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More than Fish Fry Season

Isaiah 58

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

March 13, 2011—First Sunday in Lent

Sisters and Brothers,

A lot is happening around Crossroads these days.I know my calendar is filling up with various opportunities to learn and grow together.Just today, we have a Newcomers’ Class and a Unity Service in addition to our regular weekly services.Around the corner is the Christian Women’s Connection retreat and the Sunday School teachers’ Refuel with other Church of God congregations in Wisconsin. I’m also happy to announce a church family bowling outing at Bowlero Lanes (117th and Burleigh)—Saturday March 26th @ 9 am.

But most importantly, Focus 40 begins March 16th.There are over 500 congregations in the US participating in this journey together. The preaching leading up to Easter will push us to consider the confession I hope is on all of our lips: Jesus is Lord! We will talk about prayer, fasting, and priorities in our individual lives and the life of the congregation.I do want to warn you that I will likely invite you to do something you’ve never done before (and don’t worry…one of the ideas will be totally new to me too!).As we move through this Lenten season, what I hope emerges is a deeper recognition of what the cross and empty tomb mean for our life today and tomorrow.Obviously this won’t mean the same thing for all of us since we’re all at different places on the journey of discipleship.

For some in our congregation this may be the first year of intentional Lenten fasting, while for others the challenge may be the same as it was for Israel in Isaiah 58—you’ve “done” Lent for so many years that you will struggle to appropriately focus your time of prayer and fasting.Whatever your previous experience with fasting and Lent, I hope you will keep an open attitude throughout the Focus 40. God is not sitting in the clouds waiting to see how well we fast in order to “twiddle” the right knobs and give us what we want, but God does desire our loyalty to the call of discipleship.

This Lent I hope you do get to take in a good Fish Fry (and maybe because you’ve chosen to fast from meat on certain days), but my true hope is that our life together will be strengthened by sharing in a concerted effort to practice and embody our loyalty to Christ and our faithfulness to the path of discipleship, obedience, and love.

In Christ’s Peace,

Pastor Nathan