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.

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!

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