Good Day Siblings in Christ,
It is hard to believe that our Lenten journey is nearly over. Time seems to be whizzing by faster than in years past. When the pandemic hit, life as we knew it was thrown into a new dimension. Days rushed by and we seemed to lose our bearing as to knowing what day of the week it was. One of my friends posted on social media that they had started to refer to every day as “Blursday.”
This weekend, we turn our hearts towards Jerusalem. Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday, March 28th. If the weather is favorable, we will gather outside for in-person worship with Holy Communion. For anyone who does not feel comfortable with outdoor/in-person worship I am happy to stop by to extend to you the gift of Holy Communion. Simply email or call me to schedule a date and time.
Palm Sunday will look different as compared to past years. We will be telling the story as written in the Gospel of Mark throughout Holy Week. Services on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Friday will end without a dismissal because each service will continue in the next worship.
Palm Sunday begins one of the most significant times for Christians. It is a time of great wonder and contemplation. I believe the amazement of this triumphant day was best captured by Andrew of Crete in the 8th century. He wrote, "It is ourselves that we must spread under Christ’s feet, not coats or lifeless branches or shoots of trees, matter which wastes away and delights the eye only for a few brief hours. But we have clothes ourselves with Christ’s grace, with the whole Christ—"for as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ"— so let us spread ourselves like coats under his feet."
Set your sights on Jesus.
Pastor JJ Simpson-Keelan
Schedule for Worship Services
- Palm Sunday 10:30 am outdoor worship (weather dependent) or watch the pre-recorded service.
- Maundy Thursday, April 1st and Good Friday, April 2nd services will be broadcast via YouTube. Each service begins at 7:00 pm. Visit our website to access these services.
The deadline for donations for Easter decorations is Monday March 29th. Click here to make a donation. Donations can be made in honor or memory of someone you love. The list of dedications will be noted in the Easter bulletin.
Where can we go for hope in these times? The words in this weekend's letter to the Ephesians offers hope to us all, "8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God". There is nothing we can do to earn God's grace, it is a gift that we receive without even asking. Perhaps the better way to remember this gift is by understanding grace as an acronym, God's Riches At Christ's Expense. Siblings in Christ take comfort! There is nothing we can do to earn God's love. Perhaps even more comforting is that there is nothing so bad that will cause God to stop loving us.
A prayer to guide us this week:
Open unto me—light for my darkness.
Open unto me—courage for my fear.
Open unto me—hope for my despair.
Open unto me—peace for my turmoil.
Open unto me—joy for my sorrow.
Open unto me—strength for my weakness.
Open unto me—wisdom for my confusion.
Open unto me—forgiveness for my sins.
Open unto me—tenderness for my toughness.
Open unto me—love for my hates.
Open unto me—Thy Self for my self.
Lord, Lord, open unto me!
—from “Meditations of the Heart” by Howard Thurman)
May you continue to journey trusting in God's grace and love.
Afterwards Christine shared with me a thought from the day. She wrote, "Dr. Brown (NJ Leader for Racial Justice) had said several times as a key phrase to keep us going at the NJ Synod Racial Justice Summit today, "Small Steps are Important Steps." No matter what we do it will take time and small steps, things will not change quickly and radically.
We continue to walk through Lent seeking Jesus. My prayer for you is that you take time to seek Jesus in the eyes of those whom you encounter on your journey.
I share a prayer from the new ELCA worship book, All Creation Sings, "God, you invite us to recognize and reverence your divine image and likeness in our neighbor. Enable us to see the reality of racism and free us to challenge and uproot it from our society, our world, and ourselves.
Pastor Ariel Otterstad and I attended a few classes in seminary. She serves at Living Word Lutheran Church in Katy TX. I reached out this week to ask her how her congregation was managing after the cold blast. She said, "Family and Church are both doing well. We were very fortunate to have minimal damage at the church (a few pipes outside need to be replaced) and none at home. It was BLOODY FREEZING for a few days, but we had lots of blankets and I have a gas range so I was able to boil water and apple cider for hot drinks, so we made it through much better than others."
I asked her if there was any way people could support her and congregations in Texas. Pastor Ariel said that several synods are holding special appeals to support their members of the recent snow and freeze. Pastor Ariel noted, "Everything we receive for the special campaign goes directly to people in need to help with insurance deductibles. Anything leftover will go to the Houston Food Bank."
Might we consider adopting Living Word as a "sibling congregation"?
If you're interested in making a donation to support Pastor Ariel's church click this link.