Thursday, March 10, 2011
Circle of Love! Lent 2011
The seasons of the year have a great deal of variation depending on where you live. In the far north the days of summer are bathed with endless light. In the tropics the weather only varies with the degree of rainfall that might arrive during certain seasons.
Here in Colorado, we are absolutely blessed with four distinct seasons. The winter can be a bit cold at times but it is always beautiful. For many, spring is the favorite. The tulips pop, the grass greens, and the trees begin to speak to us about the hope of resurrection as they gain leaves and start to provide the blessings of shade. We all know that the mid summer temperatures can make you wish you had air conditioning late at night. But that soon fades into beautiful blue skies, soft afternoon showers, and evenings that seem to go on forever. Personally, fall is my favorite. The evenings get cool but the days are bright and warm. The trees find their new place on the color wheel and the rhythms of life begin to change.
Seasons are important to the tempo of our souls as well. We discover seasons of growth, times of renewal, and themes that shift our attention. Christmas is not the same as the celebration of Easter. The message is different, the spirit is unique, and our hearts are open in unique ways with the seasons of the church.
This particular season is the time we know as Lent. It is an ancient part of the cadence of faith that will soon deliver us to the door step of Holy Week and the great joy of Easter. The word ‘Lent’ is shaped and passed down from various traditions. It has two basic and historic meanings. It carries the seasonal image of ‘spring’ time along with the idea of days that become ‘long’ in time. From a spiritual point of view, it is a season of 40 days that provides believers and seekers a time to prepare for Easter and the hope of resurrection.
Different groups count the 40 days of Lent in different ways. It always begins with Ash Wednesday but variation takes over from there. Some count 40 full days from Ash Wednesday (March 9th this year) to Palm Sunday leading into Holy Week. Others count 40 days (not including Sundays) from Ash Wednesday to Easter Day. For this particular Circle of Love experience, we will follow the latter model.
Our Lenten season and daily devotions will start on March 9th with a time of worship and commitment on Ash Wednesday. We will all be invited to gather for a half hour early morning time of prayer at 7:00 AM. Or come together at 6:30 PM on Ash Wednesday evening. You choose the service that works best for your schedule. I hope you will join us as we step into the Circle of Love together on Ash Wednesday.
This booklet will provide daily devotions that will move from Monday to Saturday each week of Lent. As always, Sunday worship gatherings will be critical to or combined desire to grow fully in this grand Circle of Love.
Let me tell you about the sequence of Scriptures that will center us on God’s word. We will be using readings from the Daily Common Lectionary. The Lectionary is a series of readings that include a daily reading from the Psalms, a portion from the Old Testament, a New Testament reading from one of the letters, and a Gospel reading for each day. You will find the full cycle of readings in the back of this booklet along with a schedule of events and worship services.
The devotions of this booklet will only focus on the Gospel readings for each day. You will notice that most of this year’s readings are taken from the Gospel of John. I would encourage you to read the Scripture lesson and the thoughts from the booklet as a daily discipline. Throughout the booklet you will also find other opportunities to develop your faith through the disciplines of prayer, study, fasting, generosity, and service. These are the traditional disciplines of the historic Christian faith that always become a focal point during Lent. The season of Lent will help us grow in these areas so the fullness of our faith can impact the world.
Now, let me share a word about the Circle of Love theme. Throughout time, the circle has been a symbol of completeness. It has also been a way people have represented interpersonal connections. You can imagine two circles that intersect and overlap as a way of saying ‘my life is connected to yours’ in a spirit of hope. If you take three circles and interlink them together, you will have the universal Christian symbol for the Trinity. The three circles represent the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the desire of God to interact and intersect with our lives.
Our Circle of Love contains all these images but it is also uniquely ours. It is a circle with four openings in the ring. The four openings represent doors of life that allow us to gather in the center but be freely sent out to serve the world. It is not a broken circle; it is a path way that allows our lives to be focused on the love of God while always seeing our faith journey connected clearly to the world. We will develop the concept as we flow through the next few weeks.
For now, let me express my thanks for your willingness to be a part of this journey. I pray that it will open some new doors and expand our experience of personal faith development. I also pray that it will enhance your life through a focus on the historic spiritual disciplines that include prayer, study, fasting, service, and a spirit of generosity.
Thanks for being a part of the Wilson United Methodist family! I celebrate your journey of faith and give thanks for the ways God is leading our church.
Yours in Christian love