Lenten program focuses on Jesus, the Holy Land

The Rev. Dr. Paul Sweet will present a Lenten Study Series at

For centuries, the Christian season of Lent, the 40-day period
between Ash Wednesday (March 9) and Easter (April 24) this year,
was a period of sadness and penitence
– a preparation for the great joy of celebrating the risen Jesus
on Easter.
For centuries, the Christian season of Lent, the 40-day period between Ash Wednesday (March 9) and Easter (April 24) this year, was a period of sadness and penitence – a preparation for the great joy of celebrating the risen Jesus on Easter.

Today, however, more Christians use this time to increase their spirituality and become better informed about their faith. A good example of this trend is the Lenten Study Series being offered at the Gilroy United Methodist Church (7600 Church St.). Admission is free.

“The Pictures and Ponderings of Paul: Ideas and Images for a Meaningful Lent” will be presented by the Rev. Dr. Paul Sweet, a retired pastor of the United Methodist Church. He will share selections from the hundreds of photos he has taken during the course of five trips to the Holy Land, helping participants to better understand events in the life of Jesus. These images should provoke discussions about their implications for each Christian’s faith journey.

Each session will begin Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the sanctuary of the church, where slides of the photos will be viewed on a large screen. Ample time will be available for discussion of each night’s presentation, with the evening ending by 8:30.

The schedule will include these presentations:

– March 15: The history of the Bible in 25 minutes. Theme: We are a product of the actions of others.

– March 22: The birth of Jesus Theme: God is novelty.

– March 29: In Galilee Jesus teaches. Theme: Christianity is not what you expect.

– April 5: In Judea, Jesus acts. Theme: Grace: We don’t get what we deserve; we get more.

– April 12: Jesus’ final hours. Theme: How does sacrifice save us? (Four possibilities)

– April 19: Discussion on Jesus’ present reality.

Sweet is a fourth generation Methodist pastor. He recently retired from a career spanning 40 years of ministry, including a stint at the Gilroy United Methodist Church between 1992 and 1997.

A San Jose native, Sweet imagined a career as a scientist, but changed his major to pre-ministerial while studying at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. He earned his graduate degree at the Claremont School of Theology in Claremont.

Sweet says there are really five gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, written in the new Testament, and a fifth, unwritten gospel with background information, the context needed to understand the whole story of the life of Jesus. This Lenten series will provide some of this additional knowledge, considering such questions as:

What was life like for the common people in Palestine during the time of the Roman Empire?

How did the Hebrews keep their Jewishness while being a minority population in their own land?

How did the somewhat cosmopolitan message of Jesus resonate with the basically rural population he was preaching to?

Sweet feels that the season of Lent offers Christians a valuable time to be introspective, to discern the forces and powers influencing their lives.

“Lent gives us a different perspective as we realize even the Son of God had to suffer. While today we do whatever we can to avoid suffering, perhaps we need to embrace it as a part of life, something to be appreciated, not just tolerated. Suffering can short-circuit the dynamics of life, helping us to prioritize our lives, deciding what things are truly valuable.”

The staff and congregation of the Gilroy United Methodist Church invite all people to join them for this educational series. For more information, call (408) 842-4021.

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