Judy Russell: Pastor issues challenge to read Gospel of John this Lent

“When was the last time you picked up your Bible?”

With that question Pastor Chuck Emery of Wesley United Methodist Church in Oshkosh begins his column, Notes from the Pastor, in Wesley’s February newsletter.

Did you pick up your Bible this morning, or was it quite a while ago? Do you plan to read from your Bible more during the Lenten season?

Emery continues, “In many churches, screens now display scriptures, and the practice of bringing a Bible to worship seems to be fading. Yet reading the Bible is one of the essential practices of disciples.”

There are more than 100 translations of the English Bible, according to the pastor. “Which version of the Bible do you have? (Usually, the first page … tells you which version it is.) … Do you understand your Bible translation?”

Emery goes on to write, “As a young person, the Gospel of John was my least favorite due to its perceived complexity. However, a class on the Gospel of John at seminary transformed my perspective. Concepts like the seven signs, the Johannine community’s role in passing on Jesus’ stories, and the idea that the beloved disciple in the gospel could be any of us sparked newfound appreciation.”

So, the pastor invited his congregants to join him in a Lenten challenge to read a chapter of John a day, starting the day after Ash Wednesday and concluding just before Palm Sunday, March 24. “You will finish reading about the life of Jesus just before Holy Week; hence, Easter Sunday may be more meaningful to you … Even if you miss a day or two, don’t worry; you can catch up.”

There is a private Facebook Group that Wesley members can join on the church’s Facebook page, so there can be free and open discussions about the Gospel of John on this Lenten journey.

Here are some upcoming church and religious events in the Oshkosh area:

  • There will be a Community Hymn Sing at 6 p.m. Feb. 25 at Plymouth Church, 1325 Georgia St., Oshkosh. It will be led by Steve Howard, and Lily and Ginnie Topolski. Attendees will be invited to sing traditional and contemporary hymns, plus choruses. All are welcome.

  • This is the 30th year of First Tuesdays at First Congregational Church in Oshkosh, with free music in the sanctuary at noon, followed by a luncheon in Fellowship Hall. First Tuesdays is a self-funding project. Everyone volunteers their time and talent, through the music offerings and the food preparation. The luncheon usually includes four kinds of homemade bread. The cost of bread ingredients, according to information from FCC, has gone up 61.2% in less than three years. So, the First Tuesdays folks are suggesting that those who attend the luncheons donate $10 per person for the meal, which includes two soups, salad, desserts, coffee and punch.

  • Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Oshkosh is having a two-day event to organize parish hospitality supplies. The purpose is to decide which stock is past its time, which stock is still in good shape and can be donated, and which stock should be saved and repurposed. The Parish Pitch-Give-Save Day will be Feb. 28 and March 1, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in McKeough Hall in the basement at the St. Peter site, 435 High Ave. Use the Pearl Avenue entrance. Snacks and beverages will be served. Pre-register by Feb. 19 if you plan to help. Call the parish office, 920-231-9782 or email to debra.lawent@mbsoshkosh.com.

  • The food focus of the month of February for donations to the Oshkosh Area Community Pantry is canned products. So check your cupboards and your shopping cart for as many of the canned products as you can think of to donate. If your faith community doesn’t collect them, bring your donations to the pantry, 2551 Jackson St. Donation hours are 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Monetary donations also are welcome.

  • Sister Pam Biehl will be the presenter for two Reflections on the Mass programs sponsored by the St. Mary parishes of Omro and Winneconne. Part 1, on Feb. 22, will offer two options — from 1 to 2 p.m. or from 6 to 7:30 p.m., both at the church in Omro, 730 Madison Ave. Part 2, on Feb. 29, will be offered at the same times in Kaudy Hall at the Winneconne church, 210 Pleasant Drive. Since Sister Pam retired she is working part time as the Pastoral Care Coordinator at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Manitowoc. She gives talks and workshops in parishes throughout Wisconsin. She also does vocation work for her religious community and is just starting to organize its annual jubilee celebrations.

  • The 2024 Lenten Friday Fish Fry offerings continue at St. Raphael Parish in Oshkosh on Feb. 23, and March 1, 8, 15 and 22 in Samaritan Hall, 830 S. Westhaven Drive. Serving is from 4:30 to 7 p.m. To-go orders are taken from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at 920-233-8044. Walleye, haddock, shrimp and combo platters are available. They include choice of potato, coleslaw, marble rye bread, one dessert, and coffee/milk. Other beverages are available for $1. For children there also are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or macaroni and cheese, both with french fries.

  • Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services in Oshkosh has a dire need for textured hair products, such as twist and loc gel, shampoo/conditioners, curl cream, scalp oil, etc. Some of the brands that are needed include Taliah Waajid, Bonnets & Durags, Mielle Organics, and Carol’s Daughter. To schedule a drop-off time for your donations, call 920-235-5998. Christine Ann is at 206 Algoma Blvd.

  • The Christmas Giving Tree project at St. Raphael Parish in Oshkosh raised $6,500 for its sister parish of Holy Cross in Jackson, Kentucky. The money was used to purchase 80 tech backpacks and 60 pairs of muck-type boots. St. Raphael’s was also able to send $3,300 to purchase children’s Bibles for bereavement baskets for those who lost loved ones, and to purchase food basket items. Food baskets were purchased because many families rely on the schools to provide breakfast and lunch for the children when school is in session. Food insecurity “is very high during the holidays when the children are home on break.”

  • Peace Lutheran Church of Oshkosh will have its annual Chili Cook-Off on Feb. 25, following the Endowment Sunday church service. There also will be a 50/50 raffle and basket raffles. The basket raffle will include a football signed by the 2023 Green Bay Packers team roster. Proceeds go toward the Youth Gathering this summer in New Orleans. Peace Lutheran is at 240 W. Ninth Ave.

  • The 2024 Esto Vir Conference for Men will be held March 2 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Champion, 4047 Chapel Drive, New Franken. The cost is $40. The keynote speaker will be John Edwards of Just a Guy in the Pew Ministries. Bishop David Ricken will be the Mass preside. The emcee will be Father Zach Weber of the Newman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Registration can be made at estovir.com/conference.

Thought for the Day: Read one new spiritual book this Lent and copy out three ideas in it that you need to think about – because they intrigue you, because they confuse you, or because they encourage you.

Judy Russell of Oshkosh writes about happenings at area centers of worship. To submit news for her consideration, email oshkoshsubmit@thenorthwestern.com with the subject “Church news.” Deadline is 5 p.m. Mondays.

This article originally appeared on Appleton Post-Crescent: Learn about life of Jesus by reading Gospel of John this Lent