After One Month of Lent

by WILSON PRUITT

She tells them of Life and Death, and of all that they would
forget.
She is tender where they would be hard, and hard where they
like to be soft.
She tells them of Evil and Sin, and other unpleasant facts.
They constantly try to escape
From the darkness outside and within
By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be
good.

– T.S. Eliot, Choruses from The Rock

A month passes, and we are still in Lent. Christians are an odd sort for their seasons and especially for Lent. Christmas slips neatly into Thanksgiving and July 4 and Valentine’s Day as a day of collective and assumed consumption. The financial year is based around the Christmas giving period without which many industries and many thousands of companies would be in the red. The market relies on Christmas, but it does not rely on Lent.

It has been a month, and Lent is still here and will be here for a few weeks more, yet what keeps it here? Can we walk away from Lent? Can I say no to this bitter season with death at its end?

Yes.

I have a friend who told me that the most important thing he learned about supervising people was how to say no. I asked him how he did it. This was his response: “No.”

That freedom is always ours with Lent. We can always say no and most of us spend most of this time saying no to a season that barely affects how we live our lives. Sure, we may not say a certain ‘A’ word and we may sing some somber songs in church, we may keep a discipline a or two, but when I am jogging after work or watching basketball or contemplating a new swimsuit, what season am I living in?

How do we still live in Lent when it’s so easy to say no to the season in just a month? How do we accept the not-so-chipper news about a God who became human to be killed?

We must remember that Lent is not about us and our righteous discipline. It is not about sad songs or not saying words or telling people what to do and how to behave. It is about Jesus. It is about Jesus turning his face toward Jerusalem. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, city that slayed the Prophets. Why does he go there? Why doesn’t he turn around? Why don’t his disciples realize what he is doing? Why don’t they stop him? The disciples didn’t understand which season they were in, just as we think less of facing Jerusalem and more of ascending to heaven.

The last miles are tricky. Holy Week is hard, but it is filled with days of note: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday.  In these last days of Lent, there are no days of note. Lent is like a marathon in that it is not the last miles but the ones before those that are hardest. The ones where we barely remember why we are in this season. The ones where saying no to Lent is easiest because it has been long enough. These miles that we run now are not glorified. Palm Sunday is a celebration. The week before is not. It is still Lent. We can still say no. It is easy. You just say it. No.

Or, as a church, we can with each other learn how to say yes.

The Kingdom of God and your pocket book

by TRAVIS BURDETT

Have you ever tracked how you spend your money?  What do you spend it on?  I am not asking about the big stuff, we all know about the big stuff, but what about the small stuff?  When you go to the grocery store which companies do you support and which do you ignore?  In our capitalistic world companies are trying to capture every single one of our dollars they can.  We rarely take the time to think about the companies we spend money with, but I think Jesus would want us to.  How would the world be different if we did stop to think?

In today’s world most of the goods, food, and supplies we purchase come from overseas because the labor is cheaper there.  The sad truth is that many people in these foreign countries work in deplorable conditions.  These conditions are often made worse because of the insistence of companies on a lower bottom line.  Our brothers and sisters in the third world are seen as expendable assets rather than children of God.

Often I feel powerless to stop this tide of capitalistic oppression, but we still have a choice.  Every dollar we spend is a vote.  It is a vote for some companies and against other companies.  Every week I will highlight a company that deserves your votes.  I want to introduce you to companies that treat their workers like humans of worth rather than merely an asset.  Often these companies cost a little more, but that is because they would rather loose a little money before they sell their hearts.  It is easy to get caught up in a tide of negativity about these issues, but I hope these posts will focus on the amazing things some companies are doing and why you should support them (even if they cost a little more).  The Kingdom of God is about these choices.  It is about choosing to love our neighbors in the way we spend, the way we serve, and the way we think.

Japan: How We Can Help…Together

It’s difficult to look at the pictures and listen to the accounts of the last several days in Japan. In facing the damage caused by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami, it’s easy to despair of how we could possibly do anything to help repair such widespread destruction. The answer, as with so many questions we face, lies in community. In this case, that means the community of the United Methodist Church in partnership with the wider Christian community.

Servant Church is able to be a part of relief efforts in Japan and elsewhere through the United Methodist Committee on Relief, the global humanitarian aid organization of the United Methodist Church. One reason that’s a good thing is that UMCOR brings us together with churches around the world and lets us work toward a common goal. Another is that UMCOR’s administrative expenses are paid through a special offering taken in churches everywhere, so 100% of donations designated for a particular effort go to that effort. None of those donations go toward overhead costs. If you’re looking for a way to help Japan, consider a donation through UMCOR.

Read about how United Methodists are already responding and the latest relief advisories on Japan. And continue reading below for a message from the president of the Church’s Council of Bishops.


Dear sisters and brothers,

As you know, a series of tragic events has unfolded over the past few days in Japan. The massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake that struck Japan on March 11 and the accompanying tsunami resulted in the death of at least 2,800 people and possibly more than 10,000. Damage to the country’s nuclear power plants jeopardizes the safety of hundreds of thousands more. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan called the disaster the worst crisis Japan has faced in 65 years.

In times of immense loss and grief, we are reminded once again that God’s grace is sufficient. While it does not offer us immunity from tragedy, it sustains us with healing and hope.

At such times, the church is called to be a healing presence among those facing heartbreaking circumstances. I am confident that the people of The United Methodist Church will respond to the call with prayers and generous support for the victims of this catastrophe.

I ask that you join with me in prayer for the deceased and their families; the injured; the search and rescue workers; the survivors who are without water, food or heat; those who have been evacuated from their homes as the nuclear threat worsens; and all who have been affected.

When disaster strikes, we are especially grateful for the valuable ministry that the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) provides with the help and support of United Methodists and others. I hope that all United Methodist churches will consider taking a special offering designated for Pacific Emergency, UMCOR Advance #3021317, to provide financial resources to respond to the needs resulting from the disaster.

Working with its partners, the United Church of Christ in Japan, the Korean Christian Church, Church World Service, Global Medic, the National Christian Council, and the Asian Rural Institute, UMCOR is currently focused on working to assess the damage to determine how best to provide assistance and will then respond accordingly.

May we join together in opening our hearts to those suffering in the midst of devastation.

Yours in Christ,

Larry M. Goodpaster, President
The Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church

Bracket time

Hi, all. Chris here. We had such a good time picking NCAA tournament brackets last year, I thought we should give it another go. I’ve created a group at www.bigshotbracket.com. A friend of mine works at the company that runs it. They’re good folks and won’t spam you. Here is what you need to know:

Group Name: SCAustin

Password: servant

To sign up, go to:

http://www.bigshotbracket.com/signup.asp?id=11984_6718

If you are already signed up, go straight to the Join Group page at:

http://www.bigshotbracket.com/groups.asp

Questions and trash talk in the comments section.