Cuthbert United Methodist Church
Wednesday, May 23, 2018

“PASCHAL MYSTERY”

Ash Wednesday, Lent and Easter Seasons
Aldersgate will be deeply involved in the Paschal Mystery!  What is the Paschal Mystery?  It all started with a sacrificial lamb, whose blood was smeared on the doorposts of the Israelite slaves in Egypt.  That night, the first-born sons of the Egyptians all died, but death passed over (pesah=Passover) the houses of the Israelites.  As the beginning of the Exodus, Passover is the central story of redemption for the Jews.   Jesus established a new covenant with his body and blood at the Last Supper (a Passover meal), and then was crucified. His resurrection brought new meaning and power to that story of redemption for his followers.  And so, during the six weeks of Lent, Christians enter into this Paschal Mystery, remembering the story of passion-death-resurrection, repenting of sin and focusing on the gospel news, to welcome with faith the Spirit of the living Lord.  
 
We begin the season with Ash Wednesday, this year: Feb. 18th.  We burn palm branches from last year’s Palm Sunday celebration to ash, and receive a mark of the cross, with the words “Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return.” Or, “Repent and believe the gospel” as we kneel at the altar.  Emphasis is on penitence, and on starting a closer walk with Jesus, through prayer, scripture study, and worship.  For the 40 days of Lent, many take on a new spiritual habit, such as reading the Bible each morning, or doing acts of service/sacrifice.  Others decide to fast from something, either food or a destructive habit.  For the past number of years, Aldersgate has shared in a devotional book of testimony and prayer, written by members.  The discipline of Lent helps us to renew our commitment to Christ.  The week before Easter is an especially holy time for Christians.  We observe Palm Sunday, this year: March 29th, a 5th Sunday, as the day when Jesus entered Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna” and was acclaimed as King.  We wave palm branches, but are mindful that this is the beginning of the week of Jesus’ passion.  We remember the stories of teaching and confrontation with authorities.  On Maundy Thursday, we relive Jesus’ last supper with his disciples.  On Good Friday, we remember the crucifixion and death of Christ.  Aldersgate usually has a Service of Darkness (Tenebrae) with readings and special music designed to help us contemplate the meaning of the cross.  The altar is stripped and bare, with candles which are extinguished into darkness as the story unfolds.  Then, on Easter Sunday, this year: April 5, we celebrate the highest holy day of the year, with a great celebration proclaiming, “Christ is Risen, He is risen indeed!”  The Easter celebration will continue for 50 days, culminating in the coming of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost Sunday.  The Paschal Mystery is an ever-growing mystery for Christians, because each year, as we “proclaim his death until he comes,” we are drawn nearer to the cross.  A thoughtful observation of Lent helps us to claim the reality that we rise with Christ on Easter Sunday, as we experience a new beginning, a revival of our faith.  We learn something more about God’s love and power, and grow closer to our Lord and Savior.  So, have a Holy Lent!