Lenten Greetings to Our Sedona UMC Family & Friends,

Growing up in a traditional Protestant Christian family, our family did very little to experience the period of Lent, oh yes, we would joke with each other and our friends— “What are you giving up for Lent this year?” “Homework,” I’d say with a smirk, another friend would sarcastically reply— “Listening my parents.”

For us, Lent was one of those peculiar things the Catholics would practice: “Giving up meat—you’ve got to be kidding”—a great reason to be a Protestant I would quip. But I never realized the critical importance of this time of preparation, contemplation, and anticipation. A way in which I might grow closer and get to know Jesus Christ better? Have you ever really thought about the gift God has given us in the Son, Jesus Christ—What this really means for all of us?

In the ancient church, Lent was a time for new converts to be prepared for baptism as well as a time for people of faith to deepen their beliefs and their focus on repentance—”becoming a new creation.” Over the years many Christians have come to see the importance of Lent in preparing spiritually for the celebration of Easter.

Traditionally, Lenten preparation included the giving up of something special during these six weeks of Lent (Sundays excluded in some traditions.) Many Christians rejected the practice of Lent, citing no Scripture requirements for giving something up. These Protestants viewed Lent as something personal and optional for believers—many viewing it as a practice not meant for Protestant Christian believers.

Lent is truly a time to grow more deeply in God’s grace, and in love and relationship with God. It is a time in which I do believe we are called to make time to contemplate the amazing gift God has given to us in Jesus Christ. So, this year during Lent I want to invite you to join me in a much more focused journey—I have mentioned many times in years past that Lent is not designed to be a spectator event, but instead we are invited to join in this journey as active participants.

This year for Lent you might add a spiritual exercise or discipline to your life. SUMC offers many events, studies and opportunities to deepen your faith journey. Another idea is to participate in some act of kindness, such as feeding people at a homeless shelter, or volunteering at the local Food Bank, getting involved in the church’s missions ministry or our caring lay ministry.

Plan to be in worship every Sunday and at each of our “Special Holy Week” services: Palm Sunday (4/2) our Feast of Friends on Maundy Thursday (4/6) at 6pm, and our powerful Good Friday Service (4/7) at 7pm. I truly believe they prepare us to truly receive the gift of Easter. On Easter Sunday join us for, “Sunrise on the Patio” at 6:30am and our “Resurrection Easter Celebration” at 9:30am in the sanctuary.

So many great opportunities to “Invite”, “Pick-Up”, and “Bring” a friend or family member along with you! Whatever you do, during Lent, let me encourage the following—set aside each day some quiet time with the Lord—listen, and see if the Spirit of God guides you to something special.

I pray that God will draw you closer to him and prepare you for a fresh experience of Holy Week and Easter. May God bless you abundantly in this season of Lent and Easter!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Fred