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Remarkable Privilege of Ash Wednesday

Just these lines, my friends …

 … to say that today (Ash Wednesday), we move into Lent. (If Lent is new to you, then check out this site for some orientation http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/what-is-lent-and-why-does-it-last-forty-days.) This is a season of attentiveness to God, preparation for Easter, an extended space for reckoning with the ways we resist God’s embrace, and do harm to ourselves, to our neighbors, to our world. Lent is a long walk toward forgiveness and hope.

This year, we have the remarkable privilege of sharing Ash Wednesday (7 pm in our Sanctuary) with our friends from the Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church here in Matthews. The Reverend Doctor Larry Whitley will be our preacher for the evening. Our pastors, along with the pastors of the Mt. Moriah Church, will conclude the service with the imposition of Ashes.  By the way, that dirty smudge (Ashes) on our foreheads is the tangible reminder that we are all dust. We are all mortal. We are all imperfect people. But that cross is also the sign of the grace that meets us wherever we are and loves us too much to leave us there. Jesus accepts us with all our contradictions between what we believe and the way we behave and draws us toward the wholeness (holiness) of a life that is fully integrated with His will.

Unfortunately, the Lenten season often gets reduced to the question, “What are you giving up for Lent?”  That’s a good question, but it can take us only so far.  The real question of the Lenten season is, “How will I repent and return to God with all my heart?” We are called to be as honest as we are able about the ways we have “left” God and slipped into spiritual mediocrity. Psalm 51:6 points out, You desire truth in the inward being, therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.”

As God gives us wisdom and insight about our true condition we can choose spiritual practices that are uniquely suited to help us return to God in the places where we have strayed or to renew our passion where our hearts have grown cold. These practices have the potential to loosen the grip of sin and distraction in our lives, creating inner and outer space for attending to our relationship with God who is calling out for us to return to him.

If up to us, we probably wouldn’t choose to devote a whole season to demanding disciplines, but God knows we need it. So we ask, “What practices will help me return to the Lord during these set-apart days?”

  • How will I practice self-examination and confession in order to facilitate the truth in my inward being that God desires? (Psalm 51:6)
  • How will I create space for God to teach me wisdom and create a new and right spirit within me? (Psalm 51:6, 10)
  • How will I give? (Matt. 6:2,3)
  • How will I pray? (Matt. 6:5-13)
  • Who do I need to forgive and from whom do I need to seek forgiveness? (Matt. 6:14,15)
  • How will I fast? What do I need to abstain from in order to create more space for God? (Matt. 6:16-18)
  • What earthly treasures am I attached to and how will I “let go” in order to invest In God’s kingdom? (Matt. 6:19-21)
  • How will I be reconciled to God myself and how will I engage in the ministry of reconciliation this season? (II Cor. 5)

Realistically, most of us will not be able to incorporate all these disciplines but we certainly can choose one or two that will help us to return to God with all our hearts.  In very private moments with God we can allow him to show us what disciplines, practiced in what way, would be most effective in helping us create space for cultivating our relationship with him.[i]

During this Lenten season there are several opportunities I want to mention to you.

  1. Community Forum on Racial Bridge-Building and Diversity – We will host our second community forum (the first was at the Mt. Moriah Church in October) here at Matthews United Methodist in The Commons at 7 pm, March 15.
  2. Care Cards for Holy Communion – Our Sanctuary worshipping communities (8:15, 9:30, 11:00) normally share in Holy Communion on the first Sunday of each month. This Sunday (March 5), we will introduce the new tradition of Care Cards. We invite you during the moments of Holy Communion to take one of our care cards on your pew and take the time to write a note to one of the names printed in your Bulletin. A simple note from you can make a huge difference in the life of someone who is homebound or facing great need. You can leave it for us to mail.
  3. Holy Land 2018 – Karen and I are hosting a trip to the Holy Land in March of 2018. We’d love to have you with us. We are having an interest meeting at 7 pm in The Commons, March 20. Hope some of you can join us.

This Sunday in our Sanctuary services we will launch a worship series titled, Ask Jesus, and on this first Sunday of Lent we will be asking Jesus, “Why Were You Tempted?” from Luke 4. Our 801South community will be celebrating Compassion Sunday as Kennedy (Kenn Eddy) Krezi, a former Compassion International sponsor child who grew up in a Nairobi slum, will give his testimony and share his music with us. Here is a link to his YouTube channel: Kenn Eddy Krezi – You Tube. Our CCH community (Centro Cristiano Hosanna) will welcome Matthew’s Chief of Police and Matthews United Methodist’s very own, Rob Hunter as a guest.

We’re really excited to see you on Sunday!

So grateful to be on this Journey
of Lent with each of you,

Dr. Charles (Chuck) W. Wilson II
Chuck@MatthewsUMC.org
[1] I’m grateful to the insights of Ruth Haley Barton.

Did you know the Caleb and Lorene Barnhardt Athletic Office Suite at Wingate University was dedicated on Tuesday, February 28?

Did you know that Seasoned To Perfection volunteers take meals to those who are sick when they have extra meals available?

Did you know that Bo Bobrowski has taught the 5th Grade Boys’ Class since his own children were in the class? That’s a lot of years! We are blessed to have his knowledge and great way of relating to the boys!

Did you know the Fellowship Sunday School class and friends provided a meal for 75 family members of the Caleb Barnhardt family?

Did You know that Author Natalie Chambers Snapp skyped in to our Beginnings Heart Sisters study with over 40 women on Wednesday, February 22? Our Beginnings group leader, Diana Monago, set this up so the women could gain more insight from the author.