February 26, 2020, at 6:30 a.m. or 6:30 p.m.
As the season of Lent begins, I would like to invite you to an Ash Wednesday service at Westminster. Our Ash Wednesday services are brief — 20-30 minutes — and include music, prayer, liturgy, and the imposition of ashes. As in previous years, we have two choices: 6:30 a.m. or 6:30 p.m. If you’re on your way to work or are a morning person anyway, stop by the sanctuary for a brief service at 6:30 a.m. Then, join other morning worshippers for a cup of coffee or tea and a pastry in the Gathering Place. If this seems a little early, you’re welcome to our evening service at 6:30 p.m. Either way, the time of Ash Wednesday this year should be etched on our minds! Just remember…6:30.
Last summer, a group of 15 youth and adults headed to the Grand Tetons on Pilgrimage 2019: The Grand Adventure. It was a year in the making and much longer in the preparing. The group went hiking, horseback riding, visited Yellowstone, took part in an environmental service project, enjoyed cooking and singing around a campfire and sleeping in lux-yurts! Each day, the group gave thanks for moments of wonder and took part in times of silence and sharing.
We are grateful that WPC takes seriously the baptismal promise of caring for and nurturing the faith of its children and youth through its financial and spiritual support of this important part of the youth ministry here.
No one has ever described me as a “morning person”—just ask Heather. For being a high energy kind of guy, it may come as a surprise to you to learn that I start my mornings slow: wiping the sleep from my eyes, putting on an old sweatshirt, wondering where I put my glasses the night before, and starting the kettle for my morning cup of coffee. My mornings also include stretching out and glancing at my NPR news app. At the break of dawn, it takes me awhile to find my bearings. A few years back, Heather and I attended a conference in Maine where we were invited every morning to begin our day by sitting in silence for 15-20 minutes. Leaders lit a candle, read to us a brief prayer or poem and then, with the sound of a bell, we sat quietly, breathing in and out and placing our day in God’s hands.
Here in Charlottesville, Heather and I have begun this spiritual practice. It doesn’t take a class or a special curriculum. Trust me. Starting off your day grounded and calm in mind and spirit changes the way you interact with others and how others interact with you.
After my silent meditation and a second cup of coffee, I start to feel ready—in soul, mind, and body. I’m ready to face the coming day. And when I pull into Westminster Presbyterian Church and I get out of my car, I say one more prayer: “O Lord, let me rise to the challenges of this day.” My day begins.
Many of us have our morning rituals and routines. We have our own unique way of summoning up the right attitude so we can be more fully engaged in our everyday relationships. Indeed, we all need some time to wake up. One of our Advent hymns (#17) begins this way: “Sleepers awake!” A voice astounds us . . . .” For me, Johann Sebastian Bach’s classic tune calls us to wakefulness. Like many of our Advent hymns, we sing of the joyous news of preparing for Christ’s coming. “Awake, Jerusalem, arise!” this hymn calls and beckons. In essence, the hymn cries out, “Wake Up! Wipe the sleep from your eyes! Put on an old sweatshirt! Stretch out! Meditate in the light of Christ. Get ready!”
“For unto us a child is born, a son is given and authority will rest upon his shoulders; and he will be named, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Is. 9:6)
So, sleepers, wake! For Advent is here!