Dear Partners in Ministry,
As I type this newsletter, I am looking through my office window of our new home as it continues to snow. We have now been living here just over two months. During that time, I have been unpacking books that used to be in my office space at our other house. Some books have found a new space in our library area and other books have found their way into my new office space. One of these books has taken me down memory lane. It is “A Book of Lenten Prayer,” a booklet that I used in my younger days when I was a Roman Catholic. This booklet is showing its wear, because I used it often for the Stations of the Cross that were celebrated every Friday afternoon during the Lenten season for the students. Memories flood my mind of West End Catholic grade school in Johnstown, PA. We would leave our classrooms every Friday during Lent, veil on our heads, and walk single file into the sanctuary, where we would fill the space pew by pew. The priest and three altar boys would appear from the side door of the altar and would slowly (and I mean slowly), walk through the fourteen Stations of the Cross. We would stand, sit, kneel (over and over again) and participate in all of the appropriate responses. Two of the altar boys held candlesticks and the other would be swinging potent incense in a big gold thurible, the long gold chains would click as the altar boy walked, and that incense (if I think about it hard enough), can still unravel my sense of smell right now. It was rough being a child in a strict church worship space for long periods of time, especially during more intense seasons such as Lent. I can’t tell you that I looked forward to Lent in those days, but I have found that I do now.
I was pleasantly surprised when the Pastoral Team picked the book, “Blessed Is She: Living Lent with Mary” by Tim Perry for the PLUM Lenten Bible Study. Mary, Jesus’ Mom, or as I had always referred to her, “The Blessed Virgin Mary,” was always a focal point of Lent for me. Imagine for yourself, Jesus carrying the cross. During that journey, I could just picture Mary following at a distance, tragedy raking her whole being, watching her son struggling to move, Jesus, whom she loves with all her heart, enduring such unjust punishment. Back then, at West End Catholic School, the fourth station is where Jesus, struggling with the heavy cross, encounters his afflicted mother. The priest would ask us to consider the meeting of the Son and the Mother which took place on this journey. “Their looks became like so many arrows to wound those hearts which loved each other so tenderly” is a quote from my booklet. Arrows and hearts sound like Valentine’s Day, which are usually welcomed symbols of true love, arrows that are shot by sweet cupid, the angel-like figure that is conjured up by artists as a match maker. But, these arrows being referred to are different. We recall here what Simeon had said to Mary and Joseph when they brought Jesus, who was eight days old, to the temple to be circumcised. The verse comes from Luke 2:34-35, “Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother, Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed-and a sword will pierce your own soul too’.” An arrow, a sword, gut retching pain that cuts the whole way down to the soul of your being, THAT is what Mary was feeling as she attempted to follow her beaten, bruised, flogged son, Jesus, as he struggled under the weight of the cross, which He did for US, because of our sin. Mary’s willingness to take on everything that could come her way, when the angel Gabriel appeared to her, was now coming to the part of her story that was beyond human understanding. Mary might have thought, “Is this what it was all about”?
I hope that my little trip down memory lane provides a new or different perspective than your Lenten journeys in the past. For me, this Lent, I am revisiting Mary, the chosen mother of the Son of God; we can only imagine what life was like from her perspective. But, throughout all of her days, there is a sense of great strength that she obviously drew from her trust in God’s will for her life that should be held up as a wonderful example for all of us.
Please join the Pastoral Team of PLUM as we begin the Lenten Journey with YOU at the Ash Wednesday service on Zoom at 7 pm on February 17, 2021.
Every Wednesday after Ash Wednesday, during Lent, join us on Zoom at 7 pm for Holden Evening Vespers, which is a short contemplative service.
Taizé will be held on Zoom on Friday, March 5 at 7 pm.
Our Lenten Bible Study is focused around the book, “Blessed is She: Living Lent with Mary,” by Tim Perry. This study will be held on Zoom on Tuesdays at 1 pm and Thursdays at 7 pm during Lent, beginning on February 23 and February 25. (You may purchase a copy of the book; however, it is not necessary to have the book in order to participate in the study.)
Plan on spending The Great Three Days with us on Zoom!
Maundy Thursday, April 1 at 7 pm
Good Friday, April 2 at noon and 7 pm
Easter Vigil, April 3 at 7 pm - a more stream-lined version than our in-person worship.
Easter Sunday will be 10:30 am and 3 pm on Zoom!
YOU are always welcome for any or all of the Lenten/Easter worship opportunities! May you find new meaning for yourself in these forty days of Lent that lead you to a closer relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
Peace and Love to ALL!
Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110 412-466-7773