Feb. 1, 2018

Dear Hyde Park Family,

Imagine this Valentine’s Day spending a romantic evening with that special someone. You look into the other person’s eyes, with a loving, winsome smile, and whisper tenderly to them:

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Or, imagine this next Easter morning. You and your family are dressed in your Sunday finest, you walk into morning worship, and as you sit down, much to your surprise:

Someone has placed a whoopee cushion on your seat.

I’m not suggesting either of these things happen, of course. I am merely observing that for the first time in seventy-three years, Ash Wednesday is on the same day as Valentine’s Day and Easter Sunday is on April Fool’s Day. Think about it. A liturgical season marked by sober repentance and reflection will this year be book-ended by romance and irreverence, candy hearts and practical jokes.

But when you think about it, maybe that’s an appropriate symbol for how we often treat Lent. Even though Lent calls us to serious contemplation and an honest assessment of the condition of our souls, we will often go to great lengths to avoid those tasks altogether, preferring occasions for sentimentality and frivolity.

So this Lent, I invite you to go deeper. Acknowledge those fragile, tenuous parts of your life, rather than run away from them. Surrender your limitations over to God’s limitless love, and offer your toughest questions to a God whose faithfulness will sustain you.

In other words, embrace your uncertainties.

Embracing the Uncertain is the name of our Lenten series this year, and it corresponds to my newest book series, published by Abingdon Press. Each week, we will explore a different way that life feels so uncertain, based on a different biblical encounter with Jesus in the gospel.

  • February 18: Embrace the uncertainty of doubt, through a father’s desperate plea: “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”
  • February 25: Embrace the uncertainty of forgiveness, through Peter’s question about how many times we are to forgive.
  • March 4: Embrace the uncertainty of worry, as Jesus teaches the crowd to consider the lilies and the sparrows.
  • March 11: Embrace the uncertainty of mortality, through the grieving of Mary and Martha over the death of their brother Lazarus.
  • March 18: Embrace the uncertainty of surrender, through the powerful transformation of a sinner named Zacchaeus.
  • March 25: Embrace the uncertainty of obedience, through the poignant prayer of Jesus himself, in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Each week, this series will invite you to acknowledge, and ultimately embrace, an area of your life filled with uncertainty. And together, we will experience hope and new life through the certainty of the resurrection on Easter.

More importantly, I hope you will be part of one of our many small groups that will be studying my new book, Embracing the Uncertain: A Lenten Study for Unsteady Times. Each session will include a brief five-minute video from me, along with a small group guide that I wrote to enhance your conversations and invite you to go deeper together. You can sign up for a small group here.

In addition to the Bible study, Abingdon also asked me to write a second book to complement the series: a 40-day devotional, called Embracing the Uncertain: 40 Devotions for Unsteady Times. Each day offers my reflection on a different gospel story that takes place after the Transfiguration and before Easter. By the end of the devotional, you will have read the second half of each of the four gospels.

Both these books are now available for purchase in our own Aldersgate Coffee Shop.

My introduction to the study offers this encouragement:

May this forty-day journey be for you an invitation to look deeply within yourself, to determine what resides in the uncertain, in the shadowy, untenable, and unreliable parts of your soul. May you identify that within your life which must be acknowledged, confessed, and ultimately, through the glory of Easter, overcome by God’s grace.

Ready or not, welcome to this Lenten journey.  

Grace and peace,

Magrey

The Rev. Magrey deVega, Senior Pastor

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