Why a Rooster?

“In Christian symbolism, the rooster is a familiar Passion symbol. Prior to being arrested by the soldiers, Jesus correctly predicted that Peter would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed on the following morning. At the rooster’s crowing, Peter remembered Jesus’s words and “went out and wept bitterly” (Mat 26:75; see also Mat 26:34-75; Mk 14:30-72; Lk 22:34-61; John 13:38-18:27). The rooster represents Peter’s denial of Christ and also stands for his remorse and repentance upon hearing the rooster’s crow. Because Peter later became the leader of the early Church, the rooster represents papal vigilance.

“In many cultures, the rooster’s habit of crowing at the dawning of each new morning made it a symbol of the daily victory of light over darkness and the triumph of good over evil. This habit, along with its fiery comb, made the rooster the symbol of fire; the sun; and Christ, the light of the world, who announces an end to spiritual darkness and despair. In the Far East, the rooster was painted on the doors of houses to drive off evil spirits.

“During the Middle Ages, the rooster became a popular Christian image on weathervanes, also known as weathercocks. Its crowing made it an emblem of the Christian’s attitude of watchfulness and readiness for the sudden return of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment of humankind (Mk 13:32 & 13:35-36).”
(Source of information could not be verified due to 404 page error)

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75 people is average

 

This excerpt from an article either validates what we are experiencing or helps us make excuses.
 
“Contrary to what people think, there are very few large churches in North America. Let’s look at some numbers:
  • 95% of churches in The United States and Canada consist of 350 people or less1
  • The average American Congregation consists of 75 people2
  • 50% of all American churches consist of 75 people or less3
  • There are only 35 churches consisting of 10,000 people or more in America4″
What do we do with this information?  Does this make us a little above average with 89 to 100 people attending church?  Why is it we always hear of churches in the surrounding area who have 200+ at their services, guess they are part of the 95%.
 

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Sackcloth

Sackcloth and ashes often go together during the Lenten season.  Sackcloth is used as an outward sign of repentance.  During our Ash Wednesday we were each given a small square of sackcloth (burlap) as a reminder of our own sinful ways and need for repentance.  What did you do with your little piece of sackcloth?
 
Many times in the Old Testament there was mention of sackcloth either as the symbol with ashes or people wearing sackcloth.  It was part of “heartfelt sorrow”, or a repentant heart.  Remember sackcloth is a course material that would be uncomfortable to wear.
 
Later we learn that God’s forgiveness in response to genuine repentance is celebrated by David’s words: “You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy” (Psalm 30:11)

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Ashes

The appearance of ashes on our forehead or hand occurs on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  These ashes are made from the palm fronds from the previous year’s Palm Sunday service.
 
UMC.org explains Ash Wednesday a little more.
 

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline.

Ash Wednesday emphasizes two themes: our sinfulness before God and our human mortality. The service focuses on both themes, helping us to realize that both have been triumphed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

During some Ash Wednesday services, the minister will lightly rub the sign of the cross with ashes onto the foreheads of worshipers. The use of ashes as a sign of mortality and repentance has a long history in Jewish and Christian worship. Historically, ashes signified purification and sorrow for sins.

It is traditional to save the palm branches from the previous Palm Sunday service to burn to produce ashes for this service. Sometimes a small card or piece of paper is distributed on which each person writes a sin or hurtful or unjust characteristic. The cards are then brought to the altar to be burned with the palm branches. The ash cross on the forehead is an outward sign of our sorrow and repentance for sins.


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Symbols of Easter

There are many symbols that remind us of the Lenten season and Easter, but what do they mean?  We often think of the cross, ashes, palms, and lilies plus Easter eggs, but what are some others you recall and why do they come to mind?


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Lenten Message Series: Giving It Up

Click on the link below to hear the message for March 5, 2017
 
 
Giving Up Expectations
Giving Up Superiority
Giving Up Enemies
Giving Up Our Lives
Giving Up Popularity
Giving Up Death

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“Lent 101”

by Penny Ford

Note from the Editor: Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2017. Thanks to our friend, Rev. Penny Ford for this handy introduction to Lent.

What is Lent?

Lent is a season of the Christian Year where Christians focus on simple living, prayer, and fasting in order to grow closer to God.

When is Lent?

It’s the forty days before Easter. Lent excludes Sundays because every Sunday is like a little Easter. Basically, it’s about one-tenth of a year (like a tithe of time). Mardi Gras is the day before Lent, which begins with Ash Wednesday. This year it’s from March 1 (Ash Wednesday) to April 16 (Easter), 2017.

Mardi Gras?  What does that have to do with JESUS??

Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday.” It refers to the day before Lent starts. Since Lent always starts on a Wednesday, the day before is always a Tuesday. And it’s called “Fat” or “Great” because it’s associated with great food and parties.

In earlier times, people used Lent as a time of fasting and repentance. Since they didn’t want to be tempted by sweets, meat and other distractions in the house, they cleaned out their cabinets. They used up all the sugar and yeast in sweet breads before the Lent season started, and fixed meals with all the meat available. It was a great feast!  Through the years Mardi Gras has evolved (in some places) into a pretty wild party with little to do with preparing for the Lenten season of repentance and simplicity. Oh well. But Christians still know its origin, and hang onto the true Spirit of the season.

So the real beginning of Lent is Ash Wednesday?

Yes. Ash Wednesday, the day after Mardi Gras, usually begins with a service where we recognize our mortality, repent of our sins, and return to our loving God. We recognize life as a precious gift from God, and re-turn our lives towards Jesus Christ. We may make resolutions and commit to change our lives over the next forty days so that we might be more like Christ. In an Ash Wednesday service, usually a minister or priest marks the sign of the cross on a person’s forehead with ashes.

Why ashes?

In Jewish and Christian history, ashes are a sign of mortality and repentance. Mortality, because when we die, our bodies eventually decompose and we become dust/dirt/ash/whatever. Repentance, because long ago, when people felt remorse for something they did, they would put ashes on their head and wear “sackcloth” (scratchy clothing) to remind them that sin is pretty uncomfortable and leads to a sort of death of the spirit. This was their way of confessing their sins and asking for forgiveness.

Where do the ashes come from?

On what we now call Palm Sunday, Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem while people waved palms and cheered him on. Less then a week later, Jesus was killed. The palms that were waved in joy became ashes of sorrow. We get ashes for Ash Wednesday by saving the palms from Palm Sunday, burning them, and mixing them with a little oil. It’s symbolic.

What do Christians do with ashes?

At an Ash Wednesday service, folks are invited to come forward to receive the ashes. The minister will make a small cross on your forehead by smudging the ashes. While the ashes remind us of our mortality and sin, the cross reminds us of Jesus’ resurrection (life after death) and forgiveness. It’s a powerful, non-verbal way that we can experience God’s forgiveness and renewal as we return to Jesus.

So what is LENT?

At Jesus’ baptism the sky split open, the Spirit of God, which looked like a dove, descended and landed on Jesus, and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, My Beloved, with whom I am pleased.” Afterward, as told in Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus was sent into the wilderness by the Spirit. Where he fasted and prayed for 40 days. During his time there he was tempted by Satan and found clarity and strength to resist temptation. Afterwards, he was ready to begin his ministry.

(Speculation)

Maybe Jesus needed some time with God to sort through the major changes happening in his life. Maybe he needed to get away from family, friends and the familiar routine in order to see God (and himself) more clearly. Perhaps he wanted some intentional time with God as he searched for direction and answers like you. Like Jesus, we may need to take some serious time to pray and listen for God.

Why “DO” Lent? How do I start?

Are you searching for something more? Tired of running in circles, but not really living life with direction, purpose or passion?  It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the drama of classes, relationships, family, and work. Our lives are filled with distractions that take us away from living a life with Christ. We try to fill the emptiness inside us with mindless TV, meaningless chatter, stimulants, alcohol, too many activities or other irrelevant stuff. We run away from life and from God.

Lent is a great time to “repent” — to return to God and re-focus our lives to be more in line with Jesus. It’s a 40 day trial run in changing your lifestyle and letting God change your heart. You might try one of these practices for Lent:

FASTING: Some people have been known to go without food for days. But that’s not the only way to fast. You can fast by cutting out some of the things in your life that distract you from God. Some Christians use the whole 40 days to fast from candy, tv, soft drinks, cigarettes or meat as a way to purify their bodies and lives. You might skip one meal a day and use that time to pray instead. Or you can give up some activity like worry or reality tv to spend time outside enjoying God’s creation.  What do you need to let go of or “fast” from in order to focus on God?  What clutters your calendar and life? How can you simplify your life in terms of what you eat, wear or do? Learn more about or design a fast. (Check out this article for ideas on Family Time Lenten Sacrifices.)

SERVICE: Some Christians take something on for Christ.  You can collect food for the needy, volunteer once a week to tutor children, or work for reform and justice in your community. You can commit to help a different stranger, co-worker or friend everyday of Lent. Serving others is one way we serve God. Learn how giving of yourself is prayer.

PRAYER: Christians also use Lent as a time of intentional prayer. You can pray while you walk, create music or art as a prayer to God, or savor a time of quiet listening. All can be ways of becoming more in tune with God. Visit The Upper Room Living Prayer Center to request a prayer, pray for others, or try one or two new prayer practices.

Christians from many different traditions celebrate Lent. How will you use the time to grow closer to God?

TOP TEN THINGS YOU CAN TRY FOR THE LENTEN SEASON:

10. Try an electronic fast. Give up TV, Facebook, texting, tweeting, e-mail and all things electronic for one day every week. (Or everyday of Lent!) Use the time to read & pray. Learn about fasting. (Learn more about media fasts.)

9. Start a prayer rhythm. Each day of Lent, go to The Upper Room’s prayer wall and pray for another person.

8. Go deeper into the Bible.Take an online course on the “I Am” sayings of Jesus.

7. Forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it (maybe even yourself.) Study a book on forgiveness, such as Forgiveness, the Passionate Journey.

6. Give up soft drinks, fast food, tea or coffee. Let Juliana’s Ice Cream Fast inspire you to give up some food or drink as a way to grow closer to God. Give the money you save to help folks in a different part of the world who are in crisis. Pick a current global issue and help change the world.

5. Create a daily quiet time. Spend 10 minutes a day in silence and prayer. Read a daily devotional for the season of Lent. See how it can help you add spiritual practice to your daily life beyond Lent.

4. Cultivate a life of gratitude. Write someone a thank you letter each week and be aware of how many people have helped you along the way. Learn more about spiritual practice of gratitude.

3. Participate in a Lent Photo-a-Day practice and pray each day with your camera in your hand. Start praying.

2. Volunteer one hour or more each week with a local shelter, tutoring program, nursing home, prison ministry. Learn about the global issues and how you can help.

1. Pray for others you see as you walk as you walk to and from classes or drive to and from work. Download the Nimbus Prayer app and pray as you go through your day.
 

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Lenten Sermon Series

 

Giving it Up

Click on the link to watch the message given by Pastor Roy Ice.
 

Giving Up Control – March 5, 2017

Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7; Matthew 4:1-11
 

Giving Up Expectations – March 12, 2017

Genesis 12:1-4a; John 3:1-17
 

Giving Up Superiority – March 19, 2017

1 Samuel 16:1-7; John 4:5-42
 

Giving Up Enemies – March 26, 2017

Psalm 13; Luke 19:37-44
 

Giving Up Our Lives – April 2, 2017

Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 11:1-45

Giving Up Popularity

Palm Sunday – April 9, 2017
Exodus 1:1-12; Matthew 21:1-11

Holy Thursday– April 13, 2017
Exodus 12:1 –14;

1 Corinthians 11:23 –26;

John 13:1 –17, 31b –35
 

 

Giving Up Death

Easter Sunday – April 16, 2017
Acts 10:34-43; John 20:1-18
 
To learn more about each of these messages,
click on our Media tab and read our Epistle for March.
 

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Ash Wednesday

Join St Paul’s for their Ash Wednesday service at 7 pm March 1. 
 
What do we know and understand about Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday is a Christian holiday (holy day) that is not a biblical requirement (just like Christmas and Easter, which are not commanded in Scripture). Nevertheless, it has been honored by Christians for well over ten centuries, falling at the beginning of Lent, a six-week season of preparation for Easter. In the earliest centuries, Christians who had been stuck in persistent sin had ashes sprinkled on their bodies as a sign of repentance, even as Job repented “in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). Around the tenth century, all believers began to signify their need for repentance by having ashes placed on their foreheads in the shape of a cross. Notice: even this sign of sinfulness hinted at the good news yet to come through its shape. Ash Wednesday is not some dour, depressing holy day because it symbolically anticipates Good Friday and Easter.

How Do We Observe Ash Wednesday?

Today, celebrations of Ash Wednesday vary among churches that recognize this holiday. More and more Protestant and even evangelical churches hold some sort of Ash Wednesday services. At the “imposition of ashes” ashes are placed on the foreheads of worshipers as a reminder of our mortality and sinfulness. The person who imposes the ashes quotes something like what God once said to Adam after he had sinned: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:19). This is the bad news of our sinfulness that prepares us to receive the good news of forgiveness in Christ.

Why Should We Observe Ash Wednesday?

There is no biblical commandment that requires us to observe Ash Wednesday. Thus, I believe this one of those practices that Christians are free to observe or not to observe. The theological core of Ash Wednesday is, however, shaped by a biblical theology of creation, sin, mortality, death, grace, and salvation. It also enacts biblical injunctions to “weep with those who weep” and to “confess your sins to one another.” 
What I value most about Ash Wednesday worship services is the chance for us all to openly acknowledge our frailty and sinfulness. In a world that often expects us to be perfect, Ash Wednesday gives us an opportunity to freely confess our imperfections. Provided by Mark Roberts, Senior Pastor, Irvine Presbyterian Church. 2012

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Getting Healthy in the 1700s

As we kick start our new year with 365 fresh new days to do good things for our bodies, our minds, and our souls;  John Wesley also considered his health.  Read the linked article from UMC.org for a different perspective.
 

 


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How do we at St Paul’s Connect?
 
There are always interesting things going on at our church, but do you know about them?  How do you find out about activities?  How do you communicate?  Do you follow posts on email, blogs, and/or newsletters?  Do you use a smartphone or your computer or both?  These are ways of communicating and we need to learn more about them and get better at connecting with our church family.  Maybe this will take off and we can get some good ideas and create a following. Our app works so that you may also follow us that way. 
Blessings!
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