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“The Last Word”
(Inspiration from Henri Nouwen)

Forming a community
with family and friends,
building a body of love,
shaping a new people
of the resurrection:
all of this is not just
so that we can live a life
protected from the dark forces
that dominate our world;
it is, rather, to enable us
to proclaim together
to all people,
young and old,
white and black,
poor and rich,
that death does not
have the final word,
that hope is real
and God is alive.

Spoiler alert…these words are NOT found on the first page of this year’s Lenten devotional; they are found on the very last page of the booklet, at the end of the story…as the last word. They are words of affirmation and reflection written by Henri Nouwen; they appear as the final meditation in “Steadfast Love” and are meant to be read on Easter Sunday. Usually we start at the beginning, but sometimes it strengthens us for the journey if we know where we are going.

These Lenten devotionals are ready and waiting for you in the church office; if you’d like one this year, feel free to stop by and pick yours up, or ask us to drop one off or put one in the mail. We also have our traditional matching key tags to help you mark the season of Lent.

This will be our second Lenten season spent apart from one another, and I know it is hard on all of us, yet difficult journeys are always easier when we can share them with family and friends. Last year many of you chose an “egg word” for Lent (or the word chose you). This year I offer you not a word but a thought: you are not alone. I will do everything in my power to put that thought into action…record worship services, send weekly words, call, text, talk, pray, and love. In this year’s wilderness we may proclaim together that hope is real, and that God is alive.

May that promise have the final word…Pastor Claudine

“The Heart of Eternal Love”
(Written by Joyce Rupp)

Heart of Love,
Source of all kindness,
Teacher of the ways of goodness,
you are hidden in the pockets of daily life,
waiting to be discovered.

Heart of Gladness,
Joy that sings in our souls,
the Dancer and the Dance,
you are Music radiating in our
cherished caches of consolation.

Heart of Compassion,
the Healing One weeping
for a world burdened and bent,
you are the heart we bring
to the wounded, worn and weary.

Heart of Comfort,
Sheltering Wings of Love,
Refuge for sad and lonely ones,
you embrace all who bear loss,
gathering their tears with care.

Heart of all Hearts,
the First and Best of all Companions,
you are the Gift secreted in our depths,
connecting us with others.

Heart of Understanding,
One who gazes upon the imperfect,
the incomplete, the flawed, the weak,
you never stop extending mercy.

As we prepare to enter into the season of Lent, as we look toward Ash Wednesday next week, and as we celebrate Valentine’s Day this Sunday, may we honor the Heart of God in every form it takes, and may God create in us our own clean, loving, and merciful heart…Pastor Claudine

Prayer for an Annual Meeting
(Ruth C. Duck and Maren C. Tirabassi, adapted)

Creator God, another year has passed
in the life and ministry of our covenanted community of faith.
We have sought to be a faithful and loving people.
We have attempted to live out a Gospel of reconciliation and peace.
By your Spirit among us, we have been baptized into one body and one Spirit;
keep us faithful to you and guide us as we discern the way ahead.
Order our life together, that we may be ever more effective
in showing love to you and all people.
Bless our annual meeting,
that we may continue to discern your way at work within us.
Peaceful Creator, guide all we say and do,
and shape our words and our values today and always.

In a perfect world we would be gathering this Sunday to enjoy a potluck luncheon and hold our Annual Meeting. But ours is a far-from-perfect world. Instead, our Council will meet next week (winter storm Cooper forced us to postpone) and we will act on behalf of the congregation, voting on a budget and electing officers. But folks have still been hard at work…writing reports, preparing reports, gathering reports, printing reports, sharing reports, and emailing reports.

I have been taking time away to restore and renew; to replenish my spirit and refresh my soul. I am grateful to all those who have been leading our worship and carrying out our ministry in my absence. Due to illness we were unable to record a service on one of those Sundays, and we apologize for technical difficulties that prevented you from hearing this week’s service.

My family is abundantly grateful for the prayers that have been lifting us each day and holding us up to God’s grace and care. My niece’s boyfriend is recovering from four surgeries needed to repair extensive injuries following a motorcycle accident; Jeff is making slow but steady progress and we lean on each other as they face the long road ahead with gratitude and hope. My father is still in the hospital, undergoing dialysis to keep his kidneys functioning; we lean on your thoughts and prayers, missing the personal visits and looking forward to having him home.

While I was away from you, I never stopped praying for you…healing and recovery for those in the hospital, safety and strength for those with Covid, celebration and welcome for the birth of Korban En-Thawn Tuang into our hearts and into the lives of Mei Ling, Go, Winnie and family. In the words of this prayer, may we continue to be a faithful and loving people, and may God guide us in the way ahead. With you, for you, beside you, today and always…Pastor Claudine

“Blessings at Year’s End”
Written by the Rev. Dr. Howard Thurman

I remember with gratitude the fruits of the labors of others,
which I have shared as a part of the normal experience of daily living.

I remember the beautiful things I have seen, heard, and felt –
some, as a result of definite seeking on my part,
and many that came unheralded into my path,
warming my heart and rejoicing my spirit.

I remember the moments of distress that proved to be groundless
and those that taught me profoundly
about the evilness of evil and the goodness of good.

I remember the new people I have met,
from whom I have caught glimpses of the meaning of my own life
and the true character of human dignity.

I remember the dreams that haunted me during the year,
keeping me ever mindful of goals and hopes which I did not realize
but from which I drew inspiration
to sustain my life and keep steady my purposes.

I remember the awareness of the spirit of God
that sought me out in my aloneness
and gave to me a sense of assurance…
that undercut my despair and confirmed my life
with new courage and abiding hope.

As the new year begins, filled with both hopes and fears, with both possibilities and realities, and as I write the most unusual Annual Report for church that I have ever had to write, I want to thank all of you…for your labors of love that have had no end; for beautiful things I sought after, and those that just came my way; for meaning and dignity, for inspiration and purpose. You have warmed my heart and rejoiced my spirit; you have brought calm assurance to my loneliness, solid courage to my living; you have sustained my dreams and kept steady my path.

These are my blessings as the new year begins. “I try to count them - they are more than the sand; I come to the end – I am still with you.” (Psalm 139) Happy Epiphany…Pastor Claudine