Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Lent: Quietly Countercultural

If you watched the halftime show for Super Bowl 50, you saw over-the-top, blindingly bright, gargantuanly enormous stages, music, lights, pyrotechnics and performers. The production cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe millions. And those who attended the game paid thousands of dollars per ticket.

Excess is normal in our world. We’re used to it.

On the other hand, the season of Lent runs against the grain of our excessive world. It’s silently radical. It’s quietly countercultural.

Rather than reveling loudly in our riches, Lent helps us remember we are poor in spirit. We are not righteous. We need help. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus, in Matthew 5:3.

How does the season of Lent remind us of our poverty of spirit?

Ash Wednesday
It starts with Ash Wednesday. Unlike the blinding, deafening excess to which we are accustomed, the Ash Wednesday service leads us into a quiet, dimly-lit sanctuary. The Scriptures plainly testify to our depravity. Crooked, dead and twisted branches replace the typically bright floral arrangements, reminding us that crooked sin leads to death. We confess the frequent ugliness of our thoughts, words and deeds. We remember that no one is righteous, not even one of us. And as a cross of dark ashes paints our foreheads, the room resounds with some of the most important words we will hear all year: “Remember that you are dust. And to dust you shall return.”

Why are these words important? Because they remind us we are mortal. We are not God. We are not holy, not righteous as he is. We are full of faults, and he is faultless. But most important of all, these echoed declarations that we are dust remind us to mourn our human sin so that on Good Friday, we see the glory of the Cross of Christ.

40 Days of Lent
As we exit the Ash Wednesday service, we enter this 40-day season of Lent, which ends with Easter. It’s a season to lay aside excess. To fast from comforts. To see how our appetites, desires and affections have been for things other than God. And to repent. To turn from these misplaced affections, and ask our Lord to restore our affections to him.

So we fast. From food. From entertainment. From media. From vices. From gossip. From greed. From gluttony. We fast from habitual spiritual off-roading. And as we lay aside these wants, we pray: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51.10

So church, let us enter this silently radical, quietly countercultural 40 days:
“You are invited to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.”
- Book of Common Prayer, p265

Note: The 40 days of Lent do not include the Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter.

~ The Rev. Eric Bolash

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Prayer Ministry

Matthew 22:37
Jesus Replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.

Hi my name is Beka Dominguez. I am not sure what actually prompted me to start going to the prayer ministry about two and a half years ago except maybe that I was just fed up of feeling stuck in my faith. Feeling like I continued to go back to the same struggles, the same battles in my heart, mind and in my relationship with God. When I read this verse I knew that there was a deep meaning to it but I could not, for the life of me figure out how to love God with my whole heart soul and mind because it almost felt like I didn’t really have full access to those places to give them to God. I wasn’t even sure what kept me from being able to give it all, I just knew that I wasn’t capable and I knew that God had more of Himself for me to experience and I wanted that.

So I started going to prayer a couple times with Katie and Barbie and a few times with Marilyn and John and God started a great work of healing in me. For those of you that don’t know, I have a rebellious past and was not walking out my faith in college. So although I turned from those things toward the end of college, the broken string of relationships and selfish decisions had left a mark on me, as had many years of peoples’ words, thoughts, and sometimes incredibly destructive advice to me. I was like a sponge soaking up the world and healing prayer was like God wringing out all that I had retained and then filling me back up with him.  There were so many areas that I had tried to surrender to the Lord, that I had asked him to heal wounds and bring victory and yet it had not come.

Praying in groups is not a magical formula, and these times of prayer are not instant cures. Although I do believe God can heal us instantly of anything, the work of healing in my life was slow and deliberate. Looking back it was as quick as I could even process all that he was making new in my life.

I do believe he promises us that when two or more are gathered together in his name he will be there. He also promises that he will guide us, he will speak to us, and he will make known to us the will of God for our lives through the Holy Spirit and Scripture.

The more that I prayed the more he healed and the more access he gave me to Him which in turn brought a deep connection to the gifts that he has given me to serve the church. Ultimately he desires our healing and in my experience a great work of healing happened because we sought my healing together as brothers and sisters in prayer together.

So the result for my life was an intensity in relationship with the Lord that I had previously not had access to. He has healed deep wounds and he has prepared me through those times to step out in crazy faith knowing that his plans are much better than my plans.

I am sharing this because the body of Christ needs for its members to be healed and to play their part, and God wants to give you the fullness that is in Christ.

The prayer ministry was a place where I could confess long unconfessed sins and be free. It was a place that I learned to connect with Jesus, to listen and to follow without fear, it was where I started to actually believe God loved me and live like it, and where I began to understand and live out loving God with my heart, mind and soul.

I was scared at first of being judged, but there is nothing you can bring there that God does not already know. He has healed me, answered questions I had, shared discernment, comforted me in hard times, and helped me forgive in those prayer times.  My prayer for this church is that every person would experience this level of healing in every area and would be knit together in prayer. Prayer changes everything.

It is really easy to request a time to meet with the prayer team. If you are interested you can call the church phone number and let them know you would be interested in scheduling time with the prayer team.

They always meet with you with two prayer team members and everything said is confidential so you don't have to worry about things you pray being shared with others. It is a beautiful space for healing and restoration.