Message From Pastor Stanton for February 2016

“Come to the Table” where God feeds and forgives so that you may be made ready to bring others to the table of God’s grace! In a nutshell, that’s what Lent is about this year at First.

Since September, we have been considering what it means that God not only becomes present at the altar table in a church, but also in our tables at home; amidst a celebration, a family feast and even the ‘normal’ weekday evening. The 40 days of Lent will be the climax of this year’s theme when small groups, Wednesday worship services and personal devotions will center around biblical texts that dwell on Jesus, food and the people he eats with. We will remember how Jesus gladdens feasts with ‘new’ wine, how Jesus chooses to share meals with outcasts, how Jesus is able to multiply blessings among us and how Jesus eventually uses food to make himself present in 2016 in Onalaska. But we will not do all this remembering for academic purposes. Recalling these stories of Scripture will hopefully move us into action. God feeds and forgives us not only for our own sake, but so that we may be a blessing to the world.

God feeds and forgives us not only for our own sake, but so that we may be a blessing to the world.

In previous years, Lenten small groups have done a variety of things like read a book together and talk about it each week and even praying through Scripture texts using the lectio divina method of ‘holy reading.’ This year, we hope to introduce the simplest idea for small group gatherings we have heard about. Bridget Crave, our Director of Small Group Ministries, has found that many other churches have the vast majority of their small groups meet using sermon notes—or something like them. Small groups based on sermon notes make so much sense to me! There is very little prep (just listen to the sermon) and no individual person is required to ‘lead’ the group. Instead, members simply gather regularly, go through the text, quotes and questions and whatever discussion happens… happens. There is no book required (other than the Bible text) which cuts the costs for small-group members who are otherwise buying a new resource every 6-12 weeks. There is no pressure on a leader to put together a compelling ‘lesson’ either. A small group can simply gather and talk and listen.

I do hope you sign up to take part in a Lenten sermon notes group so that you could explore whether this is something you’d like to add to your life in a more permanent way. Weekly small groups are where our church needs to grow. Please consider joining one!