Mid-Week Message - February 16
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you!
If you are on Facebook, you may have seen today's Theology Thursday post all about our Lent plans on the Two Rivers Pastoral Charge page. We are going to be following the theme of Encountering Jesus this year through the season of Lent.
Lent is 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter (46 days if you include the Sundays, but since every Sunday is traditionally considered to be a mini-Easter, they aren't counted in the 40 days of Lent), and this year Ash Wednesday falls next week on February 22 (which is also Thinking Day for all of the current and former Girl Guides out there; Baden Powell Day for the Scouts).
I love Ash Wednesday, possibly because it is probably the most counter-cultural observance that we do as the church (in a time when church itself is becoming much more counter-cultural than we were even a couple of decades ago). At it's heart, Ash Wednesday is a reminder of our mortality - a reminder that we are all going to die some day. A mark of ashes is placed on everyone's forehead, along with the words, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." In a culture that is both death-denying and death-defying, this is a very counter-cultural thing to do. And yet it is very true. None of us is immortal, and we will all return to dust some day.
But our Ash Wednesday service doesn't leave us there, wallowing in our very human mortality. At the end of the service, we always celebrate communion together - we anticipate Easter even as we begin our Lenten journey to the cross. We remember that even though we are mortal, death isn't the end of the story, and resurrection is always waiting on the other side of death.
I carry with me a powerful image of being a communion server at an Ash Wednesday service many years ago, and seeing all of the people in the congregation lined up down the centre aisle with their foreheads marked with ashes. And yet they were all coming forward to receive the bread of life and the cup of blessing. Yes, we are united in our mortality; but even more than that, we are united in Christ and united in the trustworthy promise of new and abundant life.
If you would like to attend our Ash Wednesday service this year to begin our journey towards Easter together, it will be next week, March 22, at 7pm at Westfield United Church. (Which means that I'd better find the time in the next week to prepare our ashes!)
In terms of other announcements for this week:
Worship this Sunday will be woven together with our annual congregational meetings, and will include communion. Westfield and Long Reach folks - you should have received an e-mail from me yesterday with the minutes from last year's meeting. Please let me know if I missed you on that e-mail, and I'll forward it on to you. (I sent it directly from gmail rather than through MailChimp - I try to keep my mailing lists up-to-date, but I'm never quite sure.) One more reminder that the Long Reach service will start at 9am, not 9:15 this week! The Westfield service will be livestreamed on Facebook, but in order to vote at the meeting (and be counted towards quorum), you need to attend in-person.
The day before Ash Wednesday is Shrove Tuesday, more commonly known in this part of the world as Pancake Day! (This is the same as Mardi Gras - "fat Tuesday" - when families would use up all of the decadent foods in the house before the fasting of Lent begins.) I don't think that any of the Grand Bay-Westfield churches are holding pancake dinners this year, but there are a couple happening in the area. If you are on the peninsula, Trinity Anglican Church in Kingston is holding a pancake dinner in the parish hall on Tuesday from 4:30-6:30 by free-will offering (click here to see their poster). And I am going to be at the pancake dinner at Patterson United Church in Wirral which will be from 4-6 - $12 for adults and $6 for children 6 and under (click here to see their poster).
PIE Day is coming closer - March 14 - and our Affirming Team met on Sunday evening to brainstorm ideas of what we might do this year. We have decided on 2 events where we can be Public, Intentional, and Explicit about affirming the beloved-ness of all people. On Sunday March 12 after worship (at both Summerville and Westfield), there is going to be a pie social, co-hosted by the UCW - pie will be served, and there will be a basket to collect donations. These donations will be split between a local LGBTQ+ organization and the United Church Healing Fund which focuses on Indigenous reconciliation (the national UCW's fundraising partner for the next 5 years). And then on March 14, we will be giving out "free pie" (tarts, as they are more portable!) out front of Westfield United Church to people as they drive home from work - each tart will be packaged in a paper bag with a sticker on it that has a rainbow flag and the words "God loves you!" We need your help to make this happen! We are looking for volunteers to hand out pie on March 14 (we're hoping to start passing them out at 4:30, so you would need to be available around 4pm that day); and we also need people willing to make tarts for us! These can be buttertarts, lemon tarts, jam tarts, blueberry tarts - whatever your specialty is! Ross Sherwood (who is on our Region's Affirming committee) would like to challenge each of the families in our church to donate a dozen tarts. Wouldn't it be great if we had 500 tarts to give out to our community, along with an Affirming message? Please let me know if you are able to bake for us! (My buttertart recipe makes about 20 tarts, so I'll begin with my own contribution!)
So, some fun announcements this week!
For a closing thought, I want to share something from the "What is Rev. Kate listening to these days?" soundtrack. I've been planning out Lent this week, which means that I have been listening to a very Lenten soundtrack as I work. I'll save the heart-rending Good Friday music for closer to Holy Week, but for today let me share a beautiful Ash Wednesday song written by a friend and colleague, Rev. Dr. Lisa Waites, "Through All of Our Days" - you can listen to it by clicking here, as we get ready to gather together next Wednesday.
Blessings to you and yours, today and always!
Rev. Kate Jones Two Rivers Pastoral Charge (506) 757-2201 (office) (506) 343-1307 (mobile) www.tworiverspastoralcharge.com Pronouns: she/her/hers "Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the law?"
Jesus replied, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "You must love your neighbour as you love yourself."