Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. This year, it happens to land on Valentine’s Day. The world will be eating chocolates and celebrating love, and in the church, 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 1: April Fool’s Day. Yup. How ironic is that? 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! The first three videos are already available. I will introduce the series in the first week, and on the last week, Rev. Ben Ingebretson will wrap it up talking about how we keep the movement going. Bishop Ough 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 will be posted here so churches can access them at any time. The first three guides are available now. If you are looking for additional resources to supplement these, you can find more here.
The series outline is:
If you want to end the series on Palm Sunday, start on Sunday, Feb. 11. If you want to end on Easter Sunday, start on Sunday, Feb. 18.
So church, are you ready? Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day! 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!
Rev. Cindy Gregorson is director of ministries for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the Untied Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church