An Invitation to Lent

From our Lenten Devotional Study: "Have a Beautiful, Terrible, Lent" by Kate Bowler

Lent marks the forty days leading up to Jesus’ execution and surprising return to life three days later. It is a practice that began during the fourth century as a way to prepare Christians for the holiest, hardest days of our story.

During Lent, we ask God to show us the world as it is. We begin on Ash Wednesday with the reality of our finitude rubbed on our foreheads— from dust we were made, to dust we shall return. Then, we walk through that reality in a kind of dress rehearsal. It is the downward slope of God—the Great Descent. The whole church must descend to the depths with their savior. Frankly, Lent is my favorite part of the church calendar. Suddenly, all of us are on the losing team. And we look at each other with well- earned wonder, horror, and awe. We begin to tell each other the truth again: life is so beautiful and life is so hard. For everyone. 

Paisley's first Ash Wednesday in 2015

Of course, the cross isn’t the end of the story. But this season of grief is carved out to acknowledge the reality of Jesus’ sacrifice. Our savior knew pain and grief and despair, and so do we. Easter is coming, yes. But for now, we sit in the ashes of our broken dreams and broken hearts, knowing that God sits here with us. 

Many people practice Lent by giving something up—alcohol, meat, chocolate, social media. Some take up something new—a new prayer practice.

One additional note: You get to take Sundays off. They’re little breaks to remind you that you get to rest and celebrate a little even in the midst of suffering. In fact, that’s usually when we need it most.

Lent is full of hard truths. And it is a perfect moment for the spiritual honesty. We can look on this tragicomedy with love and bemusement as we wait for the someday that is God’s promised future. There, God’s kingdom comes. God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. And in the meantime, there’s this . . . our beautiful, terrible days.

Wandering Heart: Figuring out faith with Peter

Palm/Passion Sunday

Passion / Palm Sunday begins Holy Week, a time in the church year when we remember how Christ gave his life in love for the world. As this service opens, the crowd waves palm branches, wanting to crown Jesus as king. But as the story of the passion unfolds, their shouts of praise turn to demands for his crucifixion; he receives a crown of thorns as he is handed over to be mocked and killed. (PCUSA)

MaryRentz having an "at home palm parade" for Palm Sunday 2020.

Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter. It is an evening service that includes the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. This marks the traditional day on which Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper during his last meal with his disciples.

Foot Washing is a common practice as part of the Maundy Thursday experience. Maundy means commandment. In the scriptures Jesus’ command at the end of his washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus said, "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another." (More Presbyterian Questions, Presbyterian Answers by Donald K. McKim)

Some foot washing from Maundy Thursday 2023 at FPC.

Good Friday is the Friday before Easter, when the church remembers Jesus’ death on the cross. It is a called good because Jesus’ death resulted in breaking the power of sin and in new life for those who believe. (More PQ, PA by D.K, McKim)

Rev. Dr. Crawford from GUMC and me after our shared Good Friday service in 2023. This year Grace United Methodist is hosting and I will give the sermon.

Easter is the day we celebrate that we are Resurrection People! We celebrate that Jesus, on the third day, rose from the dead. By God’s action through Jesus Christ – birth, life, death, and resurrection we are saved!

By God’s action through Jesus Christ – birth, life, death, and resurrection we are saved!

On Easter Sunday we give thanks for the grace of God for the people of God as we sing Alleluia to the Risen King! 

My first Easter Sunday with FPC Covington in 2020.

Peter's Journey of Faith

We will explore who Jesus is through the faith journey of Peter! 

Like many of us, Peter has a wandering heart. His journey is not polished, linear, or perfect, but he is always tethered to the love of God. When we look closely at Peter’s story, we find Jesus at each step along the way – offering him abundance, catching him when he begins to sink, challenging him when he stands in the way, washing his feet, predicting his betrayal, and offering him agape love. This Lent, we’re joining Peter in figuring out faith. We’re not idolizing or vilifying him; instead, we’re hoping to wander alongside him, open to what we might learn about Jesus (and ourselves) by stepping in his shoes. 

A Sanctified Art LLC |

Our Journey of Faith

In studying Peter, I have taken time to reflect on my journey of faith. Here is an edited version of my journey of faith statement the Pastor Nominating Committee invited me to write back in 2019.

My faith journey has been a journey of curiosity and questions. Nurtured in the faith by a small Presbyterian (USA) congregation in Dahlonega, GA, I was constantly in the pastor’s office asking questions of theology and humanity (Although, I didn’t know those terms at the time!). As a child attending a one room Sunday school model, the church for me then was a people, a family, who embraced love, grace, and acceptance. I can recall children’s sermons about loving neighbors; VBS with children from all over the community gathering as one; and youth group with youth from a boarding school for troubled teens.

Easter 1987 at Dahlonega Presbyterian Church

As my faith journey was shaped in my formative years, I experienced a tangible faith within my church family. 

In my teenage years, curiosity and questions became more present. I didn’t understand why some churches didn’t invite all people to join worship or into church leadership. I was mocked for being Presbyterian in my little southern mountain town. I was told I wasn’t saved. Once again I would find myself in my pastor’s office. I attended many churches with my friends, sang in the Methodist choir, participated in Wednesday nights at the Baptist church, and worshiped at the Catholic Church. With this exploration, I realized as a youth, the PCUSA was home. My questions were allowed as I served on Presbytery Youth Council and became a supporter of Montreat Conference Center. 

I attended Presbyterian College in 2002. After leading an adult Sunday school class for my uncle, I decided to pay attention to the external call I had been suppressing for years. Thus, I pursued Religion/Christian Education as my major. My faith journey was challenged as people continued to push me to positions of leadership in the church while in college: Celtic Cross, Pre-Seminary Intern for the Chaplains Office, and numerous internships. These experiences allowed me to be in conversation with God about this call of ministry I kept hearing but didn’t know if I could follow.

During my time at FPC Hartsville, SC

Thanks be to God.

I listened to the saints as I responded to God’s call by accepting my first church position as a Director of Christian Education at FPC Hartsville, SC. My faith development was full of excellent failures and holy joys while serving that congregation. 

My faith journey is my vocation. My faith journey, daily walk with God, is the very essence of who I am as I continue to be curious about what God is up to and how God is calling me to participate in God’s activity. 

Following FPC Hartsville, I served Covenant Presbyterian Church in Charlotte. I am thankful I was taught as a youth that curiosity, questions, and doubt are an essential part of one's faith journey. While at Covenant, I was stretched and challenged, and answered the call to attend seminary at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Charlotte.

My graduation from Union Presbyterian Seminary in 2016.

Once again, it was the voices of God’s people speaking to me about how they could see God working in my life. After almost seven years of service at Covenant, pursuing a Masters of Divinity, the birth of two baby girls, God called out to my husband, Robert, and I once again. I had the privilege of serving as an Associate Pastor for Youth and Families at FPC Tuscaloosa. While serving at FPC Tuscaloosa, I walked alongside people of all ages and my passion for a generalist perspective of faith formation grew. I never thought this passion would lead to the Holy Spirit calling me to serve as a senior pastor one day!

My installation here at FPC Covington in 2020!

God is a God of surprises and through many twists and turns, all the while dancing with the Holy Spirit, God called me to serve as Pastor of FPC Covington. FPC Covington has allowed me to grow in my trust in God’s providence, my confidence in servant leadership, and build relationships with all ages deeply rooted in the love of God. For this I am grateful! 

I consider my faith journey a testament to the people God placed in my life. My path is one of curiosity, questions, doubt, wonder, and forgiveness. I continue to wrestle with my understanding of the Christian life and listen for God’s call on my life in the everyday moments of marriage, motherhood, servanthood, and ministry. It is all the fibers of who I am and who God is creating me to be.

Questions for Reflection

What is the beginning of your faith story?

What twists and turns are part of your journey of faith?

What stands out to you about your journey of faith?

I would love to hear from you!! You are invited to reply to this email and your response will come directly to me!

Come Thou Fount

Through Lent we will walk with Peter while using the hymn Come Thou Fount. One might say, Come Thou Fount is Peter’s anthem as he learns how to be a disciple. This familiar hymn was penned in May 1758 by Robert Robinson and it was originally meant for Pentecost. 

I invite you to listen to this hymn or read the words below!

I would love to hear what words jump out to you and why! 

Come Thou fount of every blessing

Tune my heart to sing Thy grace

Streams of mercy never ceasing

Call for songs of loudest praise

Teach me some melodious sonnet

Sung by flaming tongues above

Praise the mount, I'm fixed upon it

Mount of Thy redeeming love

Here I raise my Ebenezer

Hither by Thy help I come

And I hope by Thy good pleasure

Safely to arrive at home

Jesus sought me when a stranger

Wandering from the fold of God

He to rescue me from danger

Interposed His precious blood

Oh, to grace how great a debtor

Daily I'm constrained to be

Let Thy goodness like a fetter

Bind my wandering heart to Thee

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it

Prone to leave the God I love

Here's my heart, Lord take and seal it

Seal it for Thy courts above

Click here to visit our Lent page!
Neeley Rentz Lane
Sermon writing and worship preparations are a holy art. I prayerfully engage the living word with imagination, curiosity, and an openness for the Spirit to dance!
My hope as your pastor through “Neeley’s Notions” is to offer stories and perspectives to ignite your own imagination, curiosity, and openness to the Spirit. - this will be a periodical email offering as the Spirit leads!
Click to subscribe to Neeley's Notions if you haven't already!