now the road begins to narrow and we face some obstacles. Read about Jesus’ three year stint Teaching, Preaching, and Healing in the article below.

You will benefit the most from this journey if you participate in the activities beyond Sunday worship. There are plenty of opportunities; just check out our trip itinerary:

Tuesday Noon (lunch provided)
or Tuesday Evening (5:30 — 6:30)
Our Tuesday Lenten study will include deeper readings of the scriptures from the previous Sunday. You will also get to engage in “Prayer Centers” from week to week that will guide you to a deeper prayer experience. If you are unable to attend on Tuesdays, the Prayer Centers will be open when the office is open during the week, and study guides will be available to help you through the centers.

The Banner
Each week we will be coloring in a beautiful banner designed by local artist and CEH Member Laura Veenstra. Each week at the Service Station, the prayer centers, and during our Lenten Study time, we will be coloring in a section of the banner that coordinates with the week’s theme. The banner will hang during our worship services to be a visual reminder of where we are headed in our journey.

The Cross
There is a cross that was fashioned from the CEH Christmas Tree (thank you Stephen Eddy!) that will journey from the foyer to the Chancel throughout Lent. As we progress on our journey through Jesus’ life, we will be bringing the cross closer and closer to the front of our sanctuary as a reminder where we are headed. There will be activities throughout the worship service, focusing on the cross, that give you an opportunity to deepen your commitment to Christ.

GPS
Each week you will receive a “Grow, Pray, Study” Guide to deepen your understanding of the life of Christ. Like a GPS Navigation system, your GPS will guide you through this journey.

Compass Clips
The kaleidoscopes during Advent were so successful, we looked for an appropriate symbol to hold onto for this Lenten Journey. The children will be receiving their own “Compass clip” that they can put on their backpack or carry in their pocket. This compass will be representative of needing God’s guidance and direction in our lives. These are available for adults if you would like a physical reminder to let God be your guide through life.

“Meeting Jesus” Lenten Devotional
The 2017 “Presbyterians Today” Lenten Devotional contains 47 short, 1st Person Readings from people who encountered Jesus. This is an excellent way to challenge yourself to daily contemplation on the Word and on the life of Christ.

Holy Week Services
We will have our regular Monday and Tuesday studies, with an additional service on Maundy Thursday, and an ecumenical service at St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Granby for Good Friday.

Easter Vigil
We will cover the darkest hours of our faith with prayer, from Friday night after the Good Friday service through sunrise on Easter morning. You can sign up for a one (or more) hour slot during which you can pray and be in meditation. Pastor Paula will make a Prayer Vigil Guide for your time of prayer. Don’t worry! The guide really helps you through the hour of prayer and meditation.

Resurrection Day (Easter!)
Sunrise Service, followed by a breakfast will begin our day with worship and fellowship. After breakfast, we are sponsoring an Easter Egg hunt for our entire community, in hopes that they might stick around for the rest of our festivities. Our Service Station will be really amazing for this holiest of days, so plan to come at 9:10 if you would like to participate in being the hands and feet of Christ to a hurting world as we make “Gift of the Heart Kits” for the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.
Our 10 AM service will be an incredible celebration of the empty tomb, beginning in the Fellowship Hall and moving to the sanctuary to roll the stone away!

All of these resources can also be emailed or mailed if you cannot pick one up from the church.

With Encouragement for the Journey,

Rev. Paula

***
Lent Four: The Way
Jesus’ Preaching, Teaching, and Healing

This portion of our journey contains the most scriptures and traditions — I mean, everyone has their favorite story of Jesus preaching, teaching or healing over what Matthew and Luke portray to be about three years’ time. And the coolest thing about it is that from his first public statements in Luke to his incredible preaching in Matthew, Jesus speaks truth in words that are clear and loud and always right in the midst of the people. The regular people: fishermen, teachers, tax collectors, sinners, adulterers, slaves and citizens. He starts it out in Luke with these powerful words from Isaiah 61:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

“Today,” Jesus told them — “Today this is all coming true because I’m here.”

And starting from there that is precisely what he did. With his disciples in tow, Jesus traveled from town to town, sometimes teaching in the synagogues, but mostly on the plains and lakeshores and mountainsides where the ordinary Joe’s could be found. Jesus had a terrific knack for finding hurting people right where they were hurting.

He preached to the hungry people, and followed it up with a feast of fish and loaves. He encountered lepers and demoniacs and restored them to wholeness right then and there. In the heat of the day, at the place where she most felt shame, he restored a woman at the well to fellowship within her community, and gained an incredible evangelist in the process. Because of her, John 4’s woman at the well story ends with this testimony, “They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.’”

So Jesus became known for all these things, and people really loved him and followed him closely, and spread the word about him. Not because he was selling out the Coliseum or Arenas or Amphitheatres; because he met them where they were.

And Jesus still meets us where we are. We don’t have to be anywhere special to be in the presence of Jesus. He comes and is present, invited or not (Erasmus wrote these words on his home: VOCATUS ATQUE NON VOCATUS DEUS ADERIT “bidden or unbidden, God is present”). We just need to stop and take note of his presence. We also need to remember that he will meet us in our deepest hurts, and will restore us to wholeness if we allow it.

This part of the journey has reminded us that we too need to encounter Jesus, allow him to heal us, and then continue on with even more determination and passion. So keep your eyes and hearts open! Jesus is in our midst even now, waiting to take away our burdens and pains even though he has plenty of his own to bear.

I’ll give you one last quote, by one of my preferred writers/theologians Frederich Buechner. He says it so eloquently I can’t really top it:

JESUS IS APT TO COME, into the very midst of life at its most real and inescapable. Not in a blaze of unearthly light, not in the midst of a sermon, not in the throes of some kind of religious daydream, but . . . at supper time, or walking along a road. This is the element that all the stories about Christ’s return to life have in common: Mary waiting at the empty tomb and suddenly turning around to see somebody standing there—someone she thought at first was the gardener; all the disciples except Thomas hiding out in a locked house, and then his coming and standing in the midst; and later, when Thomas was there, his coming again and standing in the midst; Peter taking his boat back after a night at sea, and there on the shore, near a little fire of coals, a familiar figure asking, “Children, have you any fish?”; the two men at Emmaus who knew him in the breaking of the bread. He never approached from on high, but always in the midst, in the midst of people, in the midst of real life and the questions that real life asks.

– F. Buechner, originally published in The Magnificent Defeat

With Assurance,

Rev. Paula

Prayer Stations
doodle prayer 2017
Using Psalm 32 to “Doodle Pray.”
Last week’s prayer station is still available, and will be through the rest of Lent. “Doodle Prayers” give you a chance to sit in silent contemplation and draw out the thoughts and words that God is putting on your heart during prayer time. Give it a try! Leave your artwork for others to admire. 🙂

Journey From Bethlehem to Jerusalem

Our Lenten journey so far has taken us from Bethlehem to Egypt to Nazareth and to Jerusalem; from the calm banks of the Jordan River to the dangerous wilderness; this week we find ourselves on the shores of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus calls out “Follow Me” (see article below).

You will benefit the most from this journey if you participate in the activities beyond Sunday worship. There are plenty of opportunities; just check out our trip itinerary:

Tuesday Noon (lunch provided)
or Tuesday Evening (5:30 — 6:30)
Our Tuesday Lenten study will include deeper readings of the scriptures from the previous Sunday. You will also get to engage in “Prayer Centers” from week to week that will guide you to a deeper prayer experience. If you are unable to attend on Tuesdays, the Prayer Centers will be open when the office is open during the week, and study guides will be available to help you through the centers.

The Banner
Each week we will be coloring in a beautiful banner designed by local artist and CEH Member Laura Veenstra. Each week at the Service Station, the prayer centers, and during our Lenten Study time, we will be coloring in a section of the banner that coordinates with the week’s theme. The banner will hang during our worship services to be a visual reminder of where we are headed in our journey.

The Cross
There is a cross that was fashioned from the CEH Christmas Tree (thank you Stephen Eddy!) that will journey from the foyer to the Chancel throughout Lent. As we progress on our journey through Jesus’ life, we will be bringing the cross closer and closer to the front of our sanctuary as a reminder where we are headed. There will be activities throughout the worship service, focusing on the cross, that give you an opportunity to deepen your commitment to Christ.

GPS
Each week you will receive a “Grow, Pray, Study” Guide to deepen your understanding of the life of Christ. Like a GPS Navigation system, your GPS will guide you through this journey.

Compass Clips
The kaleidoscopes during Advent were so successful, we looked for an appropriate symbol to hold onto for this Lenten Journey. The children will be receiving their own “Compass clip” that they can put on their backpack or carry in their pocket. This compass will be representative of needing God’s guidance and direction in our lives. These are available for adults if you would like a physical reminder to let God be your guide through life.

“Meeting Jesus” Lenten Devotional
The 2017 “Presbyterians Today” Lenten Devotional contains 47 short, 1st Person Readings from people who encountered Jesus. This is an excellent way to challenge yourself to daily contemplation on the Word and on the life of Christ.

Holy Week Services
We will have our regular Monday and Tuesday studies, with an additional service on Maundy Thursday, and an ecumenical service at St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Granby for Good Friday.

Easter Vigil
We will cover the darkest hours of our faith with prayer, from Friday night after the Good Friday service through sunrise on Easter morning. You can sign up for a one (or more) hour slot during which you can pray and be in meditation. Pastor Paula will make a Prayer Vigil Guide for your time of prayer. Don’t worry! The guide really helps you through the hour of prayer and meditation.

Resurrection Day (Easter!)
Sunrise Service, followed by a breakfast will begin our day with worship and fellowship. After breakfast, we are sponsoring an Easter Egg hunt for our entire community, in hopes that they might stick around for the rest of our festivities. Our Service Station will be really amazing for this holiest of days, so plan to come at 9:10 if you would like to participate in being the hands and feet of Christ to a hurting world as we make “Gift of the Heart Kits” for the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.
Our 10 AM service will be an incredible celebration of the empty tomb, beginning in the Fellowship Hall and moving to the sanctuary to roll the stone away!

All of these resources can also be emailed or mailed if you cannot pick one up from the church.

With Encouragement for the Journey,

Rev. Paula

***
Lent Three: Follow Me
Jesus Calls His Disciples

Follow Me
We’ve arrived at our place in the story where Jesus calls his disciples. Note — he did not call the powerful, learned, scholars of his time. He did not call the wealthy tradesmen, the honorable Scribes, Pharisees, or teachers.

Jesus went to a lakeshore and called some fishermen. And, without hesitancy or questions they put down their nets and followed him (Matthew 4:18-22). Later in Matthew (9:9-13), Jesus calls “Matthew” the tax collector and Matthew, without hesitancy, got up and followed Jesus.

It’s pretty cool the way this rag tag bunch of followers just fell in line behind Jesus, because in nearly every other call narrative in our scriptures, the King, Prophet, Judge, Leader being called make excuses for not following — they claim their own faults and shortcomings. They speak their deepest feelings of inadequacy honestly to God, and every time, God promises them they are the person for the job.

It’s a good lesson for us. We make excuses all the time for why we can’t be better disciples. This word “disciple” is not one to be taken lightly. A disciple is not just one who follows along and listens and does whatever their teacher tells them; a disciple indicates a dedicated student who will live and eat and breathe and travel with their teacher, following so closely they will be “covered in the dust of their Rabbi.”

I think that would be the best compliment of all time — for someone to say, “Paula — you’re just filthy from the dust of Jesus.” In Jesus’ time, that meant the dust from a leper colony and a cemetery where a crazy, possessed man flailed around naked; the sun-drenched dust of a lonely well outside of Samaria; the dust from a public courtyard where everyone laid down their stone and walked away from a woman caught in adultery; the dusty remnants of mud that had been spread over a blind man’s eyes; and the dust from the place of the skulls, where I may have watched with horror as my Rabbi was put to death in a heinous and public display of Roman power.

What would that filth look like today? Well, if I were really following Jesus closely, that dust would certainly contain traces of places that I’m pretty much unwilling to go. After all, Jesus went to the most despised and forgotten people, and I stick with my own kind most every day. The dust of our Rabbi today might have the sand and construction rubble from war-torn Syria; dry and desperate dirt from our southern-most border, where drug wars rage and children are sold off into human trafficking; the smoke and remains of a village in Uganda where child soldiers’ families were murdered and the children carried away to become monsters for the cause of the LRA. I think if I followed Jesus closely enough, my body would bear the soot and grime from too many nights on the streets of a big city, and my nails and hands would be caked with the sticky garbage from the dumpster where I dug for my dinner.

But you know what? Something we can learn from what those fishermen, taxmen, sinners, skeptics and saints brought with them is this: they heard the call, they came, and they brought their “not good enough” selves with openness and willingness to serve. And don’t we all have that? We may not be called to walk into war-torn countries and save the children there, but we may be called to do something even more difficult in the daily practice of it: love our neighbors as ourselves. Walk alongside those in our own community who are hurting and needy and learn how we can serve them. Use our skills and talents and time right where we are, wherever we may be, and with whomever we may interact.

Each week following the sermon, we’ve participated in an activity to get us up and moving, and to consider our own commitment on this journey. On Sunday, as we considered Jesus’ call to “Follow Me,” I asked those in attendance to take a paper footprint and write on it the gifts, skills, talents they bring when they follow Jesus. Our activity this week produced some amazing results. Do you see that picture above with all the footsteps? You probably can’t tell, but there were about 80 more footprints sprinkled at the foot of the cross. And on each of those footprints are the gifts, skills, trades, talents that you bring with you as you follow Jesus.

I didn’t ask congregants to write what they lack; I asked congregants to write what they bring. And you know what? With the incredible gifts and talents written on those footprints, I think we could change the world, friends! We are incredibly blessed with countless gifts and visions. Don’t believe me? Here’s a sampling of what CEH has to offer this world:
“Willingness to serve.”
“I can lift up my voice and bring the gift of song — singing God’s praises to those who enjoy His word in song.”
“My faithfulness and love of my Lord!”
“My enthusiasm for life and attempts to make it better.”
“My kindness to others and the interest that I show to new people I meet.”
“My love of my world and the nature around me. May I always treat it with respect.”
“Oh Lord — what I bring . . . .all my imperfections, but mostly I bring my GREAT LOVE for you. You move me, mold me, and hold me. I bring my heart, and only pray you will help me bring all the brokenness into place to serve you better.”
“What I can bring? Skills to articulate to others.”
“Knowing I fall short; knowing you love me anyway.”
“Love.”
“Encouragement.”
“Great listener that can make people open up and smile or laugh.”
“Humor, laughter.”
“Smiles.”
“Willingness.”
“Forgiveness.”
“Compassion for others.”

What a list! There are more and more skills, gifts, humble offerings, and mostly an incredible desire to follow closely and faithfully than I could list here. I’m going to keep these footprints for a long time, and read over them, praying for the talents you are all willing to share in your pursuit of your Rabbi. I will pray that you understand your gifts are good enough and exactly what God needs to complete this Kingdom.

Together, may we follow our Rabbi so closely, we will be covered in his dust. And as we follow, let us do so with an acute awareness that God Calls us and uses us, even in our weaknesses and fallibility.

With Confidence,

Rev. Paula

Prayer Stations
doodle prayer 2017
Using Psalm 32 to “Doodle Pray.”
Last week’s prayer station is still available, and will be through the rest of Lent. “Doodle Prayers” give you a chance to sit in silent contemplation and draw out the thoughts and words that God is putting on your heart during prayer time. Give it a try! Leave your artwork for others to admire. 🙂

Journey From Bethlehem to Jerusalem

Our Lenten theme is “Journey.” This year we will be looking at the whole arc of Jesus’ life and story, from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. So far that arc has taken us from Bethlehem to Egypt to Nazareth and to Jerusalem. Sunday we found ourselves on the banks of the Jordan River; Sunday we’ll be in the wilderness!

There are so many ways to participate in this journey:

Tuesday Noon (lunch provided)
and Tuesday Evening (5:30 — 6:30)
Our Tuesday Lenten study will include deeper readings of the scriptures from the previous Sunday. You will also get to engage in “Prayer Centers” from week to week that will guide you to a deeper prayer experience. If you are unable to attend on Tuesdays, the Prayer Centers will be open when the office is open during the week, and study guides will be available to help you through the centers.

The Banner
Each week we will be coloring in a beautiful banner designed by local artist and CEH Member Laura Veenstra. Each week at the Service Station, the prayer centers, and during our Lenten Study time, we will be coloring in a section of the banner that coordinates with the week’s theme. The banner will hang during our worship services to be a visual reminder of where we are headed in our journey.

The Cross
There is a cross that was fashioned from the CEH Christmas Tree (thank you Stephen Eddy!) that will journey from the foyer to the Chancel throughout Lent. As we progress on our journey through Jesus’ life, we will be bringing the cross closer and closer to the front of our sanctuary as a reminder where we are headed. There will be activities throughout the worship service, focusing on the cross, that give you an opportunity to deepen your commitment to Christ.

GPS
Each week you will receive a “Grow, Pray, Study” Guide to deepen your understanding of the life of Christ. Like a GPS Navigation system, your GPS will guide you through this journey.

Compass Clips
The kaleidoscopes during Advent were so successful, we looked for an appropriate symbol to hold onto for this Lenten Journey. The children will be receiving their own “Compass clip” that they can put on their backpack or carry in their pocket. This compass will be representative of needing God’s guidance and direction in our lives. These are available for adults if you would like a physical reminder to let God be your guide through life.

“Meeting Jesus” Lenten Devotional
The 2017 “Presbyterians Today” Lenten Devotional contains 47 short, 1st Person Readings from people who encountered Jesus. This is an excellent way to challenge yourself to daily contemplation on the Word and on the life of Christ.

Holy Week Services
We will have our regular Monday and Tuesday studies, with an additional service on Maundy Thursday, and an ecumenical service at St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Granby for Good Friday.

Easter Vigil
We will cover the darkest hours of our faith with prayer, from Friday night after the Good Friday service through sunrise on Easter morning. You can sign up for a one (or more) hour slot during which you can pray and be in meditation. Pastor Paula will make a Prayer Vigil Guide for your time of prayer. Don’t worry! The guide really helps you through the hour of prayer and meditation.

Resurrection Day (Easter!)
Sunrise Service, followed by a breakfast will begin our day with worship and fellowship. Our Service Station will be really amazing for this holiest of days, so plan to come at 9:10 if you would like to participate in being the hands and feet of Christ to a hurting world as we make “Gift of the Heart Kits” for the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.
Our 10 AM service will be an incredible celebration of the empty tomb, beginning in the Fellowship Hall and moving to the sanctuary to roll the stone away!

All of these resources can also be emailed or mailed if you cannot pick one up from the church.

With Encouragement for the Journey,

Rev. Paula

***
Lent Two: Wilderness Times
Temptation of Christ

bill and paula
The Reverends Paula Steinbacher and William Hemm.
Our journey this week sent us out into the Wilderness with Jesus, directly following his baptism:
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written,
“One does not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” ’

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
“He will command his angels concerning you”,

and “On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’
Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” ’
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him (Matthew 4:1-11, NRSV).

This is an important lesson for the Lenten season. We see here many aspects of Lent: temptation (or learning to overcome it), wilderness (a metaphor for the unknown/for a time of searching/for testing/ a time of danger), and the number 40. Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days before he was even approached by “Ha-Satan” or “the Adversary.” Like a champ, Jesus was able to defeat this adversary by remembering the important scripture and truths he had been raised with. The temptations Jesus was given by his adversary are similar to what we face even today: the temptation of materialism and power, and the temptation to be concerned with providing for ourselves.

I think another temptation we face is the temptation that keeps us from being in relationship with others. These are the perceptions we have — the preconceived notions about someone’s appearance or manners that keep us from being open to each other.

My good friend, Rev. Bill Hemm, joined me in the pulpit on Sunday. He and I attended seminary together at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, and he pastors a Disciples of Christ Church in Tulsa. We have also met together, via Skype, every Monday for the past five years to discuss the lectionary texts with two of our other classmates.

Bill shared his powerful story of being in the second tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11. With his booming voice, jovial self-deprecation, and endless energy, he recounted how he had looked down on the security guards who had made a small mistake on their signage, causing some confusion and back up in the process of getting security passes on 9/10. He admits to a certain amount of disdain; after all, he was a hot-shot new broker for Morgan Stanley, and he didn’t need to take their guff.

But on 9/11 it was those same security guards who guided him and thousands of others to safety, despite falling debris, explosions, and the potential for mass chaos. Bill remembered how they conducted themselves: calmly and professionally, encouraging the masses to remain calm and to “Run and don’t look back or turn around” once they were outside of the tower.

People have often asked “Where was God on 9/11?” And Bill says he knows the answer. He saw God in action as those same security guards that he had mocked the day before laid down their very lives for him. None of those security guards survived, but all 300 trainees in Bill’s program lived.

Friends, what are the perceptions you have that keep you from being in relationship with others on this journey? As we concluded the sermon, I encouraged everyone to spend some time in contemplation, seeking to name the things that do not belong on this journey; this journey is so difficult and demanding, we cannot afford to not be in relationship with each other and gain strength when we can. I asked the congregation to name something, write it down, and then leave it at the Lenten cross — which is still positioned outside of the sanctuary. Those perceptions (often misperceptions), have no place in God’s house — our sanctuary is to be a place where we are can feel safe to open our hearts to each other.

I was overwhelmed this morning as I stopped to pick up the notes and read them. What I expected to read were judgements we make about other people that keep us from being in relationships. My heart was touched when I unfolded note after note and read, instead, personal critiques. For example, “self-doubt,” “shyness,” “not good enough,” “fear,” “busy-ness,” “anger.”

And I realize as I’m writing this now that sometimes we can be our own worst enemy. There are gifts and talents other people identify in us that we fail to see ourselves. We neglect to recognize the “Beloved child of God” that we are.

So I encourage you now, whatever you wrote on your paper, or whatever comes to mind when I ask, “What is keeping you from being in relationship with others?” Leave it behind. You took a big step by naming your own perceptions, now you need to let go and trust. Trust that we are on this journey together for a reason. Your strengths might just be my weakness. My strengths might just fill that hole you feel deep inside. Unless you can let go of those perceptions — whether they are self-limiting or judgmental of others — you will struggle way more than necessary on this journey.

I close with this beautiful prayer by Thomas Merton:

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that
I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am
actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please You
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for You are ever with me,
and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.

***
Of Shells, Beaches, and CEH
I walked into a lovely surprise on Sunday morning. Perched on my desk was a gift bag full of sea shells with a touching note. Libby and Jerry Tietsma spent the week at South Padre Island, and picked up the shells to use at our next baptism. See, during every baptism since I’ve arrived at CEH, each child holds a shell in their hand and prays for their new brother or sister in Christ; then they put the shell in a jar and the baptized child is given the whole bunch of them to remember all their new brothers and sisters in Christ and to remember the prayers we are praying for him or her. It made me so happy to picture Jerry and Libby picking up countless shells and thinking of the tiny hands who would one day hold the shell and pray for the one being baptized that day.

What a blessing! Please consider picking up shells and bringing one, two, or (like Jerry and Libby) fifty back to CEH for our ritual. The shells you pick up on vacation will be much more meaningful than a shell I purchased in a plastic bag at Hobby Lobby!

Journey From Bethlehem to Jerusalem

Our Lenten theme is “Journey.” This year we will be looking at the whole arc of Jesus’ life and story, from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. So far that arc has taken us from Bethlehem to Egypt to Nazareth and to Jerusalem. Sunday we found ourselves on the banks of the Jordan River; Sunday we’ll be in the wilderness!

There are so many ways to participate in this journey:

Tuesday Noon (lunch provided)
and Tuesday Evening (5:30 — 6:30)
Our Tuesday Lenten study will include deeper readings of the scriptures from the previous Sunday. You will also get to engage in “Prayer Centers” from week to week that will guide you to a deeper prayer experience. If you are unable to attend on Tuesdays, the Prayer Centers will be open when the office is open during the week, and study guides will be available to help you through the centers.

The Banner
Each week we will be coloring in a beautiful banner designed by local artist and CEH Member Laura Veenstra. Each week at the Service Station, the prayer centers, and during our Lenten Study time, we will be coloring in a section of the banner that coordinates with the week’s theme. The banner will hang during our worship services to be a visual reminder of where we are headed in our journey.

The Cross
There is a cross that was fashioned from the CEH Christmas Tree (thank you Stephen Eddy!) that will journey from the foyer to the Chancel throughout Lent. As we progress on our journey through Jesus’ life, we will be bringing the cross closer and closer to the front of our sanctuary as a reminder where we are headed. There will be activities throughout the worship service, focusing on the cross, that give you an opportunity to deepen your commitment to Christ.

GPS
Each week you will receive a “Grow, Pray, Study” Guide to deepen your understanding of the life of Christ. Like a GPS Navigation system, your GPS will guide you through this journey.

Compass Clips
The kaleidoscopes during Advent were so successful, we looked for an appropriate symbol to hold onto for this Lenten Journey. The children will be receiving their own “Compass clip” that they can put on their backpack or carry in their pocket. This compass will be representative of needing God’s guidance and direction in our lives. These are available for adults if you would like a physical reminder to let God be your guide through life.

“Meeting Jesus” Lenten Devotional
The 2017 “Presbyterians Today” Lenten Devotional contains 47 short, 1st Person Readings from people who encountered Jesus. This is an excellent way to challenge yourself to daily contemplation on the Word and on the life of Christ.

Holy Week Services
We will have our regular Monday and Tuesday studies, with an additional service on Maundy Thursday, and an ecumenical service at St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Granby for Good Friday.

Easter Vigil
We will cover the darkest hours of our faith with prayer, from Friday night after the Good Friday service through sunrise on Easter morning. You can sign up for a one (or more) hour slot during which you can pray and be in meditation. Pastor Paula will make a Prayer Vigil Guide for your time of prayer. Don’t worry! The guide really helps you through the hour of prayer and meditation.

Resurrection Day (Easter!)
Sunrise Service, followed by a breakfast will begin our day with worship and fellowship. Our Service Station will be really amazing for this holiest of days, so plan to come at 9:10 if you would like to participate in being the hands and feet of Christ to a hurting world as we make “Gift of the Heart Kits” for the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.
Our 10 AM service will be an incredible celebration of the empty tomb, beginning in the Fellowship Hall and moving to the sanctuary to roll the stone away!

All of these resources can also be emailed or mailed if you cannot pick one up from the church.

With Encouragement for the Journey,

Rev. Paula

***
Lent One: Starting Out
Baptism of Christ

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu

In order to get anywhere, you have to take that first step. The baptism of Christ as found in Matthew 3 is an astonishing first step in many ways. We begin with John the Baptist, crying out as a voice in the wilderness. “Repent and be baptized!” he demands. And people come from all over Judea for the ritual cleansing that would assure them forgiveness and a clean slate.

John cries out, using apocalyptic language, warning all who do not change their ways that they will burn like chaff in the unquenchable fire. His words resonate with all those gathered. They have been expecting this for a long time.

But when Jesus comes, John is surprised. “You want ME to baptize YOU?” In our “Meeting Jesus” devotional, the reading from March 6 has John saying, “So, righteousness will be fulfilled through humility. Things are about to change” (Craiglow, Jodi. “Meeting Jesus” Presbyterians Today 2017 Lenten Devotional, p 4).

It’s a change, alright! Indeed, the word used here in Greek that is translated as “Repent!” has a much deeper meaning. μετάνοια — or metanoia. It means a complete change of mind. This is quite different than a traditional understanding of the Hebrew word for repent (שׁוּבor “shoob”: return), which merely indicates a change in direction — basically heading back to the same path.

Repent here indicates something more radical — a complete change of perspective. No longer are we to imagine a mighty conqueror riding in on a war horse to tear down the oppressors and throw the unrepentant into the “unquenchable fire.” Even John himself is shocked that this Messiah is the Jesus who comes in humility and is anointed by the Holy Spirit in the form of a Dove, with the public proclamation to everyone present: “This is my son, the beloved; with whom I am well pleased.”

As we begin our Lenten Journey we need to have a metanoia as well. We need a change in our mind and in our perspective of what it means to embark together on a journey that is bound for Golgotha. This will not be an easy journey, but we need to stand together and say, “We will go.”

On Sunday, five people from vastly varied walks of life gathered at the baptismal font to be received into our membership through the beautiful rite from our Book of Common Worship: “Reaffirmation of the Baptismal Vows.” Heinz Engel, Cathy Lile, Dottie Spencer, Pamela Flor-Stout and Dan Stout all stood together, confessing their faith, and pledging to engage in deeper discipleship as a part of this amazing church family at CEH. Together we spoke the words of the ancient baptismal creed (The Apostle’s Creed), and later shared our CEH Motto.

What an incredible way for us to embark together on this Lenten Journey! I had a very holy moment as I paused to pray over each new member, anointing their head with healing oil and claiming them as beloved children of God. I was humbled to anoint the heads of our new members, and thankful for their commitment to this particular Body of Christ at CEH. We followed this immediately by breaking the bread and sharing the cup together — food for this journey.

Glen and I sang a song at our Ash Wednesday Service that is so beautiful we wanted to share it during communion. You can listen to a recording of the song “Beautiful Things” by Gungor by clicking here. I was humbled to serve our elders Communion while still singing, “You make me new — you are making me new.”

The truth is that God indeed feeds us for the journey and together we become something new: a community of pilgrims traveling a path that leads to certain death; ever mindful of the promise of the empty tomb.

May this Lenten Journey bring you closer to a God who loves you and calls you “My Beloved” and “My Redeemed.”

Peace in Christ,

Rev. Paula

***
Prayer Stations
prayer station week 1
Each week during Lent, I will set up a different prayer station for you to experience. You may give it a try beginning on Tuesday during regular office hours if you’d like to experience it on your own.

For a group experience, you can explore the centers on Tuesdays at Noon and at the evening Lenten Study at 5:30.

This week’s Prayer Station is on “Confession.” You’ll meditate on Psalm 32 and then take some time to write out a confession (on black paper with black marker for confidentiality) and then put it in God’s Hands! In this case, “God’s Hands” is a jar with a picture of hands on it. Wad up your confession and throw it in there, then be relieved of the guilt you’ve been carrying with you.