Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2021, marks the beginning of Lent. We will be marked with ash, be reminded of our mortality, and know that from dust we came and to dust we shall return. But surprise: God so loved the world that God gave his only Son, Jesus, not so that we would die, but that we would live! We die, but we don’t? That is surprising.
And the culmination of Lent, Easter Sunday, this year is April 4, 2021. Everyone thought they knew how the world worked. Who had the power, what the rules were, who was in, and who was out. They killed the one who came to turn the world upside down, and called anyone who followed him a fool, but then what happened? Surprise! He is not here. He has risen from the dead. Nope, dead is not dead, and what we think we know for sure, well maybe, just maybe there is more. Way more.
God is not predictable. God is mystery and beauty and amazing love and joy. And God’s presence in our life and world breaks in and through in the most surprising ways, leading us to places and new beginnings that we thought impossible.
We who have encountered this surprising God, who have been on the journey from death to life, we too live different lives. Lives that the world often considers unusual, surprising, but that we know to be the best and only way to live. This Lent, we want to be a part of surprising the world. We invite you to join the movement!
What you need to know
We will post a weekly video with a message from our district superintendents lifting up one of the habits of people who surprise the world, based on Michael Frost’s book, Surprise the World! Bishop Haller will provide encouragement and inspiration for our Lenten journey with a special video for Ash Wednesday. We encourage you to get the book for your own study (Cokesbury.com or Amazon) and form small groups in your church.
Videos will be posted here for congregations or individuals to download or view. Small group study guides are posted below so churches can access them at any time. If you are looking for additional resources to supplement these, you can find more here.
The series outline is:
Week one, available February 10: Ash Wednesday, Living questionable lives and surprising faith, Bishop Laurie Haller | Week one study guide
Week two, available February 17: Bless, Rev. Bob Ruedebusch | Week two study guide
Week three, available February 24: Eat, Rev. Rebecca Trefz | Week three study guide
Week four, available March 3: Listen, Rev. Kris Mutzenberger | Week four study guide
Week five, available March 10: Learn, Rev. Joel Winckler | Week five study guide
Week six, available March 17: Sent, Rev. Ben Ingebretson | Week six study guide
Week seven, available March 24: Easter message, Bishop Laurie Haller
If you want to end the series on Palm Sunday, start on Sunday, Feb. 14. If you want to end on Easter Sunday, start on Sunday, Feb. 20.
So church, are you ready? Can we out-love the world? Can we love in a way that is way deeper than chocolate and flowers? Let’s see if we can #surprisetheworld!