Lent is an important time for renewal as we journey together with Jesus towards Jerusalem, and towards the cross. I invite all the members of our congregation to make a strong commitment to participating in the full worship and community life on offer during the Lenten season, including Sunday worship, Lenten evening prayer and soup suppers, and the special days of Lent and the Three Days, including Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.
I hope the model we are offering for Lent this year is sensitive to the needs of the congregation and the overall direction we hope to be on as the people of God. This year I've decided we probably can't go wrong focusing on Luther's Small Catechism. Luther himself said of the catechism,
"But for myself I say this: I am also a doctor and preacher, yea, as learned and experienced as all those may be who have such presumption and security; yet I do as a child who is being taught the Catechism, and every morning, and whenever I have time, I read and say, word for word, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Psalms, etc. And I must still read and study daily, and yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the Catechism, and am glad so to remain."
On Ash Wednesday, Bob Mueller and I are teaming up to offer a spoken word/organ meditation on Lent and the 40 days. I have spent the last few weeks drafting the poem, and I hope this experiment combining spoken word and organ will be faithful and transformative for our worship together. Ash Wednesday will be a service of Holy Communion with the Imposition of Ashes.
Each Wednesday following, our Lenten Holden Evening Prayer service will include a sermon on one portion of the catechism, beginning with the 10 Commandments, then proceeding through the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, Baptism, and Communion. The choir and other ensembles will offer special music that will help us meditate on these portions of the catechism in fresh perspective.
Three teams in our congregation will be inviting us to give to ELCA World Hunger throughout the season. Watch for ELCA World Hunger boxes from the Women of the ELCA, an opportunity to donate through our social ministry team at the soup suppers, and the Sunday school youth taking up a collection during their classroom time each week. I will be finding creative connections between the ministry of ELCA World Hunger and the catechism during my mid-week sermon each week.
I would especially like to invite families, and those of you who have never participated in our mid-week Lenten services, to give it a try. It's a chance to eat a simple soup supper with your church family, and I guarantee you will love Holden Evening Prayer, the special music, and be fed by the sermon. Watch for table tents at the meal each week that will train us in praying the simple table grace that is part of the catechism.
Finally, if you hope to have a meaningful Easter this year, I encourage you to participate in the season of Lent. You will find that the amazing news of the resurrection is even more amazing and life-giving if you have prepared yourself for it over these forty days.
Please consider making use of this Lent to be a pupil of the catechism. Many of us celebrate being distinctively Lutheran while also in healthy ecumenical dialogue with our Christian neighbors, and in mission to the world. I think you will find that the catechism equips us for all of this, and is worthy of our sustained attention during the forty days of Lent.