The Season of Lent

Catholic lent

During Ash Wednesday services on the first day of Lent, many United Methodist pastors will invite their congregations “to observe a holy Lent: by self–examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self–denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word” (from the United Methodist Book of Worship). While you may be aware of this season leading up to Easter, you may wonder how you might “observe a holy Lent.”

There is no one prescribed way. Instead, we are each encouraged to find our own method of confronting our sinfulness, remembering our mortality, and giving thanks for the gift of salvation we receive through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Fasting

One of the more common practices is to give something up for Lent. Some abstain from chocolate, social media, shopping, or something else through the season. This is a religious practice known as fasting. We fast to reorient ourselves away from the distraction of those things, and back toward God.

Another way to reorient your life toward God, is to focus on devotional practices like Bible study and prayer during the season.

Young man reading Bible.

Spending extra time in Bible reading and prayer is a great way to observe Lent. Photo illustration by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications.

Bible reading

Many do not know where to begin when reading the Bible. The Upper Room Daily Devotional Guide and Alive Now will help guide you in this pursuit. Each day they provide a scripture passage and wonderfully thought-provoking and spirit-enriching material to read and think about.

Prayer

In the busyness of our everyday lives, prayer can sometimes get squeezed out. Lent is a wonderful time to intentionally work toward finding more time in your life for prayer. You can experiment with different ways to pray during the season, or really delve into a new-to-you way of praying. Enriching your prayer life is a great way to spend Lent.

Service

Another way to observe a holy Lent is to take on a new way of serving. Throughout the forty days of the season you can adopt a new habit of volunteering in the community, making special financial gifts to service organizations, singing in the choir, or participating in a small group.

Rest

An important practice with which many of us struggle is the spiritual discipline of rest or Sabbath. We don’t have to rest on Saturday, the traditional Sabbath day, or even Sunday. You can instead find moments during an ordinary day to be still in God’s presence. You might choose to spend a few minutes during lunch with a desktop meditation, listen to sermons on your commute, or read a poem that feeds your spirit. Each can be a great way of enriching your Lent.

Lent Quiz logo

The daily Lent Quiz is a great way to be reminded of the season and learn more about it every day. Illustration by Cindy Caldwell, United Methodist Communications.

Daily Lent Quiz

Testing your knowledge with the daily Lent Quiz is a wonderful way to be reminded that we are in the season of Lent. Every day you have an opportunity to answer a challenging question then check out some other resources about the topic of the day. Use social media to share the questions and invite others to join you on your Lenten journey.

Child resources

You will also want to find ways to share the meaning of the season with the children in your life. While their focus may be on Easter baskets and new clothes, you can enter into special times to help them find deeper meaning to the season.

Some families set aside money each day during Lent through creative ways to collect coins each day or by making small “sacrifices” as a family, like skipping a weekly movie or meal out, and collecting the money saved each week. On Easter Sunday, or soon after, donate the money to help people in your local community or across the globe.

Dyeing eggs is a wonderful Easter tradition.

Even dyeing Easter Eggs can become a time to deepen our faith experience. Photo by United Methodist Television. ©2014 United Methodist Communications.

Also, consider trying some traditions from other cultures to enhance your Easter celebration. Make instruments during Lent that you can use to celebrate the resurrection in song on Easter Sunday, similar to Christians in Zimbabwe. Or try some special Easter foods, like the Easter breakfast cakes of Poland.

Even while dyeing Easter Eggs you can creatively teach children about your faith by sharing The Importance of the Egg: Children and Easter video, which tells of the symbolism of the Easter Egg in a wonderfully lively way.

Learning

You may also use Lent as a time to learn about the seasons of Lent and Easter, and some of the practices of the Christian church.

Common symbols like the cross carry a great deal of meaning. A less traditional symbol like an Easter Totem Pole from Alaska may also be fun to know more about.

Learning about rituals specific to the season can enhance your worship. You may want to know more about the ashes used on Ash Wednesday, a Maundy Thursday footwashing service you’re considering attending, or the Tenebrae service your congregation is planning for Good Friday.

You may also choose to learn more about baptism and communion, the sacraments of the church. Each has a connection to Lent and Easter.

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Our Pastor’s Role as Chaplain

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Police officers are in a class by themselves. By nature of the task they perform in the line of duty, they are a breed apart. They bear a tremendous responsibility, they are arbitrators of everything imaginable, instant problem solvers and often called upon to make split second life and death decisions  An effective chaplaincy program can help to conserve this valuable resource. As a chaplain with the Knoxville Police Department my first responsibility is to the Officer, to assist them in spiritual and occupational issues. Next we minister to the victims of crime, inform families when there has been a death or accident. We are one way in which God can use to let law enforcement know that they are not forgotten.
Pastor Russ

Why Christians don’t share their faith

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1. Fear. The fear of being ridiculed, disapproved and persecuted by the world, especially those close to us and those who have authority over us like parents, spouses and bosses.
2. They don’t feel or think that they are qualified. I AM ALSO GUILTY OF THAT. I spent most of my life trying to heal my
emotions. Didn’t feel qualified to share the gospel I was so messed up who would want what I have if I am still a mess?
3. They want to keep their jobs. Just to keep their jobs, Christians have negated the Great Commission. In the workplace you fear losing your job. It is a very real possibility in this day and age. However in the church it is also a problem because of those with legalistic perspectives. You might not get it right.
4. Complacency, lack of compassion and passion, spiritual laziness Luke 8:14 and that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.
5. Too many worry about “political correctness”. It’s not politically correct anymore to share your faith.
6. Influenced by worldly culture because they have believed the lie that they are “pushing” their beliefs on someone.
7. A lack of training and don’t know how to share. ! believe it’s because they weren’t informed about the true meaning and responsibility of being a disciple of The Lord Jesus Christ.
8. Not strong Christians with strong faith.
9. Few people believed what they said and believed in. Because we live in a world that is so tolerant of everything but Christianity! Just the mention of “Jesus” sends everyone to their politically correct corner.

10. ” they don’t see the example from Church leaders.

Sharing Our Faith

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We can share our faith with others in many different ways. The first
and most important way is through our lifestyles. We must live a life
that is reflective of our convictions in such a way that it attracts others.
Jesus said the 2nd greatest Commandment was to love others and
Ephesians 5:2 tells us to “Live a life filled with love, following the
example of Christ.” Paul says “I always try to please others instead of
myself, in the hope that many of them will be saved. You must follow
my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:33 f).
We become ineffective when our lives are out of sync with God’s will.
Living a healthy, holy and attractive life is always compelling. When
others notice your life they will often be curious and want to know
more about it. Peter tells us “if someone asks about your Christian
hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and
respectful way” (1 Peter 3:15-16). It doesn’t take a Bible College
degree or years of Bible study to be able to answer the questions of
others about our faith. Yet, the phrase “always be ready” means that
we’ll have to spend some time preparing. Every Christian should think
through their personal testimony of God’s faithfulness to them and how
that has given them a new perspective on life and a hope for eternity.
Not all of us have dramatic conversion stories but we all have stories of
how God has impacted our lives positively. Every believer has a story
to share and every believer must be ready to share it.
Your story should contain three parts. The first part is what your life
was like before God acted in his marvelous way to bless you. For those
who came to faith in Christ later in life, that is normally our salvation
experience. I was in the midst of a divorce and faced the prospect of
losing my family and other precious things in life. But for others it’s a
personal testing; the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, a stage of
sheer disillusionment with life as a whole, or many other issues that
drive us to take a more serious look at our life and very often drives us
to our knees and opens our hearts to hear from God. We should not
spend too much time on this part of the story, but use it to set the stage
for giving God the glory for His wonderful work. The 2nd part of the
story is about what God did to resolve my life crisis issue or personal
struggle. This part takes some deep reflection because God’s ways are
usually mysterious and we need to work at understanding what and
how God worked in our hearts during that period. The last part of my
story is about how I changed after God’s work in my heart. The
difference.

Welcome Home

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New Doors to Sanctuary

New sanctuary entrance doors recently installed at St. Paul East United Methodist.

Who is coming to Homecoming on Sunday, September 14th at 10:30 am? Check out the new entrance doors to St. Paul East. The slogan of the United Methodist Church is “Open Minds, Open Hearts, and Open Doors.” However, in order to showcase the beauty of the new wood and glass details, we decided photograph the doors while closed. Doors will be wide open and welcoming everyone for the annual Homecoming service this coming Sunday, September 14, 2014. Mark your calendar and make plans to attend. The service will be followed by a covered dish meal in the basement fellowship hall. Everyone is invited and encouraged to attend this wonderful service and meal.

Homecoming 2014

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Homecoming-2014

Mark your calendar, and make plans to attend Homecoming
September 14, 2014
10:30 am

Guest Speaker: Tom Ballard
Special Music: Harmony Ladies Trio
Homecoming Meal: Everyone brings a covered dish and enjoys food, friends, and fellowship downstairs in the church basement following worship service.

We encourage everyone to worship at St. Paul at every Sunday. Our annual Homecoming service is an especially great time with a guest speaker and special music. If you ever visited or once attended St. Paul, please come back and see the great things God is doing.

Questions? e-mail Pastor Russ: contactus@stpauleast.org

Near the Cross

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After services on Sunday was a good time for friends and fellowship with Pat Luttrell (left) and Cathy Young (right) at the door of the sanctuary. Check out Cathy’s shirt that she got at annual conference at Lake Junaluska. It has the symbolic Methodist cross and flame. The image relates The United Methodist church to God through Christ (cross) and the Holy Spirit (flame). The flame is a reminder of Pentecost when witnesses were unified by the power of the Holy Spirit and saw “tongues, as of fire” (Acts 2:3).
>> more in-depth information about the Methodist cross and flame symbol

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Near the Cross

Hear the St. Paul congregation sing “Near the Cross”