March 3, 2017

Dear Peachtree Road Family,

I hope this note finds you doing well. Last Wednesday, we held our Ash Wednesday services and began the forty-day season of Lent. This Sunday we begin a new sermon series entitled “Breathe!” During this series we will be spending time with the biblical characters as presented to us by the Gospels and learning how they learned to “breathe” in the midst of trying times. The dates, texts, and messages are as follows:

March 5 | Matthew 4:1-11 | When Temptation Comes Your Way
March 12 | John 3:1-17 | When You Don’t Know What to Do Next
March 19 | John 4:5-42 | When Life Doesn’t Turn Out as You Hoped
March 26 | John 9:1-41 | When You’re Haunted By Your Past
April 2 | John 11:1-45 | When You’re Caught in a Nightmare
April 9 | Matthew 27:45-54 | When Death Draws Near

We begin this Sunday with Jesus facing temptation in the wilderness. I imagine most of us tend to think of temptation as the impulse to do something we really want to do but know we shouldn’t. However, the deepest temptation is not the urge to misbehave; rather, it is the enticement to compromise our identity and to forget whose we are. We’ll talk about that on Sunday and learn how to “breathe” deeply in the Spirit even when confronted by temptation.

There are a couple of elements in our Lenten services each Sunday that will be a little unusual for us. These have deep meaning to our faith.

Immediately following the processional hymn, we will participate in a prayer of confession. This prayer is in keeping with the penitential mood of the season. As we approach God in worship, we acknowledge our sins, ask for forgiveness, and accept God’s grace.

Following the pastoral prayer, we will be led by the choir in singing “Kyrie Eleison.” This is an ancient hymn dating back to the early days of the church, and the words are a transliteration of the Greek words “Lord, have mercy.” Christians throughout the centuries have sung these words in the original language as a prayer of penitence.

In addition to weekly worship, I do invite you to consider practicing several spiritual disciplines during the season of Lent:

Study and Mediation – during last Sunday’s message, I invited us to “listen to Jesus.” The best way to do this is to pay attention to the words he spoke to his disciples as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. You may read through the Gospels by Easter by reading two chapters each day. I like to read from a “red-letter” edition of the Bible and focus especially upon the red-letter words, the words of Jesus. Let the words sink in, meditate upon them, and live them to the best of your ability. You may also find the daily devotional guide published by the church entitled “Breathe” to be helpful. You may access a digital version here.

Fast – I will be practicing the Wesley Fast during this season by fasting at least one day each week. My goal is to not eat solid food from supper one day until supper the next day. John Wesley advocated fasting to the early Methodists as a way of making prayer more powerful and helping them to hear Christ’s voice more clearly. You also may have seen earlier this week that Pope Francis is encouraging Christians everywhere to fast – not just from food but also from “indifference to others.” I certainly encourage you to consider fasting this season.

Serve – many people “give something up” for Lent. But, what about “taking something on?” What if you added something to your regular week this season and intentionally looked for ways to do something for others? Certainly, one way to serve is to join your friends at Peachtree Road for the 25th Annual Great Day of Service. You may sign up here to be a part of this time of outreach with others.

Pray – The season of Lent especially is a season of prayer. I encourage you to set aside regular time each day for prayer. I am beginning each day by praying “Wesley’s Covenant Prayer” early each morning:

I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will; rank me with whom you will.
Put me to doing; put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by you or laid aside by you;
Exalted for you or brought low for you.
Let me be full. Let me be empty.
Let me have all things. Let me have nothing.
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, O blessed and glorious God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
You are mine and I am yours. So be it.
Let this covenant made on earth be ratified in heaven. Amen.

Or, you may just want to keep it simple and remember the words of the children’s song:

Whisper a prayer in the morning. Whisper a prayer at noon.
Whisper a prayer in the evening. ‘Twill keep you heart in tune.

I look forward to seeing you Sunday as we begin to tune out the noise of the world, tune into the voice of the Lord, and “breathe” in the Spirit together.

Bill