Gardens can certainly be a source of joy. They can also be a source of disappointment. You can relax and take a breath in a garden. You can also strain your back and become exhausted under the hot sun. Gardens can provide food for our bodies and beauty for our souls.
Looking at the garden Lent can be a gardening time. Coming as spring draws near, it offers an opportunity for thinking how our lives can be more productive and satisfying. We have come a long way from the Advent/Christmastide season's hope and promise to a far different place. This is a time for "digging in", because it takes work to reap a rich harvest.
As winter snow melts and freezing temperatures moderate a bit, fields and gardens often look pretty bleak and baron. Old remnants of bushes and skeletons of leaves provide only memories of things that once grew. In our personal lives, we may feel that we have come a long way from the Garden of Eden. The ashes of Ash Wednesday, the 26th, symbolize some of this deadness-lack of vitality so to speak.
Lent is a time to work on our personal gardens. One of the wonderful things about faith is its reminder that we can always make a fresh start. Human lives are a lot like perennials. They may look dead at times, but there is life within them waiting for renewal. The sun of God's wisdom awakens us. The shower of God's love start our juices flowing again. A new day, season begins from the ashes of bleakness.
Whatever our age or position we hold in life, growth is possible. we need to weed out those things that hinder us, that absorb our time and energies, but are not productive nor of God's call. Loosen up the soil around us, so that we are open to receive the goodness of God's providence. Please don't let the lenten Season simply happen. Use it for starting new growth, new thoughts, a new way in letting God nourish your spirit!
The Word of God often says; Do not be afraid." Let us enter this Lenten season open to where God wants us both individually and corporately. God has blessed us. Hope to see you this morning as we look at the mountain top.
Almighty God, as I enter this Lenten season help my heart to be open to hearing and feeling Your Word in my life. Renew me Father. Lor, I pray the lenten services we share with our sister churches are full of others who want ot grow this Lenten season. Bless us Lord, as we walk htis road to calvary together. Lord I thank you in the name of Your Son, Amen
39 One of the criminals hanging next to Jesus insulted him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
40 Responding, the other criminal spoke harshly to him, “Don’t you fear God, seeing that you’ve also been sentenced to die? 41 We are rightly condemned, for we are receiving the appropriate sentence for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus replied, “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.”
In the most horrifying moment, a 24 hour period where he sat with his friends, shared a meal with the one who would betray Him, realized how weak those whom He loved were as He watched them flee and deny Him. Then being dragged away as a common thief, was beaten, flogged, spat upon, mocked and humiliated finds Himself on the cross between two criminals, rebels.
The cross, the meaning of the cross then was no place a person would find grace. A man that went through what Jesus went through would need no defense if He said nothing. But even there Jesus was willing to share the good news of love, grace and forgiveness. In the most loneliness time I could ever imagine a sinner reached out in faith and Jesus offered Him grace and promised Him eternal life.
This example He gave to us kind of eliminates our excuses, our bad days from doing Good and spreading the great news of Jesus Christ. Today is Good Friday; in Mark's gospel chapter 15 starting with verse 34 we hear that at 3pm Jesus cries out with a loud voice and breathed His last breath. We as Americans remember our history moments; 9/11, D-day, The Founding papers of this Country to name a few. But on a day that changed our lives forever what do you do. Today set your alarm for 3 pm. When it goes off take a deep breath in and out and give thanks. Let us not simply pass through this day as if it is just another day for it is not. It is the day that love poured out on that horrific cross, a blood offering so we might go free and death would pass over us.
God of the covenant,
in the glory of the cross
your Son embraced the power of death
and broke its hold over your people.
In this time of repentance,
draw all people to yourself,
that we who confess Jesus as Lord
may put aside the deeds of death
and accept the life of your kingdom. Amen.
As we come into our first Sunday in Lent we read the parable found in Luke 13:5-9
5 “No, I tell you, but unless you change your hearts and lives, you will die just as they did.” 6 Jesus told this parable: “A man owned a fig tree planted in his vineyard. He came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 He said to his gardener, ‘Look, I’ve come looking for fruit on this fig tree for the past three years, and I’ve never found any. Cut it down! Why should it continue depleting the soil’s nutrients?’ 8 The gardener responded, ‘Lord, give it one more year, and I will dig around it and give it fertilizer. 9 Maybe it will produce fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.’”
What is the ending to this parable? In truth it is an unfinished parable waiting for an ending. "Give it one more year" if it then does not produce fruit cut it down. Of course Jesus is talking about himself and when Jesus told this story he was on His way to Jerusalem where he would die on the cross. Jesus had been preaching, healing and ministering for about three years. The leaders became more insistent and determined to do away with Jesus than they were when he first began. This parable would have challenge those hearing him speak.
The gardener however pleaded to give one more year to bear fruit. This open ended parable should speak to all of us who are following Jesus. It begs the question during this Lenten journey; how will I finish the unfinished parable in my life?
This parable is the perfect parable to begin discernment as we journey toward the cross and then Easter morning. I hope it lures you into thinking a little deeper about the fruits you bear. God bless you and I really hope we see each other this morning as we look at Luke's Gospel.
Father, Abba, I come before you this morning asking you with trepidation and excitement to dig up the soil around me, to add the ingredients I need and water me. Help me in this my Lord so I may do Your work with You and my life may the bear the fruits that will please You. Father I ask you to bless my Lenten journey, to bless our Eccumenical services and our studies being offered here at EOCC. May they be true to Your Word. Father thank you for the gifts of fellowship that I have through this church, my family and the community in which I live. Forgive me when I get down and when I sin. I ask this in the name of Your Son jesus. Amen.
A Lenten Prayer
Father in the heavens above my Lenten season begins. It is a time to be with you, Lord, and with Your Son in a special way, a time to pray, to fast, and thus to follow you on your way to Jerusalem, to Golgotha, and to the final victory over death.
I am still so divided. I truly want to follow you, but I also want to follow my own desires and lend an ear to the voices that speak about prestige, success, pleasure, power, and influence. Help me to become deaf to these voices and more attentive to your voice, which calls me to choose the narrow road to life.
I know that Lent is going to be a very hard time for me. The choice for your way has to be made every moment of my life. I have to choose thoughts that are your thoughts, words that are your words, and actions that are your actions. There are not times or places without choices. And I know how deeply I resist choosing you.
Please, Lord, be with me at every moment and in every place. Be with my church family as well. Give me the strength and the courage to live this season faithfully, so that, when Easter comes, I will be able to taste with joy the new life that you have prepared for me now and forever more. Amen.
Meet the pastor
Rev. Pastor Carl Schreiber has been serving East Orrington Congregational Church (EOCC) since March 12, 2006