Category Archives: Lent

Lent at All Saints Church

–a reflection by Interim Rector Rev Thomas Kortus–
Lent is a season of soul-searching and repentance. It originated in the very earliest days of the Church as a preparatory time for Easter, when the faithful rededicated themselves to Jesus and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. By observing the forty days of Lent, we are invited to imitate Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days. When we enter into the traditional spiritual disciplines of Lent, Easter becomes a genuine personal experience of the resurrection.
Lent is an opportunity live into the Spirit’s words in Hebrews 12:…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus... It is a season in which we seek to enter more deeply into repentance and to fix our lives more firmly on Jesus. Lent keeps the grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ central. Christianity is not a self-help religion. We are never good enough to merit our salvation, and Lent reminds us that it is only by the grace of God that we are rescued from sin and death.
I pray that you will enter into Lent this year by joining us for regular Sunday morning worship and by taking advantage of these intentional lenten activities. I particularly commend the Servant Songs of Isaiah Bible Study on Wednesday nights and the Morning Prayer Eucharist services. Prayer and Scripture study and meditation are foundational to our lives in Christ and particularly during the Lenten season. Ash Wednesday (next week!) is also a powerful and intentional way to begin this important season. Call the church office of you have any questions about these activities (919-908-9187).
Ash Wednesday Services  March 5 7:30 a.m. & 6 p.m. 
    Five Oaks SDA Church  /4124 Farrington Road, Durham
   Nursery for ages 0-3 provided at 6 p.m. service
Morning Prayer and Holy Eucharist throughout Lent 
   Tuesdays and Fridays 7:30 – 8:10 a.m.  / March 7 –April 11
   All Saints Church Upper Room  / 3622 Lyckan Pkwy, Suite 5006, Durham
Lenten Bible Study: Wednesdays 6-7:15 p.m. throughout Lent 
   Five Oaks SDA Church
Join us weekly as we study the Servant Songs of Isaiah together as a church family. Brian Maiers, Bishop Steve Breedlove, Dr. Jennie Grillo, Rev. Brad Acton, and Dr. Ross Wagner will be teaching and leading our discussions. Sign up for dinner at church or by email (thomas@allsaints-chd.org) the Sunday before you attend ($5 per parson or $12 a family) or bring your own. Dinner begins at 5:30. Nursery and Young Elementary program available upon request. Contact the church office for more information.
As We Forgive Movie Screening  March 23  7:00 p.m.
   Five Oaks SDA Church
As We Forgive is a short documentary film that explores how Rwanda has recovered from genocide through the work of reconciliation. The event will also be an opportunity to learn more about Rwanda and hear how God is calling Brandon, Emily and Elsa Walsh to serve him there as Ambassadors to the Gasabo Diocese. For more information contact Brandon Walsh (bwalsh0121@gmail.com).
Information about our Holy Week services will be announced soon.

THE MEANING OF LENT
The days of Holy Week–Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter–are packed with meaning and significance central to the Christian faith. Lent is a season of preparation and of intentionally dwelling on the great passion of Jesus Christ. On Ash Wednesday (March 5), which marks the beginning of Lent, we will come forward, kneel, and receive the imposition of ashes upon our brows as we hear these words: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.” This is the message that sets the tone for Lent. Dust and ashes symbolize two themes at the heart of Lent: our creaturely mortality and our moral culpability. We are finite and sinful people. So we humble ourselves before the eternal God who created us and who redeemed us, our only source of life and righteousness.

Lent is a “bright sadness” (Schmemann, Great Lent). During Lent we become more aware of our sinfulness and need for God, but we also remember that we are redeemed by Jesus’ death on the cross and receive forgiveness and eternal life through it. Lent is sobering, but it ends in Easter!

We Focus on Jesus 

During Lent we focus on Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness where he battled with the devil. We are given the opportunity to renew our baptismal vows to renounce Satan and all evil powers and sinful desires, to trust in the grace of Christ as our Savior, and to follow him as our Lord.

We also focus on the passion of Jesus. Jesus set his face to Jerusalem. He intentionally and willingly walked toward crucifixion and death to redeem the world to God the Father. So we focus on self-denial, dying to ourselves and pivoting from self-gratification.

TRADITIONAL LENTEN DISCIPLINES

Fasting
“There is no Lent without fasting. Christian fasting is the voluntary denial of something for a specific time for a spiritual purpose” (Schmemann, Great Lent). It is a restriction that creates space for God. Fasting from food helps us to know more vividly that Jesus is the true source of our sustenance and being, but many people choose to fast from other things as well to create space for God.

Prayer
We set aside times to quiet ourselves in the presence of God in order to take an honest look at ourselves and to cultivate a closer union with God. In prayer we gain a greater awareness of our inner disposition, external behaviors, hearts, and habits. Some choose to meditate on the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes. Reading the Daily Office Lectionary also leads us to prayerful reflection before God.

Almsgiving
Giving of ourselves sacrificially over and beyond our tithe is a form of self-denial that loosens our bonds to the flesh and the pleasures and vices of the world. Consider how you might give more of yourself this Lent.
………………….

The more we can enter into Jesus’ sufferings and death in that final week, the more we will know both our own great sin and need for God’s great goodness and love. Reading and meditating on scripture during Lent enables us to know Christ and share in his sufferings, becoming more like him in his death so as to share in the power of his resurrection (Philippians 3:10).

If you have questions about how you can enter into these traditional Lenten disciplines, please contact one of our clergy:
Thomas Kortus 919.619.5007 / thomas@allsaints-chd.org
Brad Acton 205.873.2257 / brad@allsaintschd.org
Julie Cate Kelly  919.402.7244 / JulieCateKelly@gmail.com
Kent Hinkson 919.452.4642 /  kent.hinkson@yahoo.com

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Collect for Holy Thursday

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

last supper icon

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Collect for Tuesday in Holy Week

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an
instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life:
Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ, that we may gladly
suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son our Savior
Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy
Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Georges Rouault -Crucifixion

Georges Rouault -Crucifixion

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Collect for Monday of Holy Week

Almighty God, whose dear Son went not up to joy but
first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he
was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way
of the cross, may find it none other that the way of life and
peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.

 

Jean Marchand Woodcut - LAYING JESUS IN THE TOMB

Jean Marchand Woodcut – LAYING JESUS IN THE TOMB

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The Most Important Lenten Discipline

Donnie McDaniel preached this morning at our Wednesday morning Eucharist service. Here is his sermon! A great reminder this Lent.

Romans 5:6-11  For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person– though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.  8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.  9 Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God.  10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.  11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Art Lent 5 B

In preparation for preaching this morning, I was faced with the task of deciding which of these three passages that I would preach, and any of them would make for a wonderful homily, but as a preacher by trade and calling, I would not be worth my salt if I did not preach from Paul’s letter to the Romans when given the opportunity; thus, that is where we will spend our brief time together this morning. Romans, after all, has played a major role in the theology of Western Christianity, the branch of the faith in which we stand as Anglicans. It was a passage in Romans that led to the conversion of St. Augustine. It was the book of Romans that Martin Luther, the 16th century Reformer, urged all Christians to memorize. In the early 20th century it was Karl Barth’s commentary called Der Romerbrief that exploded on the playground of liberal, Protestant theology, and even today the great minds of the Christian faith continue to mine the depths of St. Paul’s masterpiece, so this morning we will be in good company.

Specifically, this morning we will be spending our time in Romans 5.6-11 where I hope we will pick up the most important Lenten practice—preaching the gospel to ourselves. A few short weeks ago, many of us were here on Ash Wednesday, and we began the great journey of Lent, a six week period of deep introspection where we take a long look at our own sins and what it cost Christ to effect such a great reconciliation between God and humanity. During Lent, many of us have chosen to follow the Great Tradition and restrict our diets. We willingly choose to go without so that we can remember more clearly what Christ has done on our behalf, but even in this season, when we are supposed to be focused on Christ, it is easy for us to look again at our own practices. Knowing the sinful bent of the human heart, the Ash Wednesday liturgy is carefully formed around a gospel text that warns us against engaging in religious practices, such as fasting, that draw attention to ourselves. And one of the best ways we can avoid this tendency is to remind ourselves of what God has done for us, and that is what we will do today as we look at the two sides of the gospel; the present assurance that we have in Christ, and the future hope that we have in him as well. So, let’s take a look at Romans 5.6-11 and see what Paul has for us this morning.

Paul, in verse nine is building upon our justification before God, an idea that he introduces back in verse one of the present chapter. The justification that we have in Christ is the declaration of our right standing with God via our participation in the life and death of Jesus Christ, who completed the work that God had prepared for him from the foundation of world. Now please note the tense that Paul uses to describe this Justification, he says we have been justified. This is something that is already accomplished. I call this the present assurance that we have in Christ. Those who have placed their faith in the finished work of Jesus the Messiah already enjoy the truth that they belong to the family of God, that is the verdict that you and I can expect from God at the final judgment, has been applied to us already. Paul then goes on to tell us that this justification arrived at God’s appointed time; this means that Jesus’ ministry including his death, resurrection, and ascension happened at the just the right moment in time. Despite how Rousseau and the rest of the Enlightenment thinkers would like to tell the story, the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus constitute the climax of history. God moved to restore his creation at exactly the right time, and this was done while we were still weak and sinful.

The fact that God justified humanity while we were weak and sinful is beautiful truth. Paul himself says here that, “God proves his love for us that while we were sinners Christ died for us.” What St. Paul is conveying to us is that humanity, individually and corporately, has done nothing to earn this justified status before God. It is entirely a free gift of grace from a loving God who stepped into the theater of history to enact a redemption that provides justification to humanity, but also, as Paul goes on to teach us in Romans 8, provides salvation to all of creation itself. This is the first half of the gospel that we should be preaching to ourselves. We should constantly tell ourselves that while we were weak and sinful, Jesus willingly gave his life that we could have the right standing with God. I know that this explains my situation when God found me. I was 17 years old, and had grown up in private Christian school. I knew all about God, but I did not know God, and there is a real difference. However, God in a display of his love for me saved me from a terrible car accident. He placed me in the life of his son and gave me purpose. I stand justified before the throne of God. I tell myself that story often, and I encourage you to relive your stories as well.

Building upon the present assurance of justification that we currently have before God, Paul goes on teach us about our future hope. Verse 9 says, “Much more surely then, now that we have been justified in his blood, will we be saved from the wrath of God.” St. Paul presents our future hope as an absolute guarantee, because compared to our justification before God, which was accomplished when we were still weak and sinful; our salvation from the coming wrath of God is a small feat on the part of God. Paul is here employing an ancient rabbinic rhetorical device of arguing from the greater to the lesser (a minori ad maius). This explains the way in which Paul describes this future hope in verse ten; God reconciled us to himself in Christ while we were still enemies. He did not wait for us to clean ourselves up and come to him; his action toward us was not predicated upon any acts of penance on our part. Rather, he took the initiative and reconciled us to himself through the death of Jesus. We can know without a doubt that our future destiny and status before God is secure in our participation in the death and life of Jesus Christ.

In fact, Paul goes to great lengths to emphasize the importance of our participation in Christ. He uses the same preposition (in) in reference to the death of Jesus and the resurrection life of Christ. We are justified in the present and saved in the future by our mystical union with Christ, often conveyed in Paul by the phrase “in Christ.” Our participation in Christ, if we follow the logic of Paul, extends to the key aspects of Christ’s work. In the very next chapter of Romans Paul gives an exposition that our baptism is one of the points where we participate in the death of Christ on the cross and rise with him on Easter morning. Therefore, when God looks down on his justified and saved saints, he sees none other than his own dearly beloved Son with whom he is well pleased.

Now that we have looked at our present assurance and our future hope, we should be in a position where we can preach this gospel to ourselves through the rest of Lent. As we remember what Christ has done for us, we can also remember that via our belief in his completed work, we participate in the life of Christ. He lives in us and we in him, just like the various Eucharistic prayers in the liturgy remind us each time we gather for worship. It is in this gospel that we will find the power necessary to complete our Lenten vows. We can wash our face in the waters of this gospel and anoint our heads with the oil of this good news. If we tell ourselves daily that we are justified in Christ, and that we will be saved from the wrath of God, no one will ever be aware of our secret fasting as we will be consuming that bread that others cannot understand. This is the message that we need to preach to ourselves, “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”

As we are preaching this message to our audience of one, our views of Lent can also be transformed. We will no longer be focused on our sacrifices or our acts of penance, as if anything that you or I could do would ever place God in our debt. Rather, we will be reminded that while we were sinners Christ died for us and that this act has reconciled us completely to God in the present and secured our standing before him in the future. As I was thinking about how this gospel could change our perceptions of Lent, I came across these words from the Very Reverend Robert Munday, Dean Emeritus of Nashotah House Theological Seminary. He writes, “We would do well to remember the purposes for which Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness. He had no sins for which he needed to atone. We have no sins for which we are capable of atoning. If we could, what he did for us—what he had to do for us—would not be necessary. So Lent is really much more about what God adds to our lives as we spend intentional, focused time with him than what we give up, because the Gospel is always about what God has done for us, not about what we do for him.”

That last line, the Gospel is always about what God has done for us, not about what we do for him, sums up the discussion very well. If we preach God’s good news to ourselves during the rest of Lent, we may find that our lives are transformed. This proclamation to the self may just be the jumpstart that each of us needs to start engaging our neighbors and our co-workers with the message of God’s reconciling love in Jesus Christ. We may find ourselves all the more capable of inviting that friend that we know is lost to church for Easter services, we will have to wait and see what God does as we preach to ourselves the rest of Lent, but we can rest assured that his word will not return to him void.

 

 

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A Tiny Break from the Fast to Revisit the Feast

Many, many thanks to Brad, the youth group, and all the volunteers who made our first annual Shrove Tuesday party such a fun celebration!  (And thanks to Michael Parsons and Emily Acton for the photos.)

(And now back to your regularly-scheduled Lent.)

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SOME WORDS ON FASTING

Fasting

This past Sunday afternoon our 242 group gathered and discussed the discipline of fasting. This was an intentional topic decision in light of the fact that Lent begins in two days. The traditional practices of Lent are threefold: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  We have much to learn about fasting. I pray that this Lent you seek the Spirit’s leading to know how you are being invited to intentionally practice the three historic  Lenten disciplines. I also encourage you to seek out a trusted friend or spiritual director to share your plans with. It is easy to bite off more thn we can chew when it comes to fasting and other disciples… Yes – the pun was intentional. 🙂

Here is a short exhortation written by the former Metropolitan of the Greek Orthodox Church:

Fasting, in our days, has become one of the most neglected spiritual values. Because of misunderstandings regarding the nature of fasting, because of confused and reversed priorities in its use, many of today’s Orthodox Christians fast very little, or disregard fasting altogether.

The Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church which is scheduled to be convened in the near future has placed the problem of fasting as one of the first items on its agenda. It is hoped that through this Council the age-old practice of the Church to use fasting as one of the important means of spiritual growth will regain its proper place in the life of the Church.

Fasting was practiced by the Lord Himself. After prayer and fasting for forty days in the wilderness, the Lord victoriously faced the temptations of the devil (Matthew 4:1-­11). The Lord himself asked the disciples to usefasting as an important spiritual weapon to achieve spiritual victories (Matthew 17:21; Mark 9:29; Luke 2:37). The example of the Lord was followed by His disciples (Acts 14:23; 27:9; 1 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 6:5, 11:27, etc.). What is fasting? Why is it so important? Why does fasting precede such important feasts such as Easter and Christmas?

The importance of fasting depends on its meaning. Many of the Fathers have written on fasting. Among others, St. Basil has left us with most inspired comments on fasting. St. Basil tells us that fasting is not abstaining from food only; it is first of all, abstaining from sin.  Grounded in the teaching of the Fathers, the Church in its hymnology describes fasting as the mother of chastity and prudence, as the accuser of sin and as the advocate of repentance, the life worthy of angels and the salvation of humans (The Lenten Triodion, trans. Kallistos Ware, London 1978, p. 195). Fasting becomes all of these when observed in the proper spirit.

First of all, fasting is abstinence from food. By detaching us from earthly goods and realities, fasting has a liberating effect on us and makes us worthy of the life of the spirit, a life similar to that of angels. Second, fasting, as abstinence from bad habits and sin, is the mother of Christian virtues, the mother of sound and wholesome thinking; it allows us to establish the proper priority between the material and spiritual, giving priority to the spiritual.

Fasting is the advocate of repentance. Adam and Eve disobeyed God; they refused to fast from the forbidden fruit. They became slaves of their own desires. But now through fasting, through obedience to the rules of the Church regarding the use of spiritual and material goods, we may return to the life in Paradise, a life of communion with God. Thus, fasting is a means of salvation, this salvation being a life we live in accordance with the Divine will, in communion with God.

Because of the liberating effect of fasting, both material and spiritual, the Church has connected fasting with the celebration of the major feasts of our tradition. Easter is, of course, our main feast. It is the “feast of feasts.” It is the feast of our liberation from the bondage of sin, from corrupted nature, from death.   For on that day, through His Resurrection from the dead, Christ has raised us “from death to life, and from earth to heaven” (Resurrection Canon), Christ, “our new Passover,” has taken us away from the land of slavery, sin and death, to the promised land of freedom, bliss and glory; from our sinful condition to resurrected life.

It is most appropriate to prepare for this celebration through a liberating fast, both material and spiritual. This is the profound meaning that fasting takes during the Great Lent. Let us allow ourselves to take advantage of the spiritual riches of the Church. Let us use the precious messianic gifts offered to us through its sacramental life, through its celebrations of the central mysteries of our salvation in Christ. Let us use the spiritual weapons,

“to fight the good fight, to walk the way of fasting, to crush the heads of the invisible dragons, to prove ourselves victorious over sin, and without condemnation to reach our goal of worshiping the Holy Resurrection” (Prayer of the Presanctified Liturgy).

This is the challenge of the Great Lent: to use fasting to obtain the resurrected life, to unite with the Risen Lord. Who could refuse to accept this challenge?

His Eminence Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh

 

 

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