As I sit in my office with the window open writing this week's reflection, spring is in the air...at least for now! The sun is shining, winter coats have been shed and we're ordering more mulch for the church playground to make sure we're ready for another season of playing outside. The tulips in the garden outside of house have begun to sprout and there's several inches of green peeking up from the dirt. There are almost enough signs that spring has come to make us forget that there is still a whole month left until winter officially comes to an end. 

In the ancient church, the season of Lent was known as "springtime for the soul." The word for "lent" came from the word for "spring." Lent was a time of cultivating, growing and preparing for new life. An opportunity for "spring cleaning," of our hearts and minds in preparation to journey with Jesus to the cross, the grave and the empty tomb. 

As we enjoy (hopefully) more spring like temperatures, I invite you to consider the beautiful weather as a reminder of the Lenten journey we are on. Bask in the sunshine and use it as an opportunity to reconnect with God, the creator of the universe. Look at the new growth emerging from the dirt and remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Trust in God's promise of recreation and new life. Hear the call to return to the Lord your God in the springtime sounds. 

Of course, there's a good chance that we haven't seen the last of winter yet. Our ever changing weather is one of the things I love about living in this part of the country. But for right now, we'll enjoy it while we have it! 

Ash Wednesday
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Lent begins on  Ash Wednesday with a solemn call to fasting and repentance as we begin our journey to the cross, the grave and the empty tomb on Easter morning.

We have three opportunities for worship on Ash Wednesday. All three services include a time of confession, scripture reading, the imposition of ashes and Holy Communion. 

12:00 noon & 7:30 p.m. Traditional Services
6:30 p.m. Children's Ash Wednesday Service (more details here)
 

Lent Small Groups begin!
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“Come and See” a new thing God is doing at Abiding Presence:  Lent Small Groups!  Small groups will be meet for five weeks during Lent to listen, share and reflect with one another as we grow in relationship with God and one another. 

About 6-8 people will meet weekly at the church or in leaders’ homes.  Congregation members will be leading these small groups, please join them for what will be an exciting, challenging and meaningful experience. 

Come and see what the Cross and the Empty Tomb means for us in our daily lives and for the world.  Let Jesus turn us, our faith, and our world upside down!

Please sign up in the narthex or through the button above for the following small group experiences:

  • Mondays @ 7:00 pm in Burke:  Craig Fraedrich
  • Mondays @ 8:30 pm in Springfield:  Erin Eichhorn
  • Tuesdays @ 10:00 am in Springfield:  Joe McGavin
  • Thursdays @ 9:30 am at Abiding Presence:  Pastor Keseley  (childcare will be provided)
  • Sundays @ 12:30 pm at Abiding Presence, 20's & 30's:  Caitlyn Lucky & David Susan

All groups start the week of February 18 and continue through the week of March 18. 

Please contact Pastor Heidi with questions and comments. We look forward to launching this new chance for us to connect with Christ and one another!  Come and see!

Holiday Mashup
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Let's be honest, Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day are an unlikely combination. Roses and ashes, chocolate and fasting, prayer and partying don't really go well together. Who wants a candy heart that says "U R Dust" or "Ash 2 Ash?" Where is the romance in going out to a nice dinner with your beloved while staring at an ash cross smeared across their forehead? This coming week, for the first time since 1945, Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day will share a date on the calendar. Somehow, we have to figure out what to do with a holiday mashup that doesn't really go together.

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of our Lent journey. It is a solemn day of prayer and repentance. Some people set it aside as a day of fasting. The assigned scripture text from the Old Testament book of Joel speaks to us, saying, " Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning..." (Joel 2:12). During the service, there is the opportunity for a time of extended confession in which we confess "that we have sinned by our fault, our own fault, our own most grievous fault." We begin the process of returning to God once again so that we can journey with Jesus along the familiar road to the cross and the grave. The ash crosses traced on our foreheads remind us that we are dust and that if we are to rise like Jesus to eternal life, we must first die with him. 

The act of tracing ash crosses on your foreheads is one of the most humbling and holy moments I have all year as your pastor. Looking each one of you in the eye, I tell you in the name of Jesus that you are going to die. Then I trace the cross in ash that was once placed on your forehead with water at your baptism. It is a holy moment. 

That ash cross might seem like the most unlikely Valentine, however, it says almost the same thing as the paper Valentines you will receive at other points during the day. The ash cross on your forehead tells you that you are loved by a God who has named and claimed you as a beloved child. It reminds you that God loved you so much, that God didn't send roses, but instead God's own Son to die so that ashes will not be the end of your story. 

In a least a few ways, Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day are two separate holidays that kind of say the same thing. You are loved. You are God's beloved. You have been given the greatest gift there could ever be - life everlasting. 

I know, coming to church may not be the most romantic way to celebrate Valentine's Day, but I promise it will be the most meaningful!

February is ECHO Food Pantry Month
Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

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Goal:

2000 pounds (1 ton)
Current:305

 pounds

February is Abiding Presence's month to stock the Ecumenical Community Helping Others (ECHO) food pantry. ECHO serves families in the Burke and Springfield Community who are in need of instance. Faith communities in the area take turns each month stocking the food pantry. Our goal is to collect 1 ton of food that will go directly to our neighbors in need through ECHO's ministry. Food can be dropped off anytime the church is open. While all non-perishable food items are accepted, current special needs include:

Food Items
Vegetable Oil
Spaghetti Sauce
Individual Juice/Milk Boxes
8 oz. Tomato Sauce
Jelly
Can Pasta
Jello/Pudding
Bag/Dry Beans
Flour (2 Lbs preferred)
Can Meat
Juice (Large Bottles/Cans)

Personal Care Items
Detergent
Adult and Children OTC Pain Medicine
Shaving Cream
Deodorant

Happy Anniversary!
Photo by Liam Pozz on Unsplash

Photo by Liam Pozz on Unsplash

Happy Anniversary! This month we will celebrate eight years of ministry together. When I began my call with you in February of 2010, I never could have imagined all of the ways the Holy Spirit would stir and God would be at work in and through us. As I shared at our recent congregational meeting, being your pastor is my "dream job." When I first felt called to ministry in the seventh grade, I hoped to one day be the Senior Pastor of a vibrant, growing and active congregation just like the one in which I grew up. Abiding Presence is that congregation! 

Growing up, church was the place I loved to be. The rhythm of my week was shaped by worship on Sundays, choir practice on Tuesdays (while you might not know it from my chanting, I sang in the church choir from the time I was three through my senior year of choir) and helping with our children's program on Wednesday afternoons. I had trusted adults who cared about me, took an interest in my life and mentored me through my teenage years when I needed an "adult voice" and had no interest in listening to the wisdom of my parents. When I was having a hard time, I knew I could turn to my pastors and I actually did on many occasions. My home congregation, First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ellicott City,  Maryland, planed seeds in me to love Jesus and provided me with relationships and experiences that grew roots that connected me to the church for a lifetime. 

It is my joy to watch Abiding Presence plant the same seeds and grow the same roots in the next generation of faithful followers that my congregation once planted in me. It's even more exciting to watch the seeds and roots this congregation has planted over the past 40 years take shape. Our current Sunday School teachers, confirmation mentors and youth advisers include several adults who grew up in this congregation. 

This past weekend we baptized Tom and El Porter's great-granddaughter, Lucia. Many of the previous generations of Abiding Presence youngsters and our current children and teens will tell you about Tom and El's role in helping to shape their faith. As I said to the congregation on Sunday at Lucia's baptism, we all now get to do for Lucia what Tom and El once did for us and our kids. This is just one example of the many, many ways we are being church together. 

Starting this weekend, you'll begin to see information about the campaign to replace the sanctuary chairs in honor of the 40th anniversary. These chairs aren't just furnishings, they are representations of the generations of Abiding Presence family and friends who will gather together for the next 40 years to worship God, grow in discipleship and mark life milestones. They are an investment in the future of our faith family that will provide a physical place for people to gather so that seeds of loving Jesus can be planted and roots can grow as relationships develop and experiences are created. 

Thank you for the joy and privilege of living out my calling by being your pastor. I am grateful for you and I am excited about what our future together holds.

 
¡Carnaval Latino! Free Latin Jazz Concert, Pancake Supper, and Silent Auction for Mardi Gras

An afternoon of Latin Jazz with the 20-piece Shenandoah Conservatory Jazz Ensemble featuring the music of Tito Puente, Perez Prado, Machito, Dizzy Gillespie, Chano Pozo, Duke Ellington and more.
*Under the direction of the fabulous CRAIG FRAEDRICH*
~~~~Feb. 11, 2018~~~~
🔥LATIN JAZZ CONCERT🔥 at 4:00 p.m.
🔥PANCAKE SUPPER🔥 at 5:30 p.m.
🔥SILENT AUCTION🔥
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The Abiding Presence Mission Team hosts this free concert (free will offering), silent auction, and pancake dinner to celebrate the Latin American "Mardi Gras" (pre-Lent) traditions and to support the work we are continuing in the Dominican Republic this coming August.

Questions? Visit abidingpresence.net/missionteam (Click "I Want to Be a Part" button if you want to volunteer or donate to the silent auction!)

Season of Discernment
Photo by Uroš Jovičić on Unsplash

In the life of the church, we’ve moved into the season of Epiphany! This is the season to which I look forward all year long as I love preaching the gospel texts that are assigned for these weeks after Christmas has ended and before Lent begins. We get to hear the stories of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry – the calling of disciples, the first miracles and the building excitement of the crowds who start forming wherever he goes. It’s the time of year when we focus on what it means to be called as disciples of Christ today. Each and every year, I find the season of Epiphany leading me into a time of discerning what God is up to in my life as well as in the life of our congregation.

What is God calling you to discern this Epiphany season? How is the Holy Spirit stirring in your life? Where do you feel Christ nudging you to be his hands and feet in the world? 

Think about it. Pray about it. Talk about it. Welcome to the season of discernment!

 
"We are Called"
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In the life of the church, we’ve moved into the season of Epiphany between early January and mid-February! This is the season to which Pastor Keseley looks forward all year long as she loves preaching the gospel texts that are assigned for these weeks after Christmas has ended and before Lent begins. We hear the stories of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry – the calling of disciples, the first miracles and the building excitement of the crowds who start forming wherever he goes. It’s the time of year when we focus on what it means to be called as disciples of Christ today. Each and every year, the season of Epiphany is an opportunity to be led into a time of discerning what God is up to in our lives. 

Come join us for worship this Epiphany season as we are inspired and equipped to live out our calling as children of God.

January 14 - John 1:43-51
January 21 - Mark 1:14-20
January 28 - Mark 1:21-28
February 4 - Mark 1:29-39

 

Meredith Keseley
No OWLs today (Weds) -- Join us Feb 14!
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No OWLs (Older, Wiser Lutherans) luncheon today... but join us on February 14 for our next OWLs! Feb 14 is also Ash Weds, and we'll have a 12:00 noon service prior to the luncheon at 1:00pm.

David Chavez
Summer Mission Team

Looking to make a difference in 2018? Join our summer mission team to spend a week in August serving, worshiping and building relationships with our brothers and sisters in the Dominican Republic. The team will be traveling to the Dominican Republic August 4-10, 2018. Now's a great time to jump on board the team. We have partnered with the congregation of Iglesia Bautista La Luz Divina to help build their new church. The team will have the opportunity to work on construction, lead a Vacation Bible School program, worship alongside the congregation and much more. For more information, contact Pastor Keseley or click here.

Christmas Eve Worship

10:00 a.m. - Family Contemporary Service
4:00 p.m. - Family Traditional Service

Both of these services include the singing of Christmas carols, prayers, a dramatic reading of the Christmas story, Holy Communion and the lighting of candles while singing Silent Night. Children will receive LED glow wands so they can safely participate in the lighting of candles and then take them home. They will also receive a book telling the Christmas story as a gift. The services are 60 minutes. At 10:00 a.m., music is provided by our praise band. At 4:00 p.m., music is provided by piano/organ, brass ensemble and children's choirs. Our professionally staffed nursery is open during both services. 

7:30 p.m. - Festival Service
10:00 p.m. - Candlelight Service

Both of these services include the singing of Christmas Carols, scripture reading, sermon, prayers, Holy Communion and the lighting of candles while singing Silent Night. Music at both services is provided by organ/piano, adult choir and brass ensemble. 

We will have a professional photographer with us from 6:30-10:00 p.m. taking free family photos for anyone who would like to have one. Photos will be delivered electronically by email.

Meredith KeseleyWorship
Reaching Out this Christmas

Please look for opportunities to share joy at the AP Giving Tree in the narthex. You can provide new and unwrapped toys for children in our community through ECHO, which is asking for games and clothing for children up to 14 years old, especially baby dolls, Barbie clothes and accessories (ECHO already has many Barbie dolls), hoodies for teens (sizes 14, 16, Adult sizes S and M), polar fleece zip jackets in teen sizes, car track sets, electronic toys, and activity books. The Giving Tree area also offers opportunities to support Gifts of Hope and ELCA Good Gifts.

 

Meredith KeseleyFamilies, Local
Why Bother with Advent?
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Advent is a season of preparation. It is the season of promise and hope. During these four weeks we remember that even though our decorations are festive and bright, often times are hearts are still longing. Christ has come…but all is not yet how it should be. We still know pain, grief, sadness and brokenness all too well. So, in Advent we cling tight to Christ’s promise to come again. The world is not yet how it shall be. God’s promise is yet to be fulfilled. There is hope that what we see before us now is not the end of the story. There is still plenty more to come.

Our theme in worship and at The Abiding Table will be “Why Bother with Advent?” The world around us is ready to rush right to Christmas. Why do we people of faith stop to celebrate Advent first? The answer comes to us through the texts of the prophet Isaiah:

Dec. 2/3 – Isaiah 64:1-19 – Waiting  

Dec. 9/10 – Isaiah 40:1-11 – Hoping

Dec. 16/17 – Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 – Preparing

Be sure to join us this month as we wait, hope and prepare for the return of Christ our King.

Meredith Keseley