From Our Pastor

Lenten Focus

Posted 23 February, 2017 by Pastor Keith Ritchie

With worship this Sunday, we begin a series in which we will be guided in worship by the gospel of John. From this Sunday through Easter Day, we will give attention to John's witness, especially to those conversations found only in John. These conversations take place between Jesus and persons such as Nicodemus, the Woman at the Well, the man born blind, Pontius Pilate, and others. It is my prayer that as we share in these conversations, we will discover in a new way the presence of Christ, and will also find ourselves drawn into closer relationship with him. John 1:1-18 is Sunday's scripture.

I am very excited to have as our companion in the season of Lent a Lenten devotional produced by members of First UMC. I believe this to be a unique and inspiring devotional, one featuring artwork and photographs corresponding to each service of worship in Lent, from Ash Wednesday to Easter Day.  This devotional will be handed out on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. The scripture chosen for that service of worship is John 5:18, with the sermon title, "Do You Want to Be Healed?"  In addition to these services of worship in Lent, I hope you will also take part in other Lenten experiences such as "Creed" on Tuesdays and "Closer" each Thursday evening. (Those of you taking part in "Creed," please be prepared to discuss Lesson One on Tuesday.) I know this is to be a powerful and inspired 40 days of Lent at First UMC.

Please remember Maegan Mitchell and the youth of First Church in your prayers this weekend. Maegan and the youth, along with Anne Moore, will leave Friday for the Fusion 17 Youth Retreat at the Eagle Eyrie Conference Center in Lynchburg. They will return to Martinsville on Sunday.

This past Saturday being the third Saturday of the month, I was grateful for the opportunity to join many of you at the Uptown Ministry Center for the ministries of the Food Bank and Clothes Closet. I usually help with the Food Bank on these Saturdays, placing food in boxes to be given to our neighbors. I enjoy this work, and enjoy the company of others who share in this work.  However, there was greater need for me to help with registration of volunteers and those coming for food and clothing this past Saturday. This meant I worked with others who welcomed our many guests and helped them register. I cannot tell you how fondly I remember this experience!

It was such a joy for me to see how warmly and graciously the volunteers of this church welcomed and greeted our guests. There were smiles; there were hugs; there were jokes; there was catching up on all that had happened recently. I have long known this church is gifted with hospitality, but to experience this gift of hospitality as I did on Saturday is something that has made me smile all week. The image I have carried with me is not that of "We give and you receive," but instead the image of "It's good to be with you, friend." To all of you in this church who offer this powerful witness of grace and hospitality, thank you. Through this gift you offer, you make known the presence of the living Christ.