Only 25 more hours!!
It is only 25 hours (or less depending on when you read this) until the journey begins. Four pastors in covenant together for 40 days to learn, teach and make a difference in world hunger through the 4 for 40 Project.
At the heart of the Christian faith is our participation in the life, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ as Lord. We proclaim that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Jesus Christ was born into human history in the fullness of time for our salvation. In time he lived and taught, suffered and was put to death; but God “raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand….and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:20, 22-23). Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are delivered from sin and death, and by the Holy Spirit we are born into eternal life with God. This we confess; this we must renew continually in our worship and in our lives.
Lent is a forty-day period of preparation for the highlight of the Christian church’s celebrations, Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends with the Easter service. The forty days do not include Sundays. In the past, Lent was observed with very strict fasting and so the Sundays, which are considered mini-Easter’s or “feast days,” cannot be included.
The number forty indicated an amount of time essential for accomplishment of what needed to be done. And so forty days were set aside for converts to make their special preparation for baptism, which would take place on Easter Sunday. These forty days of repentance and renewal, whether before or after baptism, were representative of Jesus’ time of preparation in the wilderness.
Since at least the seventh century, Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is a particular time for new beginnings in the faith, a time for returning to the Lord. The ashes, representing God’s condemnation of sin; human dependence on God for life; and humiliation and repentance, are placed on the forehead, representing our mortality. But they are placed in the sign of the cross, reminding us that as Christians we die in Christ. The ashes are often made from the palms from the previous year’s observance of Palm/Passion Sunday. As we move through the season, we move from despair to hope, as Good Friday offers redemption with Christ’s death.
Holy Week is a part of the season of Lent. It includes Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday. Maundy Thursday is the first day of the “Triduum,” the three days of intense observance of the paschal mystery. Beginning with Maundy Thursday evening, the Triduum concludes Easter Evening. It is the most sacred and important time of the entire church year.
Palm Sunday helps us remember when Christ rode into Jerusalem on a donkey or ass. When kings came to a city in war, they rode on a horse. When they came into a city in peace, they rode an ass. By his actions, Christ came into Jerusalem as a king in peace.
Some churches choose to call the Sunday before Easter “Passion Sunday” to celebrate the beginning of Jesus’ agonizing journey to the cross. Passion comes from a Latin word that means “to suffer.” This is the same word that is the root of our word “patient.” Many churches include a taste of Christ’s suffering in this Sunday experience for those who cannot be a part of the Good Friday service.
On Thursday of Holy Week we celebrate Maundy Thursday. The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin word “mandatum.” This is the same word that is the root of our word “mandate.” The Latin word means to entrust or to order or command. In John 13:34-35, we learn that after the meal, Jesus gave his disciples a “new commandment,” to love one another so that people would know that they were his disciples. Holy Communion is always celebrated on Maundy Thursday. A foot-washing ceremony, emphasizing Jesus’ servanthood, is an optional part of the Maundy Thursday liturgy. The arrest of Jesus after his meal with his disciple was actually on Friday, according to the Jewish custom of counting days from sundown to sundown. Therefore any remembrance of that arrest comes on Friday.
Friday of Holy Week is called Good Friday. The original name of this day was probably “God’s Friday.” It is a day to celebrate the sacrifice on the cross of Christ, our Passover Lamb. We can call it good, because we live on the Easter side of that day. We know the outcome and know just what Christ went through for us, and so it is a Good Friday for us. This is a time to reflect on the suffering of Christ, building the contrast between Jesus’ death and the resurrection. We cannot fully appreciate the resurrection until we have gone through the suffering. This service usually ends on a negative note, and so churches usually don’t celebrate communion at this service.
Purple is the color associated with Lent. Purple represents royalty and penitence. In preparing to meet our King, we recognize ourselves as unworthy and in need of repentance. Therefore, purple reminds us to take inventory of ourselves in preparation for Easter. In some churches, the color black is used on Ash Wednesday. Black is the color of the ashes and symbolizes humiliation and mourning. Black helps set the day apart from the rest of Lent and emphasizes the unique meaning of Ash Wednesday.
To prepare for the celebration of Easter, many people choose to “give up” something during this period so that they can be ready for the full meaning of Easter. It is a time of renewal of our baptism vows, and with that understanding we may also decide to add some special act to our routine. Forty days is a good amount of time to establish an affirmative habit. Others may choose to find some act of kindness that they will do each day for someone else during the forty days, such a writing a note of appreciation for some kind act to someone who normally does not receive thanks.
Long periods of fasting were emphasized in the past and this does alert us to the meaning of the season. Whether or not we fast, prayer and meditation and reflection on the meaning of Easter are central for Lent.
Senoia United Methodist Church, where I am privileged to serve as pastor, will observe Ash Wednesday this week at 7:00pm following our weekly fellowship dinner (call the church office for reservations 770.599.3245), Palm Sunday during our Sunday worship service on April 17 at 10:55am, Maundy Thursday on April 21 at 7:00pm, Good Friday on April 22 at 7:00pm, The Easter Sunrise Service will be at Marimac Lakes in Senoia on April 24 at 7:45am with breakfast provided by our United Methodist Women in the fellowship hall at 8:30am. Easter Worship begins at 10:55am in the sanctuary.
As a part of the congregation’s observance of the Lenten season, each person in the church has been invited to participate in a personal devotional time. For the 40 days of Lent, I along with Rev. Dan Dixon of Mt. Gilead UMC, Rev. John Mattox of Pleasant Grove UMC & Whitesville UMC and Rev. David Blackwood of Trinity UMC in Dalton will be joining together in a fast for Stop Hunger Now.
At the 2010 North GA Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church these pastors and others learned about an organization called Stop Hunger Now. This is an organization that provides meals, primarily to children, for only 25 cents per serving.
Did you know there are about 1 billion people in the world living on less than $1 a day. Roughly 2.6 billion people live on less than $2 per day – which is 40% of the world’s population. Almost half the world – over 3 billion people – lives on less than $2.50. Under nutrition contributes to more than one-half of the 9.7 million deaths of children under five each year in developing countries. This means that one child dies every six seconds from malnutrition and related causes.
It is our intention to live on the same food that we seek to provide to those in need. If it is good enough for them — it ought to be good enough for us. It is formulated for starving children — we are not starving nor are we children. We will be eating one package, or the equivalent of 6 servings per day (approximately 1200+ calories and under a doctor’s care). We are seeking to use this experience as a journey towards understanding while we grow more and more aware of our position of privilege. Forty days to grow deeper in our understanding of the scarcity of food – 4 for 40.
We need you to help us. We cannot do it alone — not even the 4 of us together. Do you want to know how big 4
somewhat over weight pastors preparing for a 40 day fast can dream? We believe through our communities and churches that we can raise enough money in this effort to package enough meals to fill a shipping container. How much is that you may ask? 285,120 meals. Can we do it? With your prayers, your support, and your financial contribution, we can do it — and MORE besides. Can we stop people from starving to death? You bet we can – 25 cents at a time.
Won’t you consider sponsoring us in this initial journey. We are looking for sponsors willing to donate the $1.50 that each day’s food will cost (25 cents X 6 meals). That is: $1.50 per day for 40 days which equals $60.00. Of course larger donations would be greatly appreciated and would move us closer to our wildest dream.
Won’t you send your tax-deductible contribution to: Stop Hunger Now, c/o Senoia United Methodist Church, Post Office Box 98, Senoia, GA 30276 today? We will add it to our efforts and mail you a receipt for your gift.
You can follow my journey through this blog online at: www.thehogfather.wordpress.com.
Let’s see how God will honor our Lenten observance and prayers as we seek to move closer to HIM and his will for our lives. Will you join us in this spiritual journey?
Until the next time….The Hog Father