Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. This year, the season of Lent begins on Wednesday, March 1. Historically, this holy season is a time of preparation for celebrating Easter. Lent began as a period of fasting and preparation for baptism by converts and then became a time for penance by all Christians. Because Sundays are always little “Easters,” the penitential spirit of Lent is tempered by the joyful expectation of the Resurrection on these days. Today, we observe Lent as a season of reflection, self-examination, self-denial, study, reconciliation, and renewal of our commitment to be Christ-followers.
So, how can we hear anew the call to follow Jesus this Lent? Why not consider participating in Lenten worship services or in one of the adult small groups that are being offered for our St. Stephen’s community for just this purpose!
This Lent, we are focusing on Discipleship. Click HERE to view our Discipleship Self-Assessment.
FX Lent Event
All children & families are invited to join us on Tuesday, February 9 for the Youth Group’s Pancake Supper and then enjoy five different hands-on prayer stations to help your family prepare for the season. Lenten stations will be open 5:45 to 7 PM, come any time during this time frame to explore the stations together — parents and children. Then join us for a 30-minute FX family worship experience at 7:00 PM to include communion and the imposition of ashes. Click HERE for the event flyer.
Ash Wednesday Services:
Services on Wednesday, February 9th: 12:00 PM and 7:30 PM. Please attend either service as convenient to your schedule.
Services of prayer, scripture reading, and imposition of ashes will be held on Ash Wednesday, March 1. Come either at noon or 7:30 PM, and participate in this 30-minute service, calling us to observe a holy Lent. The ashes are a traditional sign of penitence, a fitting way to enter the season of Lent, which focuses on how we examine ourselves in the light of Jesus’ self-sacrificing love through which He pours out all He is for us at the Cross on Good Friday. Lent is the journey toward Good Friday, beginning on Ash Wednesday. Please plan to come for either service. We will have a community lunch following the noon service. RSVP to Maureen in the Church Office if you plan to attend lunch. The evening service will feature our Youth Band and youth readers.
Palm Sunday: April 9, 8:30, 9:45, 11:00 am
Come join us on April 9 for our Palm Sunday Cantata.
Maundy Thursday Service, 7:30 PM, Sanctuary, 4/13 Maundy Thursday is a tradition in the church marking Jesus’ last night with his disciples. Among other things this is when Christ gives “a new commandment… that you love one another” in John’s gospel. The word commandment (mandatum or mandate) is the source of the word “Maundy.”
Good Friday Service, 7:30 PM, Sanctuary, 4/14
A Tenebrae service, featuring readings and the gradual extinguishing of candles to symbolize Jesus’ death on the cross and time in the tomb.
Easter Morning Sunrise Service: 6:30 am, 8:30, 9:45, 11:00 am, 4/16
Join us to welcome the Risen Lord at one (or more) of four services, including a special 6:30 am Sunrise service which will be held outdoors, and will be followed with breakfast at the church.
The Hinge of Human History
We count time based on Jesus’ coming into human history. Jesus’ birth turns the years from B.C. (or B.C.E.) to A.D. (or C.E.) But the only reason we count Jesus’ birth as the turning point of history is because of what happens during a three-day span about 30 years later, during what we now call “Holy Week.”
On Thursday evening, Jesus gathers His followers for a momentous meal, to celebrate the Passover Feast of Israel, and to raise it to a new level as God’s Passover for all people, giving us the perpetual elements of the bread (His Body) and the cup (His Blood) as the keys to salvation.
That night, Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane and prays so hard that He sweats drops of blood! The enormity of what He is about to bear, nobody else has ever known. He is about to lay down His life as a vicarious sacrifice for the healing of the world. He will bear the accumulated and concentrated impact of human sin into Himself, absorb the full assault of evil’s power, and remain perfectly faithful to the will of God throughout.
What He prepares Himself for through the hours of prayer during the night, all begins to unfold through the day on Good Friday. He endures betrayal, desertion, injustice, escalating torture, until at last He is nailed to the Cross to suffer until He dies. The skies turn black, not just heavily clouded, in the middle of the day. The earth quakes. In the Temple of Jerusalem, the massive curtain meant to separate the unapproachable holy things of God away from everything else … that curtain is torn in half, from the top to the bottom, removing the separation through the victory of Jesus. Only the hand of God could make this all happen. The Roman captain, charged to maintain order, sees what is happening and confesses, “Truly this was the Son of God,” as Jesus breathes His last breath.
He is buried in a borrowed tomb, and all seems quiet from Friday evening until Sunday morning. At sunrise on the first day of the week, the stone is rolled away from the tomb. The women who have come to anoint the body with perfumes discover that He is gone. Then, He meets them, shows them that He is alive! He has risen from the dead. He has conquered not only the assault of evil, but also the bondage of death. He delivers us from evil, and ushers us into the life of God’s Kingdom and power and glory, forever.
The world is changed forever. The “Good News” of Jesus has changed more hearts, minds, and lives than anything else in all creation. The love of God, through Jesus, has redeemed us from a life doomed to sin and death. He has opened the way for us to new life, alive in the joy of God’s goodness and mercy for faithful and loving service.
Come and experience afresh this turning of the ages taking root in our hearts and minds.
Easter Special Offering
The Easter special offering envelope, received in the mailed packet, will be used to support two important ministries that serve the needy. 50% will go for the Samaritan Fund of Virginia United Methodist Homes for the Aging. It helps to pay the expenses of residents whose resources have been exhausted. 50% will go for the St. Stephen’s Pastor’s Discretionary Fund, which assists persons in a variety of circumstances.