Here we are, the first Sunday of Lent. As you can tell by looking at our worship space, the season of Lent has some distinctive features to it: the baptismal font filled with rocks reminding us that a life of faith is often rocky. But like this water fountain in the midst of the rocks, God is with us on the journey – sustaining us, nurturing us, and nourishing us.
The dried plants remind us that our spiritual lives can be dry, dusty, and barren, wintery.
Lent is a season that calls us to do three things:
1. Remember who we are – a people of God, made in God’s image – made good to do good.
2. Become intentional in our practice of faith
3. Focus on gratitude
Our reading from Deuteronomy opens this season with a clear call to remembrance – the Hebrew people have finally come to the end of their forty years of wandering in the wilderness of a dry and barren desert – their promised land is in sight. They spend time remembering and celebrating who they are – God’s people. Deuteronomy reminds us that when a people forget their past they lose sight of the present and future – you can’t live as a people of God now and in the future if you don’t remember what it meant to be a people of God in the past.
Over the last five weeks the children in our Weaving God’s Promises class have spent time learning about five medieval women. Each of these saints offer us insight into what it means to be a people of God, to be intentional in one’s practice of faith, and to focus on gratitude. Here are our children offering a summary of what they learned: (each child will read a paragraph)….
1) For the last five Sundays, we’ve been learning about saints in the Weaving God’s
Promises educational program. We learn about saints because they are people who
serve as good examples of living a Christian life.
2) The saints we studied are all women who lived during the Middle Ages in Europe.
They helped many people: caring for them when they were ill; feeding them; helping
them to know God better by their writings, music, plays, and teachings; and helping
to bring peace and solve disagreements. Popes and kings sought their advice. They
built up the church by founding schools, churches, and hospitals.
3) Saint Margaret of Scotland was the queen of Scotland. She was very wise. Her
husband, the king, noticed her wisdom and used her advice to avoid wars and to
take care of the people. We know her as a peacemaker.
4) Saint Hildegard von Bingen lived in the church from the age of five. Although a
sickly person her entire life, she lived 81 years. She had visions of God that she
wrote down and shared. She composed music that is sung even today; she wrote
plays and sermons; she traveled to preach to others; she wrote medical texts. We
recognize her for her creativity and mysticism.
5) Saint Elizabeth of Hungary was betrothed at age 5 and married at age 14. During a
great famine, she opened up the castle stores of food to feed the hungry. She gave
away so much food that the royal household was in danger of starving. She was a
6) Saint Catherine of Siena, Italy was the 24th of 25 children. Her parents wanted her
to marry and not join the church. But, she wanted a life in the church and was
7) She is known for caring for very ill people. She was so loved that popes and bishops
listened to her. She helped avoid the breakup of the church. We recognize her
devotion to God.
8) Little is known of Saint Julian of Norwich before she became very ill and nearly
died. During her illness she had visions of Jesus that she wrote down. Her visions of
God are optimistic seeing God as joyful and compassionate.
9) Her views of a loving God, rather than an angry and vengeful God, were not well
accepted by the church powers in her day; but her writings and teachings were
appreciated by the people. She became a recluse, but gave advice to people who
visited at her home. Her teachings are popular today.
10) Each week when we learned about a saint, we also had a craft project, like making
red and white flowers that are associated with Saint Elizabeth. Today we brought
our God’s Eyes that we made the week we learned about Saint Hildegard. This
symbolizes seeing and understanding what is unknowable, which is what Hildegard
saw through her visions.
Sing hymn (Saints of God, with added verse by kids using their names)…
So – remembering, with gratitude, the saints who have come before us and embracing their lives will help guide us as we journey forth, with intentionality, into Lent this year.
Specifically we are going to consider Lent through a parallel process of learning about chocolate and learning about the life of Jesus. There is actually a rather irreverant blues song written by Tom Waits called Chocolate Jesus –
(play audio clip of Gino Matteo singing Chocolate Jesus
“Well it’s got to be a chocolate Jesus
Good enough for me….
Well it’s got to be a chocolate Jesus
Make me feel good inside
Got to be a chocolate Jesus
Keep me satisfied”
Well, enough of that…
What I really want to talk about are the lessons the kids will be learning regarding chocolate and Jesus using a Lenten study called Know Chocolate
Know Chocolate for Lent uses the growing and manufacturing process of chocolate as a metaphor for the growth of faith and discipleship in the Christian life. Using these lessons the kids will form connections between the growing process of chocolate and the growing process of being a Christian. In my sermons on Sunday morning I will, as is reasonable, provide us with similar connecting points so that all of us are on a Lenten journey.
These Lenten journey reflections will help us connect God’s gift of the rainforest and God’s gift of the Church. In addition, we may come to understand that what we often take for granted—whether it is chocolate or faith—is much more satisfying when we know the story behind the traditions we celebrate.
I invite us to observe a holy Lent by:
1. Remembering who we are – a people of God, made in God’s image – made good to do good.
2. Becoming intentional in our practice of faith – and –
3. Focusing on gratitude.
And so, with all do respect, maybe it really is a “chocolate Jesus” – “consumed” with intentionality and gratitude, that keeps us satisfied.