Weekly Update: March 28, 2017

Preparing for Sunday, April 2, 2017 at 8:30 & 11 am

The Fifth Sunday in Lent



Season of Lent

Lent is an old English term for “spring.” In the annual cycle of the church’s liturgy and spiritual formation, it is the time of year for preparation for new life at Easter, the celebration of the resurrection —so the connection to the season of spring is appropriate. Lent is a more solemn season than Christmas or Easter, and it need not be a time of excessive negativity, but a time of growing trust in God’s power to renew our lives.

The traditional ancient spiritual practices for Lent are prayer, fasting (forgoing certain foods for a time of refocus), and almsgiving (giving to the poor). The themes of Lent are wilderness time, repentance (meaning a turning around of one’s life), following Jesus in the way of the cross, and preparation for baptism or renewal of baptism at the Easter Vigil. The Vigil is the Saturday night service before Easter Day, the most celebratory and poetic liturgy in church tradition, and the primary time for baptisms and confirmations.

Sundays are Sundays in Lent and take on a different character than other days of Lent because, while reflective, Sunday is always a celebration of the resurrection of Christ. However, we “put away” the praise word “Alleluia” as we make the journey through Lent.

Here are some biblical verses and writings as a way to prepare and begin pondering the scripture texts for the fifth Sunday in Lent.

Ezekiel 37:11-14

Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.”

John 11:17-27

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

The Hope of New Life

Hope overcomes despair for God’s people: this is the message of the readings for today. The hope of new life is evident in the story of “dry bones” from Ezekiel. The children of Israel declare their hope is lost. The prophet’s experience in the valley of dry bones inspires him to preach renewed hope to the people. Psalm 130 sings of hope in God and God’s word. The work of God’s Spirit gives hope of new life in Paul’s letter to the church at Rome. The Gospel of John tells the hope-filled story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. The gospel gives us encouraging words to sustain us through the approaching despair of Christ’s passion and brings us to the fulfillment of hope on Easter. Martha’s wistful words to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here…but even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him” (John 11:21-22), reflect the hope of God’s people in the face of despair, even in the face of death.

This Sunday: adults

Radical Discipleship – The Sermon on the Mount

This Sunday at 9:45 am Pastor Coffey continues the adult forum on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7) and continue exploring how we are called to live the radical discipleship Jesus teaches. We are looking at how Dietrich Bonhoeffer had his Lutheran theology challenged and changed by listening to other traditions’ use of the Sermon on the Mount. We are discussing practical ways of being faithful followers of Jesus in our complex world today.  This series concludes on Palm Sunday, April 9.

This Sunday: children and youth

The Faces of Easter

This week’s presentation focuses on the face of Christ as healer and parable-maker. Jesus came back across the Jordan River to do his work…but what was his work? The work of Jesus was to come close to people, mostly the people no one else wanted to come close to.

Godly Play is offered for all children through the 6th grade meeting at 9:45 am at the threshold to the library in the Chapel of the Saints.

For more information, contact Jimmy Wright at formation@felcaustin.org

Wednesday, March 29

Evening Godly Play for Teachers and Families

From 6:00 -7:00 pm an evening of Godly Play story, method, and theology will be offered. This is particularly intended for those teaching Godly Play and families with young children—adults and children—but is also open to anyone interested in learning more about this ministry. You can grab dinner from Companion Cafe and bring it into the library.  This Wednesday, March 29.

For more information, contact Jimmy Wright at formation@felcaustin.org

Wednesdays of Lent

Companion Café: 6:00 pm

Accompanying One Another on the Journey–Evening Prayer and Labyrinth: 7:00 pm

We often speak of life as a journey, and Lent is often thought of as a journey as well. On four Wednesday evenings in Lent, we will gather with the theme of accompanying one another on the journey, the journey of Lent and the journey of life. While we contemplate our own journeys in life, we will listen and learn how we accompany each other on the way, especially those whose experience may be different from our own.

The four weekly themes are:

March 8:     Accompanying Women (International Women’s Day)

March 15:   Accompanying Men

March 22:   Accompanying Refugees 

March 29:  Accompanying Transgender Persons

A guest speaker offers a reflection on the theme. As part of the evening prayer we will have a labyrinth in the Chapel of the Saints to use for prayer and contemplation of the journey we walk together. Join together as we learn to accompany one another and hear of the One who accompanies us all through the journey of life, Christ Jesus.

Companion Café precedes Lenten Evening Prayer at 6:00 pm. Companion Café offers a chef-prepared meal for a suggested donation of $5 ($3 for children).

Middle and High School Youth Prepare for Easter Breakfast: April 2 & 9

Following the 11:00 am liturgy on Sundays, April 2 and April 9, our middle and high school youth will be offering ways you can participate in the Easter breakfast on Sunday, April 16 at 9:00 am.  They will have paper slips containing grocery items needed for the Easter breakfast. Youth will be at a table during the hospitality time after the liturgy. (All items can be delivered to the church kitchen by 2:00 pm on Saturday April 15. )

Prayer for Our Nation and All Nations Evening Prayer: Wednesday, April 5 at 7:00 pm

On Wednesday, April 5, we will gather to pray for our nation and pray for all the nations. With growing anxiety, division, and fear of governmental actions and increased acts of hate, we need to gather and pray for our nation, for healing, for peace, for justice, for safety for those facing persecution, for our leaders. We also need to pray for all nations. We will welcome Vision of Hope African Methodist Episcopal Church and other friends. Invite someone.  All are most welcome.

Companion Café precedes this Evening Prayer at 6:00 pm.

Cleaning Day: Sunday, April 9 at 12:30 pm

It’s time to get our sanctuary in great shape for Holy Week and Easter. We have a ready-to-go list of cleaning, organizing, and repair projects so we can get to work after the 11:00 am liturgy. We’ll have a light lunch for those who are working. RSVP for lunch to pastor@felcaustin.org.

Come Make the Journey Each Day: Holy Week and Easter Day

The high point of the story of God’s love is the celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ. The rituals of Holy Week and Easter are meant to be a source of renewal and inspiration. Plan on participating each day in the church’s deep, profound celebration of the paschal mystery. Information on Holy Week and Easter Day liturgies and events at  http://www.felcaustin.org/worship-music/hw-easter

We will celebrate God’s new creation with hydrangea plants and lilies on Easter Day. Easter flower order forms are located on tables at the entrances to the sanctuary or online at http://www.felcaustin.org/easterflowers. The deadline for flower orders is Monday, April 10.