Jesus said, "take up your cross and follow me." This season, we are focusing on the cross and the importance of its symbol to our Christian journey. The way of the cross is about sacrifice and choosing to do for others instead of for ourselves.
Members of the congregation were invited to bring in crosses that are important to them for this display in front of our communion table. There are crosses that we wear on jewelry, crosses that depict the Last Supper, crosses that inspire us, crosses that remind us of the pain of the crucifixion. Seeing these crosses each week during Lent directs our focus to a life of discipleship marked by service and sacrifice.
We hope that by Palm Sunday, the table will be overflowing with crosses that represent our faith and our shared Lenten journey as a community.
As Lent begins, we start once more on a journey of reflection and repentance. The scriptures that lead us into Lent this year are all "watery" ones. We read about the days after the flood, when God sets a rainbow in the sky to remember God's promise never to destroy the earth again. We read read about Jesus' baptism, and then his time in the desert before he begins his ministry.
To reflect on these scriptures, we will start our Lenten journey by remembering our own baptism. Of, if you haven't been baptized yet, contemplating what that sacrament means. On February 26, the first Sunday of Lent, we will participate in a ritual in worship to remember the waters of baptism. We never "re-baptize," but we do need times to remember our part of the baptismal covenant in which we promise to follow Jesus Christ. During worship, everyone will be invited to come plunge their hands into the baptismal font, remembering that we die to sin as our hands go down into the water, and that we are raised with Christ as our hands come out of the bowl. Elders will then serve us by drying our hands.
Today, we reflected briefly on the many candles we use in worship, one of which is a baptismal candle. We ask all those children and adults who have been baptized in the church to light that candle each year on the anniversary of their baptism. That simple act reminds us that Christ is the center of our lives and His light goes with us wherever life takes us. After the worship service, a man came up to speak with me. Glen is in his eighties and I baptized him in January of 2011. He said, "I wanted you to know that I lit my baptismal candle this year on January 9. I remembered my baptism." I was amazed and so thankful that people of all ages value that action and take seriously the meaning of baptism throughout our lives.
Baptism also sets us on the journey of discipleship. It is the beginning of the journey and God's act toward us that allows us to strengthen our faith and our discipleship. After we remember our baptisms, everyone at First Presbyterian Church will be encouraged to take on a spiritual practice during Lent. Instead of giving up chocolate or potato chips, try adding one small thing to your daily life that will shape your faith, and may even transform it. Materials will be available at the church to help you pick the right spiritual practice for you. Choose a daily devotional guide, read the daily Lectionary scriptures, do an online devotional at www.d365.org, save change each day for the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering or make a commitment to pray each time you or your family sit down for a meal.