As I write this, my Christmas lights still hang on my house (no matter what I claimed I would be up to on Epiphany Sunday afternoon!) and a heavy blanket of snow which fell yesterday makes it hard to imagine spring as anything close to right around the corner. Nevertheless, Ash Wednesday is on February 3rd this year, one day later than the earliest it can possibly be—in fact the earliest it will be until the year 2160. The system for choosing the date for Easter is unbelievably complicated and has to do with the phases of the moon, the vernal equinox, and a 2000 year debate over which calendar one is meant to use. Suffice it to say, Easter comes 40 days after Ash Wednesday and it always falls (for Christians in the West) between March 22 and April 25th (inclusive). Sundays during Lent are not counted in the 40 days, because while Lent is meant to be a time of prayer, fasting, and preparation for the celebration of Christ's resurrection, every single Sunday is a “little Easter” when we gather together to celebrate Christ's resurrection. Sundays are times to celebrate and feast—no fasting allowed! I have to admit, as interesting as it may be to ponder church church calendar, our family calendar this month is dominated by another date—February 16th—the day Tauni is due to give birth to our second daughter. The Bethlehem church council has voted to give me some leave to be with my family during this important time and so our Lenten time together this year will be a bit different. For two weeks following the baby's birth I will be on paternity leave. On Sundays during those two weeks we will be having “Hymn Sing” services where we will sing our congregation's favorite hymns (and there are many!) from the lists you all have submitted in the last several weeks. I have to admit, I'm disappointed that I will miss these. If you have an emergency and need pastoral care during these two weeks, call the church cell phone number (252-0445) which will be forwarded to a local Lutheran pastor who will be filling in during my absence. After that, for four weeks I'll be preaching and leading adult education on Sundays, I'll be in the office on Tuesdays from 9:30-12:30, but otherwise working half time from home. I'll check messages and email and will have my cell phone back in case of emergencies. Our Wednesday night Akaloo education program with our other 6 cluster churches is on hold for Lent (we start back again March 25th). On Ash Wednesday we will use a service that combines the Ash Wednesday ritual from our new hymnal together with Taizé prayer. Throughout Lent we will continue our Bethlehem tradition of Wednesday night soup suppers (6:15pm) and will be joining together in Holden Evening Prayer (7:00pm) led by our some of our congregation's many gifted singers. There will be no soup supper or service on the Wednesday before Easter (March 19th), but we will be celebrating a full Passover Seder Supper on Maundy Thursday (March 20, 6:30pm) as we did last year to much acclaim. Good Friday (March 21, 7pm) will again be Taizé prayer, there will be no Easter Vigil this year, and Easter Sunday we will worship at 10:30am. As we welcome another child into our family Tauni and I appreciate Bethlehem's willingness to give me a bit of time away from our church family. Please pray for us as we enter this new journey—and may God be with you on your Lenten journey.
Bethlehem Lutheran Church's Guiding Principles (Passed at the Annual Meeting January 27th 2008)
- Jesus is Lord and Savior
- Everyone is welcome
- Love changes people
- We are called to work in God’s world
- God uses ordinary people like us
- God shows the way