Experiencing Hope Through Jesus Christ

Christian-Community Connection

An ongoing series of informational entries from our pastor

        






















































Let's Talk About Lent

February 26, 2020

Hello to All!

Welcome to Lent.  Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  Lent is the 40 days (approximately six weeks) beginning Ash Wednesday and ending on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter, not counting Sundays.  It is a solemn and somber time in our Christian walk.  


The purpose of this Lenten season is to move our hearts into a closer relationship with God.  We are preparing ourselves to celebrate the resurrected Savior, Jesus Christ.   You see, Jesus spent his last days teaching the people who followed him.  At the end of his ministry, he was betrayed by one of his followers, Judas, and denied by another, Peter.  Judas betrayal was one portion, in a series of events that lead the leaders of the religious community, the Pharisees, to turn on Jesus, capture him, torture him, and finally crucify him.  


Despite knowing that death was imminent, Jesus continued to preach and lead the people to eternal salvation.  Could you imagine the conflict that was going on in Jesus' mind?  Yes, Jesus was a divine entity, but he was also human, with human feelings.  Jesus loved.  Jesus laughed.  Jesus had a family.  But, Jesus ultimately had a purpose.  His purpose was to wipe the slate clean.  He accomplished that purpose by sacrificing himself to take away our sin and to give us eternal life, with him, in Heaven.


So, there is a question about why we do some of the things we do, as Christians, during Lent.  Let's begin with Ash Wednesday and why some of these people are walking around with dirty foreheads.  No, it's not just dirt.  What is on the person's forehead is ashes.  These ashes, historically, come from the burnt palm branches from the previous year's Palm Sunday.  


People choose to be marked with ashes for a couple of different reasons; it can be for personal reflection and remembrance and also as a sign of witness.  When the minister places ashes on the person's head, they are making the sign of the cross.  The minister also says something like, "from dust you came, and to dust you will return" or "turn from your sinful ways and be faithful to the Gospel."  I find this to be a truly humbling moment.  A moment where I am in intimate closeness with Jesus, remember all he went through and sacrificed for a sinner, me.


There seem to be a lot of questions surrounding the tradition of fasting.  As I scroll through some of my Keto groups on Facebook today, questions are arising as to what can and cannot be eaten.  The short answer is it is not about food.  Now, I want to preface this with a note saying that I am not going to confirm or condemn anyone's personal beliefs in what they understand as a lenten fast.  The purpose behind a fast or giving something up for Lent is self-denial, self-sacrifice.  We are to be humbling ourselves and experiencing sacrifice as Jesus did.  Now, does this mean your sacrifice has to dietary based?  No!  We could be fasting/giving something up as a denial of ourselves, our ego.  This journey is about coming closer to our Savior, not anything else.


There is also a portion of Lent that is about addition.  If we are giving something up to become closer to him, we can just as well make additions to become closer to him.  Remember, this journey is about our salvation.  Think, more of him, less of me.   We can add daily quiet time in reflection of who Jesus was and his mission here on earth.  We can add a daily devotional reading.  We can add a time of prayer, a time of praise, a time of service.  The list is almost endless.  How can we fill ourselves with who Jesus is?


Also, as I mentioned, Lent is a season.  Therefore, this leads to the thought that seasons belong to a calendar.  Yes, there is a church calendar, as if we don't have enough to remember with our secular calendars, right?  But the church calendar is important.  Every aspect of the calendar has a significant meaning and history.  This season being Lent.  


Each season has a color associated with it too.  The color purple represents the season of Lent.  The color purple was reportedly what the guards draped Jesus in, upon his captivity.  Purple was normally only warned by royalty or the people who worked for royalty.  Jesus was charged as being the "King of the Jews," hence the use of purple.  Purple also symbolizes the pain, suffering, and mourning and penitence that Jesus endured.  You will notice that our tablecloths, lighting, etc. change color from time-to-time; these are a reflection of the church calendar and current season we are in.


While Lent is traditionally a somber time of reflection and remembrance, there is also an aspect of hope.  You see, as you learn about the condemnation Jesus faced, and his horrific death, Jesus offers us hope through his resurrection.  You see.  Yes, Jesus died on the cross to cleanse and forgive us all of all our sins, but his resurrection wins the day.  Jesus was buried, and on the 3rd day, he arose!  He conquered death.  Therein lies our eternal life with him.   We will forever be with our Savior, the one who suffered and died for us.  That, my friends, is worth our sacrifice and remembrance!  


May God's grace, mercy, and peace be with you all today and always.


Nicki

In Times of Trial

May 1, 2020

This has been one heck of a week. Our governor, here in Indiana, Governor Holcomb, is set to announce a possible relaxation on our stay-at-home order. This announcement, made Monday, has led many, including myself, to a place of anxiety. The anxiety comes from the thought of the unknown, the un-surety of the safety of ourselves and others, a longing to return to a sense of normalcy, and fatigue from this isolation.

I think the governor has hit that nail on the head when he talks about not wanting to win the race to reopen but to win the race at being the safest. Our focus should not be on the economy. Sure, it is one of the points to consider, but our focus should be on the people. Jesus didn't worry about who was getting paid and when. Jesus supplied for the people's needs. Jesus fed the hungry. Jesus healed the sick. Jesus comforted the grieving. Jesus cared for the health, safety, and well-being of the people. Jesus was, is, and always will be the provider of our needs.

With all that said, I cannot imagine being in a position of governmental leadership today. I cannot imagine having to make these decisions. What I can do is have faith that Jesus will lead us, guide us, and protect us. He will provide for us. Let's take today to pray for Governor Holcomb, all the local, state, and national leaders, including our president. Their jobs are not easy. One can only imagine the fear, anxiety, and weight of the situation that they must feel.

Be well, friends. Be safe. Make sure you are communicating your thoughts and feelings and protecting your mental health, whether you are talking to a loved one, a neighbor, a friend, or you reach out to us, reach out. We are all in this together, doing life--really well--together, living well despite our circumstances. We love you, just like Jesus does, UNCONDITIONALLY!


May God's grace, mercy, and peace be with you all today and always.


Nicki

Our Community in Crisis

May 7, 2020

Let's reflect on the lives this crisis is impacting and the mental health crisis we are entering. "Former Congressman Patrick J Kennedy says calls at suicide hotlines have increased by 800 percent as resources shift to COVID-19 relief. The mental health advocate sounded the alarm at a Metro Nashville news conference, raising the question – Will the silent killer of mental illness be our country’s next major crisis?" (https://fox17.com/news/local/feeling-the-pressures-of-the-pandemic-suicide-hotlines-see-800-percent-spike-in-calls)

Did you know that just the last few days our community has had at least three overdoses of drugs? Two of the overdoses resulted in the loss of life, one more was able to survive. Another of our community members lost her life due to the effects drugs have on the body, as a whole. But friends, these aren't just numbers. These are not just some junkies. These were our friends, our neighbors, our brothers and sisters, sons, and daughters. These people, the people we love, had names, Tina, Zack, Merideth, John. These are the least of these, the ones Jesus tells us to take care of in the Gospel of Matthew.

I was on a Zoom meeting with mental health professionals from Northeastern Center, Bowen Center, and Mental Health America yesterday. The very people on the mental health front-lines, right here in our community, DeKalb County, yesterday. They confirm the rise in a mental health crisis. They report that "people who were once able to cope well and were on the track toward recovery are not anymore."

The struggle is real and it is now. This crisis is not just affecting people with predispositions to mental health challenges or to a certain sector of the population, or a stereotype. Mental health challenges can and do happen to everyone, there is no discrimination. That is one reason why we (The Gathering) have continued our support community, Hope for Mental Health, virtually, during this time.

We are all experiencing loss, grief, isolation, etc. Not one of us is immune to these things now. But, there is something we can do. We can reach out. We can join together, to do life, and this crisis together. We can live well, together, despite our circumstances. I urge you to join us, tonight at 6 pm. You can join via audio and video at https://meet.google.com/qzf-qwqy-bya, you can call-in, with audio-only at +1 925-587-6796‬ PIN: ‪291 835 808‬#.

Let's take some time to pray and petition God to step-in and for restoration, of health, and for healing for our community. Please remember we love you and you can reach out to us anytime. We are a DM away. You can also Text HOME to 741741 to reach a Crisis Counselor or call SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

Be well and pray for one another. 


May God's grace, mercy, and peace be with you all today and always.


Nicki