A Message from Pastor Scott

Getting Ready For Lent

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It is hard to believe we are already getting ready for Lent. At least the Super Bowl is over before we step into the more reflective time of Lent. The Lenten season is traditionally described as lasting for forty days, in commemoration of the forty days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, according to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, before beginning his public ministry, during which he endured temptation by Satan. So, how do we commemorate, celebrate, or experience the Lenten season?

Lent is not a season we commemorate because it isn’t primarily something we remember in the past. Each year we experience Lent anew. Lent isn’t something we celebrate, because it is a recognition of suffering and sinfulness. It is not a “yahoo” moment. At its best, Lent is something we experience. We use those approximately six weeks to reflect on our lives, especially the areas that need improvement.

Some Christian Churches give up meat, or worse chocolate. Others exclude flowers from their services throughout Lent. Others make a commitment to nurture the faith of its members by participating in Lenten devotionals. My devotionals can be used as a spiritual practice throughout Lent. (You can see them at westpres.org/daily-devotions). Whatever you choose to do, make sure it isn’t just a painful obligation, but a meaningful opportunity to nurture your relationship with God.

I’ve taken a few days of vacation and gone to a monastery, and used time in silence and prayer to experience a deeper time with God. I’ve committed to a number of Lenten devotions through the years. Personally, the least meaningful Lenten practice I’ve done is giving something up. Now, adding a spiritual discipline through Lent is important because it develops spiritual habits that just may continue throughout the rest of the year.

This year I plan to pick up my nylon string guitar to play and sing Taize music each day. In my last church we had a monthly Taize service, and it was a powerfully spiritual time for me. I look forward to inviting the Holy Spirit into daily worship over the 40 days of Lent. Do you have a Lenten plan yet? Be sure to think about your Lenten plan, so you can be ready to focus on God this Lenten season. You will be amazed at how God blesses your time with the Holy One.

Christmas Offering

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I am going to brag for a moment, and it will not make you happy. I am done with all my Christmas shopping! I purchased my last gift on Black Friday. I had to gloat a little; it is the first time I’ve ever accomplished this miracle. It feels great. No pushing and shoving in lines, or ruining evenings when I could have stayed home with Jill. It is freeing to get it done early. No, wait, I was wrong. I have one more Christmas gift to offer…the one to the church.

 

I would never re-gift. That is, receive a gift, re-wrap it and give it to another person. This is what King David is saying to Araunah. “I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.” At Christmas time, we often do that by giving God our leftovers. “Oh, I overspent this Christmas, so I better not give anything to the church.” Your gift to God at Christmas is a valuable part of your Christmas experience. It shouldn’t be a leftover, or skipped. It is important to give the church a Christmas gift because God has given you everything you have, and giving back to God is the reason for the season.

 

Your Christmas gift to the church is a huge blessing and helps us meet our end-of-the-year budget. Your Christmas gift helps us continue to provide for our children and youth, so they can strengthen their faith in Christ Jesus. Your gift helps fund the worship of our God, which is the foundational aspect of the Christian faith. Your Christmas gift helps continue outreach to the community, fulfilling the Great Commandment to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” Your Christmas gift helps us provide care for our elderly and those in need within our congregation.

 

Your Christmas gift is an expression of gratitude for all that God has given you. The Christmas season is a time when we reflect on all our blessings. Today, by offering your gift, you are saying, “thank you,” to the God who has blessed you in so many ways. On behalf of all the people who will be blessed by your generous gift, I say, “thank you.” We cannot offer God our leftovers that cost us little or nothing. Give God your very best this Christmas season. Get this important gift sent early this year.

 

God Bless You,

 Scott Paczkowski

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