On the Sunday morning before Ash Wednesday, Pastor Nick invited the people of Broadus to join him outside after the service. As they gathered near the Peace Pole, he explained why we observe Ash Wednesday as he laid palm fronds from last year's Palm Sunday celebration into a fire pit. He then burned them down to ashes.
On Wednesday night, the people of Broadus and friends will gather again in the room across the hall from the sanctuary and observe Ash Wednesday together, ending the service with Pastor Nick marking their foreheads with a cross made of the palm frond ashes. As he does so, he will utter the words: "You are from dust, and to dust you will return."
This is one of the more somber days in the church calendar as it marks the beginning of a traditional season of fasting--Lent. As Baptists, many of us have not observed Lent before, and each year we do so is an opportunity to understand more deeply what this season means and how it can help prepare us for the crucifixion and resurrection we will celebrate at the end of these 40 days.
In this week's Pastor's Corner in The Beacon, Pastor Nick explained a bit about Lent and how we might participate. Here is an edited excerpt:
"Ash Wednesday is the traditional start in the Christian calendar for Lent. Lent is the time of year that we prepare ourselves for Easter. We in the church hope to take time to focus on God. There are many ways to do this. For example, this is a season of confession and repentance; a time to see where we have lost sight of God in our lives and recommit to the right path. Lent is also a season of fasting. In fasting, we give up something for a set time to allow for, and remind us, to spend more time with God. Finally, some see this as a season to take on a new holy habit; to pick up something in their lives that draws them closer to God. If you are like me, you might not have grown up with Lent being a part of your church life. Celebrating Lent is not essential to Christian faith, but as with every tradition we inherit, it is simply a practice that those before us have found helpful."
You are invited to join us for the Ash Wednesday service this Wednesday evening after our fellowship meal. The service will start around 6:15. It will be a time for reflection and considering what it means to be a people of the cross as we walk with Jesus through this Lenten season toward the celebration of the resurrection on Easter morning.
A version of this article from our Pastor originally appeared on January 15, 2020 in The Beacon, our weekly newsletter. If you would like to see what is going on around the church this week, you can view the latest copy of The Beacon here. Or, if you would like to receive The Beacon in your email inbox each week, you can contact the church office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My last year of trying to play Texas football, I was an undersized middle schooler. Unsurprisingly, tackling drills usually ended up with me planted firmly on the ground. As I lay there dazed, my coach would yell some variation of "Try harder!". I remember thinking I was trying really hard but that extra 8 inches of height and 50 pounds was a lot to overcome.
This week on Sunday we are looking at the Beatitudes to start a series on The Sermon on the Mount. This teaching of Jesus found in Matthew is revolutionary and beautiful.
It is also very challenging.
The Sermon on the Mount sets a high bar, and if you are like me, reading it might bring up that voice in your head that shouts, "TRY HARDER!" We can feel like we just don't measure up.
But I see this passage more as an invitation. Of course we should be challenged by the text, but we are not alone in following it. Jesus paints a picture of a way of living that comes through his help with the Holy Spirit. We do not just need to try harder, but instead with prayer ask for help.
Following this text is something that is learned over a lifetime, and we have God's help to do it. So, I hope you join me in learning from Jesus as we read the Sermon on the Mount in the coming weeks.
This article from our Pastor originally appeared in The Beacon, our weekly newsletter. If you would like to see what is going on around the church this week, you can view the latest copy of The Beacon here. Or, if you would like to receive The Beacon in your email inbox each week, you can contact the church office at email@example.com.
The month of December is an interesting time. On Sunday we celebrate Advent, looking forward to the coming of Jesus with hopeful longing. But during the week, we are putting up Christmas trees, making cookies, and listening to Christmas music on the radio.
It can seem like a bit of a disconnect, but I don't think it has to be.
I was talking about this contrast with a friend of mine, and he said, "Every expectant parent prepares the nursery."
I really liked that insight.
In Advent we remind ourselves of our wait for Jesus, but during the week we can remember that Christmas is slowly breaking in all around us. So, I hope this month is filled with tons of joy for you as you celebrate Advent and look forward to what is coming.
- Pastor Nick
There are two more Sundays in Advent, and we would love for you to join us in worship at 11:00 a.m. as we wait expectantly together.
You are also invited to join us on Christmas Eve at 5:00 p.m. for our candlelight service. This is always a special evening of celebration full of singing, a reading of the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke, and plenty of excited children adding their voices to worship. We'd love for you to be there!
Eighteen years ago we added All Saints’ Sunday to our annual church calendar. On the first Sunday in November, we light candles in remembrance of members of our church family who have passed away in the previous twelve months. This is always a poignant service because we are reminded of ones who we love who were with us and now are not. Even though we know that they have taken up residence in their heavenly home, we miss them. This year we lit candles for eight individuals. Memories of them and their contributions to the faith community known as Broadus continue to encourage us and propel us forward as we seek to be faithful to our calling to be a light in our world.
Too often when we hear the word “saint,” we think of individuals who have been canonized by the church. People like Francis of Assisi and Mother Teresa. But when Paul refers to saints in Romans 1:7, “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ,” he is talking to you and me, too.
A saint is a person called by God to be holy, to live his or her life for Him. Each and every one of us who call Jesus Lord are called to be saints.
Over the years, we have lit candles for 124 saints. None of them would claim to have been perfect people, and some might even shy away from being called a “saint,” thinking they weren’t worthy of such a title. As Christians, we are learning to live into our calling, learning what it means to seek God first. Sometimes we fail; sometimes we succeed, but that doesn’t change the goal.
On this and every All Saints’ Sunday, we are reminded of our calling and are thankful for the saints who are no longer with us here on Earth, who have set an example for us and have joined the “cloud of witnesses” that continue to encourage us to be faithful followers to the end.
Recently one of my friends came to Broadus for the first time. As he and his family got out of their car he looked around and said, “it’s nice here, it feels peaceful.”
And that is exactly what Bonnie Greenwood is hoping and praying for as she makes her way to the church, usually three times a week, to care for the gardens. She is quick to say that she doesn’t do it alone, a whole team of Broadus people pour their sweat and time into making the grounds a welcoming place.
Bonnie Greenwood in front of one of the Broadus gardens
Bonnie heard once that 17% of people who end up going to a church regularly do so because they like the way it looks, they find it pleasing. So, she thought she would take charge and care for those 17%.
Fifteen years ago, her faithful gardening service at the church may have begun for the sake of others, but for Bonnie it became a way that she connects with God. “I just got down on my knees when I was weeding one day and I just was sort of talking away, and I thought, you know, this is a good prayer time,” she says.
Bonnie is a self-proclaimed talker and she likes the “good-salvation-army-stand-on-the-street-corner-with-a-tambourine-move-it-along-hymns” like, When We All Get to Heaven and Standing on the Promises of God. Her father taught her hymns like these and she likes to challenge herself while she plants and weeds to see if she can sing all five verses the way they used to on long car rides across Ontario, Canada.
But when I asked Bonnie how she experiences God out in the garden, she explained, “I think it’s just in the quiet and because there’s no television in the background, there’s nothing to keep you from doing some listening…one of my big things is I don’t spend much time letting God get a word in edgewise.” She goes on to say “it’s just soothing. I enjoy weeding. I like looking and thinking ‘isn’t that neat and isn’t that clean?’ and the flowers stand out so, and I enjoy it and just find that it’s relaxing.”
In the quiet of the garden there is a lot of time to think. Strawberries come to mind for Bonnie.
When she was a child her mother had a strawberry patch. I grew strawberries once as a child, too, but Bonnie saw and understood something in the strawberry patch that I did not.
She explained to me how each strawberry plant becomes a mother as it sends out runners whose ends can be stuck into the ground. Eventually, the mother plant gets exhausted and dies, but by that point hopefully those runners have turned into new plants and in time will send out their own runners. And so, the cycle of new life, death, and new life can continue. “That’s what a Christian life ought to be. We ought to be a strawberry plant and put out a runner,” Bonnie says.
Suddenly, a strawberry plant will never again be just a strawberry plant; Bonnie has transformed it into a parable.
Jesus taught in parables, too. It was how he connected with his hearers and conveyed deep truths about life with God that are too big and mysterious for humans to grasp otherwise. All throughout the gospels he tosses out these story seeds and slowly but surely a picture grows of the Kingdom of God. His hearers become runners and eventually, they share and send out more runners to tell the good news that has taken root in their lives.
When you come up the long tree-lined driveway to Broadus Memorial Baptist Church I think you will find it peaceful. It really is beautiful thanks to the gifts of time, care, and expertise Bonnie and others devote to tending the grounds week in and week out.
As you look around and notice the fruits of these gifts, I hope you will consider the strawberry plant.
I hope you will think about the prayers that have been poured out by people on their knees pulling weeds and lugging jugs of water to quench the thirsty plants.
I hope you will stop for a moment as you get out of your car and listen for the echoes of hymns hummed and belted over the past fifteen years (all five verses of them).
I hope you will know that you are welcome in this place, that it has been prepared for you.
And finally, I hope you will take a moment to pause wherever you may find yourself today and listen; perhaps you will hear God reaching out to you in love through something small and ordinary like a strawberry plant, too.
At Broadus Memorial Baptist Church we believe we are called to love God and love our neighbors. The stories you read on this blog offer a witness to the ways we respond to God's love and seek to share that love with others.
Scripture describes the church as a body, made up of many parts. Just as your tiniest toe isn't aware of the intricate work your heart or brain do, it can sometimes happen that people in the church body only see what is happening immediately around them. Our hope is that reading these stories will help forge connection and inspire greater love and understanding for one another.
At Broadus we are a community defined by warm-hearted fellowship and thoughtful inquiry. We hope you see evidence of that in the stories we share here. We hope you know, or come to know, that you are a part of God's grand story and that you are welcome to join us, on a Sunday, a Wednesday, or any gathering in between.
The life of faith is a journey, and we are not meant to walk it alone. Our stories connect us and we are excited to share some of ours with you.
If you have a story you'd like to share or would like to connect in some other way you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (434) 977-7381.
Please visit our YouTube channel to find all of the latest videos of sermons, Bible studies, and ways to stay connected while we are not gathering in person.