On Tuesday nights during Lent (March 1st – April 13th) you are invited to join your friends from EPC in the Fellowship Hall for a delicious soup supper at 6:30 PM and a Lenten Bible study following from 7 to 8PM. Our pastor will be leading us in a series of sessions which follow the ministry of Jesus from Nazareth to Capernaum to Samaria to Jericho to Jerusalem. Please plan to join us for this Lenten journey through the landscapes of the Holy Land and the life of our Lord.
It’s Lent again—the 40- day period (not counting Sundays) leading up to Easter, those six weeks (approximately) on the church calendar observed by Christians as a period of preparation and repentance before the celebration of our Lord’s resurrection. Many Christians observe Lent by adopting the traditional practices of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving in some new, intentional, and focused way.
I recently read an article by Methodist pastor and theologian Clifton Stringer in which he makes the following point: Lent is not New Year’s Resolutions Round Two! Stringer points out that we live in a culture so fixated on self- improvement that Lent can sometimes become nothing more than an opportunity to work on ourselves, even to the point where our Lenten fasting becomes a Lenten “diet.” But Lent is not about us; Lent is about Jesus.
Stringer writes, “In Lent we might give up something, do a specific prayer discipline, or change something to push ourselves spiritually. But the point is not self-improvement. The point is not even just self-denial. The point is to feel a little discomfort, a little pain, and by that to be constantly reminded of the love of our Savior Jesus Christ, who denied himself for our salvation.
If you observe Lent with prayer and fasting, use that prayer and fasting first of all to remember Jesus. If Lent is not about getting to know Jesus Christ better, it really is a waste of time.” (Ministry Matters, February 2012).
I love the notion of observing Lent as a time for getting to know Jesus Christ better. Of course, that’s something we strive for all year long. But Lent affords us the opportunity to focus our thinking, our speaking, our praying, our giving, our reading, and our service in ways that intentionally draw us closer to our Lord. Lent is not about us; Lent is about Jesus. May our prayer this Lent echo the words of Richard, Bishop of Chichester: “Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits Thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me. O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother, may I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, follow Thee more nearly. Amen.”
Most of us enjoy the various traditions surrounding Valentine’s Day. My husband George and I had our first date on Valentine’s Day, so it’s always a special day for us. But the origins of the holiday aren’t really very romantic at all. The history of St. Valentine is a little sketchy, but the story goes like this:
Valentinus was a Roman priest during the third century, a time when Christians were suffering persecution under Emperor Claudius II. The emperor had issued an edict that members of the Roman military could not marry, thinking unmarried men would make better soldiers. But Valentinus continued to secretly perform Christian weddings and was sent to prison for his efforts.
Many legends surround his imprisonment. One of them says Valentinus prayed for a young girl named Julia who could not see and she was healed of her blindness. The story goes that when the order came for Valentinus to be put to death, his last words were written in a note to Julia signed, “from your Valentinus.” Valentinus was executed the next day, February 14.
While we may think of Valentine’s Day as a time for hearts and flowers and candy, the legend of St. Valentine focuses our thoughts elsewhere. Valentine was a martyr for his faith who was unafraid to stand up for what he believed, even when it meant challenging the powers of government and resisting the edict of the emperor. While St. Valentine has come to be known as the patron saint of love and marriage, he is also remembered for his faith and courage.
As we enjoy our Valentine’s Day celebrations, may we also remember St. Valentine. And may we devote ourselves not only to our loved ones, but to the kind of obedience to God that St. Valentine’s life exemplifies. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Starting Sunday, February 5th 2017 classes will be held in the Fireside Room at 9:15. Our first set of lessons will be on the parables of Jesus and will focus on a video series by Kenneth Bailey. The class is open to all and is free, but donations are accepted to offset material costs. See Jereme Bintz with any questions.
- Feb 5th – Introduction by Kenneth Bailey
- Feb 12th – The Good Samaritan
- Feb 19th – No Classes – Amor Trip
- Feb 26th – The Lost Sheep & The Lost Coin
- Mar 5th – The Lost Younger Son
- Mar 12th – The Lost Older Son
A Presbyterian pastor friend of mine recently published his favorite “wise sayings” in his church’s newsletter. Among those favorites were:
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. —Albert Einstein
Life is 5 percent what happens to me and 95 percent how I respond to what happens to me.
Holding resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die from it.
Adversity teaches us the life lessons we would never be willing to teach ourselves.
He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose. —Jim Elliot, missionary
We often find ourselves in need of wisdom, and fortunately for us, we serve a God who can help us with that. James 1:5 tells us, “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.” Proverbs 3:5-6 encourages us to “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
At Wilbur Woods’ memorial service his grandson read one of Wilbur’s favorite Bible verses from the Old Testament book of Joshua: “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” As we enter a new year we do so knowing that no matter what lies ahead, God goes with us. As one of my childhood Sunday school teachers always said, “We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.” As we embark on a new year, may the assurance of God’s presence and the promise of his wisdom give us confidence in God’s good plans for us.
Does it seem to you that Christmas decorations appear earlier every year? When I was a child, all the stores put up their trees and wreaths and window dressings the day after Thanksgiving. But now we start celebrating Christmas even before Halloween arrives. Our local Hallmark store has had Christmas ornaments on display since July.
A friend and I have had discussions about this. I prefer to wait to begin Christmas preparations at least until after the Thanksgiving stupor has worn off! But she loves everything Christmas and delights in anything that gets the season rolling as early as possible. And the malls are on her side!
In any case, Advent is upon us and all too soon Christmas will be here. Our Emmanuel family will be celebrating this holy season in a variety of ways. There will be opportunities for giving and helping as well as times for singing and celebrating. I hope you will take part in the festivities.
And I encourage you to invite you friends and family who may not have a church home to join in as well. Invite them to come with you to an Advent worship service or to one of our Christmas Eve services. There’s no better way to welcome Jesus than by welcoming others into his family.
May you and yours enjoy this Christmas season and all the preparations of Advent. And may the One who is coming soon bless you and keep you in his care.
As I was reading my September 2016 issue of the American Journal of Nursing, I encountered an article that I feel is important to share a portion of with you.
Debra L. Campo is chair of Level I at St. Joseph School of Nursing, Providence, R.I. She explains the difference in symptoms of myocardial infarction (heart attack) between males and
females. She states, “According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women as well as men. More than 1 in 3 adult women have some form of CVD. And CVD was responsible for the deaths of 400,000 American women in 2011.”
The signs and symptoms of heart attack are different for women than men and harder to recognize. The most common symptoms of heart attack in men are crushing chest pain, collapse and sweating. This is not necessarily so in women. We are much more likely to present with fatigue, shortness of breath, neck pain, RIGHT arm pain, jaw pain, fainting or dizziness, or nausea and
vomiting. However, we can also have the same symptoms as men. Women may also have symptoms well in advance of an actual heart attack for days, weeks, or even months.
We all need to be aware of the possibility of heart disease in women, especially if there is a history of other risk factors– smoking, obesity, diabetes, poor diet, lack of exercise. The sooner treatment is obtained, the greater opportunity for preserving heart muscle function!
So, please be aware this group of symptoms may be serious, and seek medical help.
-Pat Vest, RN, BSN, FCN
We will begin our Thanksgiving celebration on Wednesday evening, November 23, at 7:30PM when we gather with members of Crosswinds Presbyterian Church in the EPC sanctuary. The service will include the celebration of Holy Communion and music from a combined CWPC/EPC choir. Please plan to join us for this special service and for refreshments afterward.
Last month my husband George and I went on a grand adventure. We took a cruise up the Rhine River from Amsterdam to Basel, stopping at various places along the way to see the sights and sample the local culture and cuisine. The weather was cold, but not cold enough to prevent our exploring parts of Europe we’d never seen. The scenery was beautiful, and we visited dozens of windmills, castles, forts, and cathedrals. The food was spectacular, both onboard ship and in the local restaurants— where we dined on wiener schnitzel almost every day!
One of the things I most enjoyed about our trip was visiting the many places of worship included on our itinerary. It gives one pause to think that at one time in their history, the people of Europe were so committed to their Christian faith that they invested such enormous amounts of their time and energy and resources to erect those beautiful sacred buildings to the glory of God, not just in the cities of Cologne and Heidelberg and Strasbourg, but in every little village dotting the Rhine.
While it is lamentable from a faith perspective to realize that many of these places of worship are now attended by very few people or have been repurposed to house museums or shops, their existence still bears testimony to persistent faith of those who built them. The stonemasons who laid the foundation of the cathedral in Cologne in 1248 may not have known that that great church would not be completed until 1880, but they would certainly have been aware that their children and grandchildren, and even their great- grandchildren, would not see the completion of that great edifice. Yet they labored on with faith that what they were doing was to the glory of God and would someday reach completion, no matter who sat on the throne or what direction history would take.
As we head into November and anticipate the upcoming elections and the many changes that will be taking place amongst our local and national leadership, I am grateful for the witness of those who have gone before us in the faith, and for the testimony of Scripture, that no matter what changes happen we serve a God who is faithful and whose purpose for us is unfailing. As the psalmist says, we will not fear though the earth change or the mountains shake, for God is our refuge. Our security lies not in who holds office but in the One who holds history in his hands and calls us to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with him, no matter what.
I don’t remember much from my high school Latin classes, but I do remember learning the Latin word discere, which means to learn. And it’s from a related Latin word, discipulus, that we get our English word disciple, which means pupil, student, learner. Being a disciple of Jesus means that we are always in student mode. We never finish the course; we never graduate. The business of discipleship is a life- long learning enterprise.
As we get into the swing of the new academic year, I encourage you to consider ways in which you might grow in your own discipleship. Our congregation offers several small groups that meet regularly for study and growth together. Watch your Sunday bulletin for a complete listing or contact the church office to find out which group might fit your schedule. And during the fall we will be hearing from members of our congregation about what being a disciple of Jesus means for them not only in the context of our worship life together, but in the setting of our weekday lives away from our campus as well.
As disciples of Jesus, we follow Jesus, share the truth, and serve others. As disciples of Jesus we are called to a life of constant learning and growing so that, in the words of an ancient prayer, we may “know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, follow Thee more nearly.” And that is my prayer for us all as we learn together the Way of Jesus Christ.