“I give you a new commandment: Love each other.
Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.
This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35, CEB)
Can you remember your first time here at Marble? Some of us were too young to remember. Others of us stepped through the doors much more recently. As well, the experience that followed is likely as varied as our current ages or the time that has passed since we first came through the church doors. But whichever your particular situation, my guess is that in some way it marked the beginning of a new chapter in your life—a chapter that involves an ever deeper understanding and growing relationship with God through Christ. And in many ways, this new chapter represents a newness of life—i.e., new life.
Actually, when you stop to think about it, that is what being involved and engaged in church is really all about. Church is about pursuing and realizing the new life that is uniquely offered by the One Living Loving God, through the life-giving love, grace and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. What’s more, such pursuit and realized experience is absolutely intended for each and every one of us. And so, thank God, that someone did whatever they did, that somehow led us to coming through those church doors the first time, and the many times since. And of course, we can be assured that God played a major part in them doing in whatever they did; for such a gift of new life, and the intended role of the church in manifesting that gift, is worth all of our gratefulness.
I think, perhaps, there may not be a better time than now for such gratefulness, and our expressions of that gratefulness, for we are about to enter through the “doors” of Lent, which begins this year on March 1st. Lent is that time when we especially focus our attention on the makings of, and our response to, that gift of new life that has been made available to us through the saving actions and love of Christ. This year, our Lenten theme will center on such a grateful response as Church, that we may continue growing in our understanding and participation in making that gift a reality in our personal lives, our community, and in the world.
I encourage you to invite someone in your life to come join you in this year’s Lenten journey. It does not matter their age, how long they may or may not have been engaged in church, or even what church experience they may or may not have had. For it is my hope that, just like our first times coming through those church doors, this Lenten journey may be a start of yet another new chapter in each of our Spiritual lives.
Our weekly messages will relate to the chapters of the book, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, and I hope you might take advantage of reading along as we work our way to Easter Sunday (a free copy is available for every family … contact the office for yours). How wonderful that God invites us to be a part of making such an amazing gift known and available to others.
And so, may you and all who are part of your life, experience Christ’s joy of new life this Lenten season. Pastor Bob