Lent 2019: Unlocking Our Hearts

Written by Rev. Gayle Pope. Posted in The Seed

open my life

The talk I have given at the last three Walk to Emmaus weekends is called “obstacles to Grace.” It’s about barriers we put up to block God’s Holy Spirit from flowing into our hearts and lives. Why’d we do that? Lots of reasons – all under the general heading of SIN.

Our Lent theme this year is designed to get us to take down those barriers, unlock those doors and open our eyes, hands, ears, hearts and lives to God’s love, mercy and power.

When it comes to living our Christian faith, it’s not as if we unlock one big door at a given moment in our lives, let Christ in, and Eureka! all is well between us and God from them on. Though our eternal salvation is assured through faith in Christ, conversion is a lifelong process of growing more and more into the person God created us to be. The Holy Spirit continually pries at our hidden chambers of resistance that might be buried so deep we don’t even know they are there. The Spirit is patient with us … one step at a time. Sometimes it’s hard to let go. Often, it takes something painful for us to grow. But whenever we open a door and let Christ in, we become a little stronger, wiser and truer to our real selves.

As we journey through Lent, be aware of places you are holding back from the light of Christ. As a reminder, we are giving everyone a key to carry with you throughout the season. When you see it hanging on your key chain or feel it in your pocket or purse, let it remind you to open your life to Jesus. On Good Friday (April 19) you will have an opportunity to bring your key back to church and hang it on a nail you pound into a rugged cross.

Wednesday Lenten Services

Lent begins Ash Wednesday, March 6, with a traditional service at 6:30 p.m. including imposition of ashes and Holy Communion.

Each of the next five Wednesdays we will have supper at 5:30, coordinated by our Fellowship Team, followed by a 30- to 40-minute service beginning at 6:30. Themes and speakers are as follows:

  • Wednesday, March 13: Open My Eyes, Lord. Speaker: Terry Pope
  • Wednesday, March 20: Open My Hands, Lord. Speaker: Dick Tabb
  • Wednesday, March 27: Open My Ears, Lord. Speaker: Bonnie Scranton
  • Wednesday, April 3: Open my Heart, Lord. Speaker: Martha Rapp
  • Wednesday, April 10: Open My Life, Lord. Speaker: Pastor Gayle

I pray you will give yourself to the journey, that your life as a disciple of Christ will grow deeper than ever.

Blessed to Be a Blessing

Written by Rev. Gayle Pope. Posted in The Seed

Helping hands

We read in Genesis 12 how God called Abram to “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” In other words, leave everything that you know behind and follow God to a completely unknown future. Then came the promise, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing … and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

This is where the concept of “blessed to be a blessing” comes from. Trust in God. Follow where God leads. God will bless you and, in being blessed, you will be a blessing to others. And what does it mean to be blessed? It doesn’t mean a life free of struggle and full of material wealth and success. It means a life lived in the awareness of God’s love, goodness, mercy and peace. It means having a God-connected heart that enables you to sense the presence of God in and around you, in everything from nature to circumstances to people. It means recognizing the gifts God has given you and using those gifts to facilitate the God-connection in others.

For us as Christians, our God connection is guaranteed through our faith in Jesus Christ, sealed in the waters of Baptism. We have the promise of God’s Holy Spirit dwelling within us, and the power to pass this blessing along.

So where am I going with this?

On Jan. 17, our council and Mutual Ministry Team met via phone and internet with a representative from Holy Cow! Consulting to hear the results of the Congregational Assessment Tool survey that 76 of our members completed in November – a return rate of a little over 50 percent. For more than two hours, she guided us through 50 pages of results, charts, graphs and analysis revealing a lot of strengths, but also some areas for growth and areas on which our members think we should focus more of our energy.

The council will review the report at our February meeting and determine how to best make the information available to everyone and, more importantly, how to best utilize the information in our future planning.

Here’s the GOOD news

For me, the biggest take away is that we are truly blessed as a congregation with what the CAT identifies as both high enthusiasm and high energy. According to the executive summary provided by Holy Cow! Consulting, “Overall, approximately 74% of your members are clearly satisfied with things in the church. This, along with other information, indicates that the church has options which include growth, expansion, replication and external impact.” In other words, we are not in chaos, recovery or static mode, but rather in “transformative” mode – a strong position to be a source of new meaning and purpose for our members and those outside our walls.

We are blessed to be a blessing!

The challenge before us now is where to go from here to keep our own God-connectedness strong – as individuals and as a congregation – and how to continue extending God’s blessings in the world around us. Stay tuned!