On Wednesday, March 6th, the season of Lent will begin.  It is a time when Christians all over the world prepare for the observance of Holy Week and the celebration of the Resurrection on Easter morning, which this year is on April 21st. There are many practices and activities that are associated with the Lenten Season. However, three primary practices or pillars of Lent are:  prayers, fasting and almsgiving.

Prayer: We devote more time to prayer to help center our hearts and minds on Christ Jesus. We also pray for the grace to remain faithful to our baptismal promises. We pray for others that they also may fulfill their own baptismal commitment. One of the ways we will pray here at St. Mark’s is through the Wednesday Evening Services using the Holden Evening Prayer Service. It is an opportunity for us not only to pray, but also to take a step away from the busyness of life and practice centeredness in the midst of community.

Fasting: Fasting is believed to be one of the most ancient Lenten practices. We do not make ourselves more righteous or more deserving of God’s grace by giving up something or by fasting during Lent. The purpose of fasting is to create a spiritual link between those of us who have more with those whose diets are sparse and simple. That is why congregations often have a simple meal before their Lenten midweek service. The practice of giving up something for Lent, while it may be beneficial to us, is not the goal of Lent. It is about community and the connection we create with others, especially those who are not as fortunate as we are.

Almsgiving: This practice is also about community. It is an expression of gratitude and compassion. We express our gratitude for all that God has given to us. We express compassion when we understand that charity and justice are important as we live out or baptismal faith within community. Sometimes the word “charity” is used in place of the word “almsgiving”.  Charity, as a practice is not about giving a handout, but rather creating a just environment in which others can be lifted up.

We are reminded of these spiritual practices at the very beginning of Lent as part of our Ash Wednesday service which will take place on March 6th at 7 pm. We receive the mark of the cross with palm ash accompanied by the words; “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This reminder of human mortality at the beginning of Lent stands in sharp contrast to the celebration of the resurrection and the promise of forgiveness and eternal life on Easter morning!

There will be another feature of our Lenten Midweek services. We will offer a series of dramas around the theme Convicted. The congregation will step into a court room for Ash Wednesday and the following five weeks of Lent. Each week a different Biblical person will be put on trial, accused of a 21st century crime. The prosecution and the defense will both present their cases and then the congregation will serve as the jury.

I invite you to join with me in observing the three practices of Lent and in preparing for Holy Week and Easter.

Thanks be to God,

Dennis H. Kelly, Interim Pastor

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Living a Life Filled With Awe and Amazement

On January 18, 2019, Pulitzer Prize winning poet and author Mary Oliver passed away at the age of 83. I have been a fan of her poetry for many years, drawn to the simplicity of her poems and her use of images from the natural world to speak of the experiences of human life. I did not realize, however, how many of my friends and colleagues were also drawn to her works. Facebook was filled with posts commenting on her passing and reflecting upon her life and its impact on the lives of so many others. Many posts shared their favorite Oliver poem or quotation.

One of my favorites is The Journey, published in 1986 in her collection of poems Dream Work. It speaks to me of listening to your inner voice and discovering your particular life calling.

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice –

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

 the only thing you could do –

determined to save

the only life you could save.

 

Mary Oliver was more of a mystic than a theologian. However, her observations of the most intimate and minute details of the natural world speak to a world longing for simplicity and connectivity with human community. Her words speak of living a life filled with awe and amazement. It is a message we so desperately need to hear today.

 

Peace

Pastor Kelly

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WHY

2018 is the year of Stewardship here at St. Mark’s.  For me what comes to mind for is “why?”  There have been a lot of whys asked this year.  When people as themselves “why,” aren’t they really trying to find “understanding and relevance?”  Therefore, all these “why” questions can be answered by one simple word, “purpose.”

We have all heard the questions; “Why do we need more stewardship?” “Why, what else is going to change?”  “Why should I give more money?”  “why, do they really need that much?”   “Why did he really have to go?”

The first of these questions can be answered by an excerpt of Acts 13:36 “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors …”

We now know why he was sent here.  St. Mark’s has been transformed into a multi-ethnic parish, with capacity to properly nurture, house and educate Christian theology and worship.  David was done here.

As for us, we need to look forward to what will be. This forward-looking “purpose” will answer the other questions.  The best place to start is Jeremiah 32:19, which says, “Great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds. Your eyes are open to the ways of all mankind; you reward each person according to their conduct and as their deeds deserve.”

Unmistakably, “purpose” contains deeds, or simply put doing something. Isn’t t that what Stewardship is all about. Isn’t that what we’re all about, here at St. Mark’s.  Drawing from the Holy Spirit, the spirit of Stewardship, the spirit of St. Mark’s, I call upon you, “Go do good deeds.”

Don Fontana

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Welcome to St. Marks

godsworkourhands

Faith, hope and love are the foundations of the Christian faith.  We are building a diverse community of people upon this foundation at St. Mark’s.  We welcome you to gather with us.  Come and experience a community that has learned how to find unity, without uniformity through the power of God’s love.   This website is designed to help you find that experience. We look forward to meeting you!

Rev. Jeffrey E. Koth

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