Lent 2024 Readings/Theme & Worship Schedule

Dear Gentle Folks,

As our Lenten season begins, we are reminded that these next 6 weeks we are called to reflect on our faith, celebrate our blessings and spend time renewing and rededicating our lives to God. I have included daily readings from the “Revised Common Lectionary” put together by Vanderbilt Divinity Library. Each Sunday the readings will be reflective of GSCC Lenten journey.  Hopefully, this will make for easier time of study, meditation, and prayer to begin our days during this sacred and holy journey.

As we travel in our Lenten journey and move to Good Friday, we encourage folks to join us in our annual fast with the church. Our first took place 26 years ago. And for at least the last sixteen years we have attempted to make our fast more focused on the work God would have us do as a ministry and fellowship.

This year’s Lenten theme comes out a question raised by Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo “What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said?”

This question led me to Matthew 23. Not that there are not plenty other sayings of Jesus to consider…but what if Jesus in talking to the Pharisees was far more than that…in fact was talking beyond them…maybe talking to us? Maybe we were supposed to REALLY hear this rant?  I know we want to cheer him on for getting the “bad” guys…but what if he was also teaching us, or does the cheering stop? Is Jesus not such a nice guy?  Will hearing and reading this really change how we treat one another?  Will we take all our relationships more intimately and seriously? Does it remind us to be more intentional about being fair, merciful, and humble? To get the process kick started I will be adding some of the daily quotes from my Facebook posts in front of the readings for each week to be a starting point for the sermon.  

Does Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees carry a life lesson for us?  How personal are those lessons.  Here is the list of criticisms aimed at the Pharisees:

  *They did not practice what they taught (hypocrisy)

  *They put heavy burdens on others but not themselves (legalism)

  *They sought and loved public recognition (pride)

  *Status, respect, and titles were important to them (arrogance)

 * They locked people out of the kingdom (judgmental)

 * They established laws to benefit themselves (greed)

 *They neglected to emphasize justice and mercy (bias)

 *They were accomplices to silencing the prophets (oppressive)

Have you said ouch yet?  If not read the list again.

During this Lent let us as a church focus our prayers on our church and its direction — on how to better do the work God has laid out for us, we want to see what slows us down.  What can we do differently? Are we going to walk the talk or just talk? If we take these teachings and reminders to heart how much better and stronger will our community be?

We have had significant growth in outreach to the community and to God’s people. The miracle stories seem to happen at a dizzying pace. As we celebrate our 26th year, we celebrate our past and present, we will look to our future.

In its 26th year of ministry, the pastoral staff and I have been moved by God’s spirit to again call for a day of “Fasting and Prayer”. I pray that all of you consider joining Vicar Alyce, Lance, and I in this fast. I (we) will be at the park on Saturday the March 30th to pray, study and offer support for any and all in their fast. You can join us from 10am till 1:00pm.

It is only with your support that we have become a church that is affirming, inclusive and progressive in our ministry, and it is only with your help and prayer that it can continue. Please consider joining us — either in person with us in the park, or at a location of your choosing.

As the Lenten journey begins let us remember the words of St. Francis de Sales

“The same everlasting God who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and every day.  Either God will shield you from suffering or give you unfailing strength to bear it.  Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.” 

Here are the details of our time of prayer and fasting: Our fast begins on Good Friday at the conclusion of the “Service at the foot of the Cross.”

Our theme this year is centered around “What if Jesus Really meant What He Said?” On Holy Saturday, I will lead us through part of the day and be supportive of our fast; we will use this scripture as reference point: Matthew 23.

What do we think Jesus means by “heavy burdens” in v4? What would be an example of a “heavy burden” created by religious teaching? What seems to be the problem Jesus is identifying in v4 – the heaviness of the burden(s), the absence of help, something else? How can the problem be avoided, or solved, do we think? Why do we think that?

Is it easier, or more difficult, do we think, to focus on the details of proper religious observance while neglecting “the weightier matters of the law”? Why? Is it possible to focus on “the weightier matters of the law” while neglecting to “tithe mint and dill and cumin”? Is it possible to neglect both? To do both equally well? Why? (More personal) Which course of action seems closest to what we, ourselves, do? What does that tell us? Why?

Do we really know anyone who is poor? How are they poor?

Church Fast:

We are setting aside Easter weekend to put ourselves aside and concentrate on God, to allow God to speak with each of us and to all of us as a church. Our church will start (as mentioned) our period of fasting and prayer at Good Friday services March 29th at 7pm with First Christian Church of Decatur and end it at our Easter (Resurrection Sunday) Sunrise Service at on March 31st at 7:25 AM in Candler Park, picnic Pavilion 2.

If this is your first fast or have concerns or questions of how to do a fast, I have included tips at the end of this letter.  If you have questions, feel free to call me at the office and we can chat.

Our Holy Week schedule:

  • Maundy Thursday Service on March 28th at 7:00pm at First Christian Church of Decatur, with FCCD.
  • Good Friday Service on March 29th at 7pm with First Christian Church of Decatur at the foot of the Cross on the front lawn.
  • Holy Saturday Fasting and Prayer on March 30th from 10am-1:00pm in Candler Park, near picnic Pavilion 2.
  • Easter (Resurrection Sunday) Sunrise Service on March 31st at 7:25am in Candler Park, picnic Pavilion 2, followed by a potluck breakfast cookout.
  • Easter Sunday Celebration Service on March 31st at 10:25 AM with First Christian Church of Decatur, in their main sanctuary.

God Bless,
Pastor Paul

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