By LINDA M. LINONIS
If numbers convey success, at least in part, then the Lenten reflection and luncheon “People of the Passion” has been deemed worthwhile by the many who support the programs.
Jennifer Remick, director of the parish center at Holy Family Church, said the Wednesday events usually attract between 100 to 125. This week, 110 attended.
An ecumenical leadership team of clergy from Church of the Rock, Heritage Presbyterian, Holy Family, Poland Presbyterian, Poland United Methodist and Prince of Peace Lutheran arranged the programs. Each church sends a group of volunteers.
Sessions, which began Feb. 20, continue to March 20. This year, the focus is “People of the Passion.” Monsignor William Connell of Holy Family led off the program Feb. 20 speaking on Judas and Pastor Reid Lamport of Church of the Rock spoke on Peter on Feb. 27. Holy Family offers podcasts of the series. Visit www.holyfamilypoland.org and click on podcasts to view past programs.
“The idea is to get people in the proper mind-set,” Remick said of the Lenten experience.
“Participants and the churches have embraced the community effort,” she said.
This week, the Rev. Kristin Stroble of Heritage Presbyteran spoke on Pontius Pilate’s role. “Speakers put their own spin on the characters,” Remick said.
The pastor described Pilate as sharing the “bad guy” charcterization with Judas. But, he has notoriety because he is mentioned in the Apostle’s Creed and the only other human reference is the Virgin Mary.
The Rev. Ms. Stroble said Pilate ended up being Jesus’ judge, a role he tried very hard to escape. Pilate tells the crowd that Jesus is from Galilee and not under his jurisdiction so he sends Jesus to Herod. But Herod only mocks Jesus, sending him back to Pilate.
Pilate tries three times to give the crowd an alternative choice in Jesus’ fate, Ms. Stroble said. “Pilate tells the crowd there is no basis for accusations.” But the crowd claims Jesus “stirs up trouble,” she said.
Ms. Stroble said Pilate tries to let Jesus off the hook, thinking that a flogging of Jesus will appease the crowd. “I feel for Pilate,” Ms. Stroble said, noting he tried to give the crowd another option besides crucifixion. “The Gospels portray Pilate as weak and cowardly,” she said.
The fate of Jesus does not matter to him, the pastor said. “He wanted to please the people and keep the peace.”
But, she said, “the means don’t justify the end.”
She likened Pilate taking the “easy way out” to our behavior. “We sometimes put our self-interests ahead of others and God,” she said. “Pilate gave in to power and self-interest.”
To the audience, she posed the situation. “When we’re offered choices in life ... will we choose our interests or service we know bears witness to the cross of Christ?” she asked. “Jesus suffered for Pontius Pilate and for all of us ... he suffered so we would have life ... abundantly.”
Jeanne Bruner, who attends Victory Christian Center, and Ray Eiermann, a Holy Family member, both applauded the program. “It’s nice to meet people of other churches. We talk and find out we’re all the same,” Bruner said. “It’s a blessing.”
Debra Stanovcak of Holy Family and Cindy Lichney of St. Charles Borromeo Church, who have been “friends since high school,” attended for the first time. Both said they found it worthwhile and would return.
“As Christians, we share something,” Stanovcak said about the gathering.
The Rev. Dr. David Gilbert of Poland Presbyterian said Poland churches gathered for an ecumenical Thanksgiving service and wanted to do something to continue that effort. “We wanted to share in the unity of faith ... getting together as Christians in the community.”
The Rev. Dr. Gilbert said Monsignor Connell suggested this year’s theme; last year, the reflection focused on the last words of Jesus. He said a Good Friday service at Holy Family will be another community gathering.
“Word is getting around that these are uplifting experiences,” he said.
Dr. Gilbert said the gatherings help build the overall Christian community by people meeting and getting to know one another. “It’s an experience of the larger church.”
Reid Lamport, senior pastor at Church of the Rock, which is non-denominational, said, “The events show the importance for the fellowship of believers to gather and share what they have in common: Jesus.”
He added each group represents diversity but that shouldn’t cause division among Christians. “We can appreciate the different styles of worship and traditions and know what holds us together is belief in Jesus.”