yearC ash Wednesday


Mel Gibson's powerful new movie will be released this week and will focuse on the last 12 hours of Christ's life. No preacher should miss addressing this important film. The new Lenten Series from "The Passion of the Christ" follows the movie's themes complementing the current events and topics that will be in the press these next two months. Here is the series:


     Lent 1: His Triumphal Entry

     Lent 2: His Clearing of the Temple

     Lent 3: His Teachings

     Lent 4: His Last Supper & Betrayal

     Lent 5: His Trial

     Lent 6: His Death

     Easter: His Resurrection

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Sermon for Ash Wednesday:

              Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 -  And When You Pray..."
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Jesus taught his disciples, saying: And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:5-6)

Prayer -- just the word elicits a wide variety of responses and feelings. Everything from the most pious of responses to the most piteous of excuses, the concept and practice of prayer has evoked much writing and discussion in Christian circles down through the ages. Most of us would profess fairly easily that we believe prayer is important. Most of us would have to confess, perhaps not so easily, that we do not pray as we should.


As we begin our Lenten pilgrimage this day, let us begin with prayer. And I mean that both literally and figuratively. Let us begin where Jesus always seemed to begin every venture and effort, with prayer. It is one of the Lenten disciplines espoused by the religious for years. But it is more than just a discipline. So let us take some time, as we begin our Lent, to explore what prayer is, or is not.


Part of the problem, I suspect, about our failure to pray more frequently is our feeling uncomfortable in prayer. We don't seem to know "how to" pray. And because we get all hung up in the "how to" part, feeling inadequate for the task, embarrassed by the act, unable to address God as we feel we should, many of us simply don't. We don't pray.


Well, let's lay to rest the "how to" part right away. I found a wonderful poem that will help us put that issue into its right perspective. Listen to "Cyrus Brown's Prayer" by Sam Walter Foss:


"The proper way for man to pray,"

Said Deacon Lemuel Keyes,

"And the only proper attitude,

Is down upon his knees."


"No, I should say the way to pray,"

Said Reverend Dr. Wise,

"Is standing straight with outstretched arms,

And rapt and upturned eyes."


"Oh, no, no, no!" said Elder Slow,

"Such posture is too proud;

A man should pray with eyes fast closed,

And head contritely bowed."


"It seems to me his hands should be

Austerely clasped in front.

With both thumbs pointing toward the ground,"

Said Reverend Dr. Blunt.


"Las' year I fell in Hodgkin's well

Head first," said Cyrus Brown.

"With both my heels a-stickin' up,

My head a-pointin' down;


"An' I made a prayer right then an' there...

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This Week's Sunday Sermon:

      Luke 4:1-13 - Would You Take The Crown Without The Cross?
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The local sheriff was looking for a deputy, and one of the applicants - who was not known to be the brightest academically, was called in for an interview. "Okay," began the sheriff, "What is 1 and 1?" "Eleven," came the reply. The sheriff thought to himself, "That's not what I meant, but he's right."

Then the sheriff asked, "What two days of the week start with the letter 'T'?" "Today & tomorrow." Replied the applicant. The sheriff was again surprised over the answer, one that he had never thought of himself.

"Now, listen carefully, who killed Abraham Lincoln?", asked the sheriff. The job seeker seemed a little surprised, then thought really hard for a minute and finally admitted, "I don't know." The sheriff replied, "Well, why don't you go home and work on that one for a while?" The applicant left and wandered over to his pals who were waiting to hear the results of the interview. He greeted them with a cheery smile, "The job is mine! The interview went great! First day on the job and I'm already working on a murder case!"

In our Gospel reading this morning in Mark 1 it is Jesus' first day on the job. Immediately he is confronted with three major temptations. And he is confronted with this basic question: Would he take the crown without the cross?

These are basic temptations in life. These three temptations form the foundation for all other temptations. And I would propose that when temptations come our way; if we will pause and classify the temptations, identify them with one of the three temptations Jesus faced; we will be equipped to answer Satan with the words and obedience of Christ.

Let's look at the three temptations:

1. Stone into Bread: The temptation to use power for the wrong purposes.
2. Jump on the Rocks: The Temptation to gain popularity by performance.
3. Serve The Wrong Master: The temptation to idolatry.

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What Is Unique About Christianity?

The story of Jesus sitting and debating the Law with rabbis reminds me of another debate that took place in a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God became incarnate in human form. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.” Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.

Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, armful of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what's all this rumpus about?” Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We're debating what's unique about Christianity.” “Oh, that's easy,” answered Lewis, “it's....


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