Spring is almost here. It’s on Sunday, March 20. I can’t wait. I love spring and everything that it brings: flowers, more hours of daylight, and (hopefully) no more snow for a long, long time. But mostly, I love knowing with spring comes Easter. Easter reminds us about renewal and life. We celebrate the God-come-to-earth in Jesus. We reflect on his self-sacrificing love, and we rejoice in our opportunity to live our lives reflecting his time on earth.
This is also a perfect time for spring cleaning. It’s not just about sorting through an out-of-control sock drawer or clearing out a hall closet. (Although getting rid of extra stuff in our lives can be a form of service if we donate items to those in need.) The spring cleaning I’m talking about is more spiritual in nature. It involves searching out the things that are holding us back from, or getting in the way of, our connection to God.
What is getting in the way of your spiritual life? What are the things that you need to pack up and deal with for once and for all? Maybe it’s guilt or envy. Maybe it’s the need to forgive or to be forgiven by someone. Whatever it is, know that God is with you in your struggle. Your church family at Trinity is also here with prayer and support.
I invite you to take stock of what’s important in your life and then act on it. I’ll see you Sunday.
Come close to God and God will come close to you. James 4:8
Easter is March 27 and Holy Week at Trinity is filled with celebrations of worship: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. It hasn’t always been such a full week of celebration surrounding Easter. For nearly three hundred years Easter was celebrated on only one day. It wasn’t until the fourth century that it expanded into a week-long festival. The marking of Jesus’ death by crucifixion was separated from the Easter Sunday festivities. Easter was the main annual feast of the Christian church. It was frequently called the Christian Passover and was celebrated as the anniversary of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
During the second century disputes arose about the correct date for Easter, and in Rome various churches observed different dates. Churches in Asia Minor kept the Jewish calendar, meaning Easter was celebrated on different days of the week, depending on the first full moon after the spring equinox. Most churches celebrated Easter as the Sunday closest to the 15 of Nissan in the Jewish calendar. Easter’s date was not finally settled in the West (Roman Catholic Church) until the Synod of Whitby in 664 CE. Officially, Easter is the first Sunday, on or after the full moon, after the spring equinox. So, without ever calling your local church, you can look at next year’s lunar calendar and figure out when Easter will be celebrated. All other dates in the Christian year are calculated either forward or backward from that date, with the exception being Christmas.
If it could be said that the whole of the Christian faith stands or falls with any one claim, the claim that God raised Jesus from the dead is definitely that claim. Without faith in a “risen” and “living” Christ there would be no Christianity. It was not Jesus’ ethical teachings and example of his noble death that gave birth to the Christian church and made it spread: it was the news of his resurrection. Only because Jesus’ early followers believed in a risen Christ did they look back on his life inquiring about the meaning of his birth, life, teachings and death. Paul once argued: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins…” “We are of all people most to be pitied” (I Cor.15:17-19). Earliest Christians summarized everything in their confession: “Jesus is Lord!” This is a title conferred on Jesus because of his resurrection. Easter faith is resurrection faith. AMEN!
Prayer consists of both private and communal aspects. However, most of us are familiar and comfortable with the private individual side. For example, Pastor Tim Keller in his newest book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, in attempting to answer the question, ‘how do we actually learn how to pray?’ shares his personal approach: 1) praying through the Psalms, 2) taking time of meditation between Bible reading and prayer, 3) praying both morning and evening, 4) praying with greater expectation. These are helpful, yet they only touch upon the facet of prayer as an individual.
We have to remember that Jesus taught us “Our Father in Heaven… Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our trespasses… Deliver us from evil….” Notice the communal awareness built right into the foundation of Lord’s prayer! In ancient Israel and for most of human history, learning was always communal and in the context of personal relationships. People did not just learn, but they became disciples of a teacher or master. No one learned in a vacuum but needed mentors to help grow spiritually and intellectually. However, due to our modern society becoming more individualistic we are losing the vital communal elements. That affects the way we pray and more importantly the way we learn to pray as a community of God.
Fortunately, the essence of church is communal, and she constantly reminds us to pray in community, ‘if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.’ So how do we learn how to pray? One, pray with each other. Two, pray for one another.
We need help with prayers from others because many times praying feels like being asked to swim across the Pacific; as Keller writes “before it we feel so small and helpless.” That’s been my own reaction when I had to seriously wrestle with it during my seminary years. Even after years in ministry, whenever I attempt to pray a sense of helplessness starts to gnaw at me. It happens almost every time. Also when I challenge members of the congregation to a greater level of praying I receive a similar response. However, offering to pray with them or someone wanting to pray with me, lessens this powerlessness. In looking back, I recall many who came by my side to pray with me, to lift me up spiritually, to assist me to walk with them on our collective journey in Christ. Prayer is so much better together.
One of the ways we could learn to pray is to join a prayer group. Even when I lead a prayer group, I learn different aspects of prayers from members in the group. Just being around them, hearing them pray and seeing how prayer affects their outlook help me with my prayer life. The group helps to be disciplined with prayer. It keeps us accountable to prayer. Also as I mentioned before, it helps us when we cannot or do not want to pray. Our natural tendency is not to pray but through a community there is a regiment of meditation and supplication that guides us in learning how to pray.
Moreover, from praying with others flows praying for one another or intercessory prayer. Praying for my needs or even just the needs of my immediate family and church members seems like I am being confined. Our spirits and souls are stifled because Jesus taught us to pray for the Kingdom to be established on earth; Jesus invites us to participate in the immeasurable work of the Gospel for our whole world. Praying for others in our church, community, country and the world unleashes a greater awareness of the vastness of Kingdom work that God has begun through Jesus. Communal prayer for greater expansion of God’s community expands our hearts, allows us to be moved by the pains and needs of the world, and compels us to go into deeper levels of prayers with joy.
Let’s pray together. Let’s pray for one another. Let’s pray for the communities around us both immediate and outside of our boundaries. Let’s experience the Kingdom in, through and around us through communal prayers of the saints!
Trinity’s book club will meet on Tuesday, March 8, at 6:30 p.m. in the Trinity Library to discuss Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline, a novel that illuminates a largely hidden chapter of American history while portraying the unexpected friendship between two resilient women. Bring a light dinner, if you like, and enjoy dessert and lively conversation. The selection for April is The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown. For more information–or to be added to the email list–contact Kathy Maher.
March 12: Memorial Service for Lee Okster
March 15: Spire Deadline
March 16: Crafts for a Cause
March 20: Egg Hunt
Children are invited to hunt for eggs after worship on Palm Sunday. The field behinds the Fellowship Building will be divided into different areas for different age groups. Bring your own basket.
March 20: Palm/Passion Sunday, 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.
Palm/Passion Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week. The service begins with Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. We wave palms as Jesus passes by and heads into the city to celebrate the Passover with his disciples. You can read more in Luke 19:28-40; 22:14-23:56.
March 21: Crafts for a Cause
March 24: Maundy Thursday, 7 p.m.
The Maundy Thursday service observes Jesus at the Last Supper. There he celebrated the Passover with his disciples. Upon his arrival, he humbly washes the feet of each man present. Then, they break bread together and Jesus teaches them a new commandment—to love one another as he has shown them. Although this service is about the night Jesus gave us the words and actions that we now know as Communion, the scripture for the service focuses on the love commandment and humility of Jesus as found in John 13:1-17, 31-35. In some ways this may be the most spiritually significant service of Holy Week.
March 25: Good Friday, 7 p.m.
Good Friday is the name of the day that comes from a distorted form of “God’s Friday.” Jesus is now in the Garden of Gethsemene with his disciples. He’s still trying to help them understand what is about to happen, but they still don’t fully understand. Jesus grows frustrated with his friends when they fall asleep while he’s praying. Eventually, Judas runs off and brings back the guards. Jesus is arrested and taken to Pontius Pilate for a trial. The sentence is passed and Jesus is crucified with the common criminals. Our scripture for the service will focus on some of Jesus’ last words in John 18:1-19:42. The gospel is experienced through readings, prayers and songs. There are no paraments or anything else in the worship space.
March 27: Easter
Sunrise 6:30 a.m.
8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.
6 p.m. Celtic
Holy Week draws on many emotions with the disciples’ confusion on Maundy Thursday, Jesus’ brutal death on Good Friday and finally, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Early Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb where Jesus has been laid to await burial. She arrives ready to prepare the body, but finds he is not there. Jesus has been raised and shows himself to her. She runs and tells the disciples. In John 20:1-18 we read about one woman at the tomb—Mary Magdalene, but in Luke’s account there are several women named in the first twelve verses of the twenty-fourth chapter. Easter morning worship is filled with Hallelujahs and rejoicing as we celebrate our risen Lord.
Church & Society | Crafts for a Cause | Honduras | Shepherd's Center
Church & Society
A big Thank You to everyone who volunteered and attended the annual Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper! We had a great turnout of hungry pancake eaters and wonderful, cheerful volunteers! We raised $300 to donate to Trinity’s mission projects!
During the month of March, Church & Society will be collecting toiletries for Martha’s Table. Martha’s Table is a fantastic organization which provides help to homeless and underprivileged people in Washington, DC by providing access to food, education, and opportunity. Each month our church provides 1,500 Bologna and cheese sandwiches to Martha’s Table to help feed the hungry.
This month we will be collecting travel-sized toiletries like shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and soaps. If you’re traveling, pick up those hotel toiletries! Please place all donations in the bins located in the Narthex stairwells or in the collection bins in the Fellowship Lobby. To find out more about Martha’s Table, check out their website at www.marthastable.org.
For more info about getting involved with Trinity’s Martha’s Table ministry, please contact Barb Long. To get involved with the Church & Society committee please contact Chris and Bob Wilbur.
Crafts for a Cause
February was a busy month for Crafts for a Cause, with a care package of 20 neck pillows, 20 knit baby caps, 13 lap blankets, 2 heart pillows, four sock dolls and 2 baby blanket and cap sets going to Fair Oaks Hospital. In addition, 60 hand-stamped greeting cards were delivered to Ronald McDonald House for the resident families to use while their children are being treated at Fairfax Hospital. We also dropped off about 10 pounds of donated ring tab tops, which generate income for RMH, so keep those tab top rings coming in! (These are the metal rings from the tops of canned sodas and canned goods. Leave them in the collection bin in the Narthex.)
Crafts also sent 20 fleece blankets and knitted caps to the Carpenter’s Shelter in Alexandria. Thanks to Peggy Trapp, Nell Gilmore and Judy Osha for knitting and crocheting our caps for babies and adults. We also sent sewing supplies to Chris and Dan Moore while they were on their mission trip to The Leadership Center in Honduras.
We will meet for crafts work sessions five times during March – on Monday nights from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and on alternating Wednesday mornings from 10 to 11:30 a.m. The dates will be: March 2, March 7, March 16, March 21 and March 30. Everyone is welcome, no craft skills required.
The bilingual school at the Heart to Heart Children’s Village that Trinity supports in Honduras is looking for volunteer teachers for 2016-17. Volunteers are needed Aug. 1, 2016, to June 15, 2017. Housing and food is included.
There are several English speaking teaching positions available:
ESL trained Teacher for grades 1-6
Teachers for Grades K-6
Typically, volunteers raise funds for:
incidental monthly needs $100-200 per month
air conditioning in bedroom $100 per month
school uniform shirts $10 each
roundtrip ticket to Honduras
If you are interested in volunteering with this mission, please speak with Chris and Dan Moore, or contact Mary Frenter, President, Heart to Heart Children’s Village Ministries. To learn more about the ministry, visit http://h2hcv.org.
Shepherd’s Center Adds New Programs
The Shepherd’s Center of McLean-Arlington-Falls Church has initiated two programs for senior adults who find it difficult to leave their homes. The Friendly Visitor program matches volunteers to seniors who would like a visit periodically. The Friendly Caller program allows volunteers to call seniors to let them know they haven’t been forgotten and remind them to call the Center if they need help. Both programs allow for setting up a time convenient for both client and volunteer. Volunteers are needed for both programs and if want to share experiences by either visiting or calling a homebound senior, call the Shepherd’s Center at 703-506-2199 or e-mail at email@example.com.
I look forward to several experiences this month that should help me become a better church musician. In early March, I’ll attend a church music workshop given by the hymn festival expert Michael Burkhardt; it will focus on: 1) dance elements and vocal gestures in congregational song; 2) engaging children in worship through hymns; and 3) hymn-based improvisation for organ. On Sunday, March 13, I’ll conduct my high school choir for a morning service at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles; the 28 students from Potomac School will sing anthems spanning four centuries as well as assist with the service music in this active worship community. Later on that day, we’ll give a choral concert in the nearby 1771 Franciscan mission church of San Gabriel Arcángel. My personal highlight in March will be Trinity UMC’s Holy Week services, which will allow our musicians to contribute to the moving services of Palm Sunday (March 20), Maundy Thursday (March 24), Good Friday (March 25) and Easter Sunday (March 27). You can read more about these services on here.
Have you ever considered how many voices you listen to in a day? From the moment we wake up until the moment we drift off to sleep there is a whole chorus of voices that make up our day. We hear our spouse, children, family, friends, co-workers, the cashier at the grocery store, and so many more. We also hear the voices in our e-mail inbox, on our facebook feed, on the websites we visit, the new reports we read, the text messages that blast our phones and somehow we listen to all of these voices. But living in a world that bombards you with all of these voices can make it difficult to feel like your voice is being heard. And the truth is, there are a number of soft voices in our world that aren’t heard at all. So when those voices are shared with us, how do we honor them and show that we are listening? Try these three tips to beef up your listening skills.
Reflect like a mirror- listen to what this person is saying to you and then say it back to them! (It sounds like you’re frustrated by the situation with your boss.) Show them that you heard what they said by parroting it back in a new way.
Ask questions- Asking about what a person is saying demonstrates interest and connection. Can you tell me more? Was that tough? How did you deal with that? What do you mean by…?
Use silence– Silence is a powerful listening tool. It’s not awkward to allow a silent space (well, sometimes it is) but it is important to allow that space for a person to think, or muster up the courage to keep talking. More times than not, if you allow a moment of silence the other person will continue talking.
Hello, kids of Trinity Church. I hope you are doing well and enjoyed our snow days last month. Do you know what happens this month? For one thing, we change seasons. Spring starts on March 20. That means warmer weather and a chance to play more outside.
There’s another even more important event that happens this month. Easter! That’s right. It’s the day we celebrate when Jesus came back. This is what happened: Jesus died and his friends were really sad; but then on the third day after he died, he came back from the dead! He did this to let us know that Jesus is the Son of God, God loves us so much, and that there is life with God after death.
Why do we celebrate Easter with the Easter Bunny, Easter eggs and tons of chocolate candy? There are lots of different stories about how the Bunny and the eggs represent new life. (Personally, I think people just like eating chocolate bunnies and jelly beans!)
Would you like to be a part of Trinity’s Easter Egg Hunt? We’d love to see you there. We’ll gather on the big lawn next to the Fellowship Building on Palm Sunday, March 20, following the 10:30 worship service. There is a special section for younger kids and another for bigger kids. It’s always so much fun.
Hunting for eggs and eating candy is awesome, but it’s not the best part about Easter. The very best part of Easter is knowing how much God loves us.
Have a happy Easter and remember my motto: Paws for Jesus!
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 10. This means Easter comes early this year, March 27. In order to get to Easter, we must pass through the season of Lent which addresses our need for spiritual discipline.
The discipline involved in Christian spiritual formation begins by looking outside, not inside, ourselves. A very long tradition that began in classical Roman Catholicism and has continued to be popular with many Protestants assumes that spiritual renewal begins by looking deep within our own souls and our private religious experience. Behind this assumption is the belief of the ancient Greeks that the human soul is a “little piece of divinity” in us, so that to get in touch with ourselves at the deepest level is to get in touch with God or the Spirit of God. It is true that God’s Spirit does come to dwell within us; however, it is not necessarily the presence of the Holy Spirit we discover when we analyze and meditate on our inner selves and the religious significance of our own personal experiences. It may be only our own finite and often sinful human feelings, wishes, longings, desires, and ambitions. If you and I want to distinguish between God’s Spirit and our own spirits, we must look at what scripture tells us about who the Spirit is and what the Spirit does. This means that if we want to recognize and experience God’s presence of God’s life-renewing Spirit in us, we must be willing first to look away from ourselves, outside ourselves, beyond our personal experiences.
If I want to know what God is doing in the world and promises to do in my life, I can’t just analyze and tell my little story (or listen to the “little” stories of others); I must interpret my story and theirs in light of God’s story with ancient Israel and the first Christian community. If I want to know what it would mean for me to be a truly spiritual person, I must first look at the life of Jesus Christ and the kind of person he was, not at my own life and the kind of person I would like to be. If it is really God’s agenda in our lives and not our own that we are interested in, and if it is a genuinely Christian spirituality and not just some kind of self-concocted spirituality we want, we must follow Jean Calvin’s advice to “get out of ourselves,” “forget ourselves,” stop circling round and round our personal feelings, needs, problems, fears, hopes, and even our “spiritual journey” [Institutes 3.7.1-5]. You and I must first let ourselves be told something we can’t tell ourselves about the work of the Spirit of the God of the Bible who does indeed come to us but not from us.
The first thing to be said, then, about Christian spirituality in distinction from other forms of spirituality is that it is not self-centered but God-centered. We need not be afraid that we will be left out if we forget ourselves and focus on what the Bible tells us about the Spirit and the Spirit’s work. For the Spirit is the Spirit of a God who cares about each of us, knows better than we ourselves what we need most, and promises to be present and at work in our hearts and lives with renewing power just as we give up a self-centered preoccupation with ourselves to think about the Holy Spirit of God who comes not from inside but from outside us.
Grace and Peace during this Lenten season of preparation.