Friday, March 20, 2015

A Poem for Lent

"There must be a time of day when the woman who makes plans
forgets her plans, and acts as if she had no plans at all.

There must be a time of day when the woman who has to speak
falls very silent, and her mind forms no more propositions,
and she asks herself, "Did they have a meaning?"

There must be a time when the woman of prayer
goes to pray as if it were the first time in her life she ever prayed,
when the woman of resolutions puts her resolutions aside as if they had all been broken,
and she learns a different wisdom:
     distinguishing the sun from the moon,
     the stars from the darkness,
     the sea from dry land,
     and the night sky from the shoulder of a hill."

- Thomas Merton (I took the liberty of changing "man" to "woman")

In these last few months, preceding Lent, I have been sitting with a soul friend and her husband who are walking the way of this poem. I think Merton may have written it as a call to contemplation in the midst of an active life that bears the semblance of order and control.

For them, it's a very different call. None of the plans they make seem to come to fruition. The prayers they have prayed all their lives make little sense to pray now. Their resolutions have all been broken.

And yet -

the sun and the moon are distinct from one another,
the darkness has not overcome the stars,
the sea still washes up on the beach,
and the hill cannot obscure the night sky.

The Lord is near to the broken hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

And when I am with them, Christ is there. I sense the deepening strength, the gathering wisdom found in the stark simplicity of no more options. And my lips have not choice, but to proclaim praise.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Journey to Jesus: Walking with the Faithful: Rhythms of Worship

The kids have been baptized. They have been welcomed into community. They have been fed with the body and blood of Christ. But we still meet together three more times. The purpose of these last three meetings is to unpack a few significant practices that we engage in as a community: eucharist / communion / Lord's Supper, scripture, and witness.

Before we talk about any of these, we first discuss the rhythms of call and response that are interwoven into our worship service. Since they have participated in children's worship for some time (most of them for a few years), some of these rhythms are already familiar.

Our worship service is built on rhythms of call and response which form us into being a people who are responsive to God's voice all week long.

- We are called to be set apart and we respond by gathering together as a peculiar people.

- We are called to be reconciled to Christ and to one another and we respond by passing the peace of Christ, saying "The peace of Christ be with you," and responding with, "And also with you."

- We are called to be present to God who is present when his people gather and we respond in silence, letting go of our rush and hurry.

- We are called to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit and we respond by invoking / inviting the Spirit's presence among us.

- We are called to praise and we respond by singing.

- We are called to receive the word of the Lord in scripture and we respond with thanksgiving. After the reading of the gospel, the reader says "This is the word of the Lord." The congregation responds, "Thanks be to God!"

- We are called to engage our spiritual imaginations in the viewing of an icon / video and we respond by confessing sin, submitting to God, or affirming truth in a call and response litany.

- We are called to live into the kingdom proclaimed and we respond in praying together for the kingdom to come in our lives.

- We are called to offer ourselves and our abundance and we respond by giving our tithes and offerings.

- We are called to come to the Table and we respond by leaving our chairs and coming forward, taking, eating, remembering, and believing, and singing.

- We are called to be Spirit-empowered witnesses to the world and we respond by going and following the Spirit who goes before us into the world.

All of our worship leads us to the Table and flows out from the Table. It is at the Table where we remember who we are, what we are. It's this meal that shapes and forms us as the body of Christ.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Journey to Jesus: Easter Sunday Baptism!

(If you're just joining this series, it begins here.)

I know it's already been a few weeks since Easter Sunday... but since Easter continues all the way until Pentecost, I'm still within the time frame. 

As kids who are on their way to baptism, I stress to their parents how important it is for the kids to be able to participate in everything that leads up to their baptism on Easter Sunday.

Palm Sunday
Passover Seder
Easter Sunday at Life on the Vine is a big deal. Really. It's the culmination of a whole week, starting with Palm Sunday and gathering around the communion table and shouting "Hosanna!" while waving palm branches. 
Throughout the week, our missional orders (house groups) come together to share a Messianic Passover Seder together. It's at this meal that our understanding of our every Sunday practice of sharing the Lord's Table is infused by the context in which Christ spoke the words of institution before His betrayal. We use this Haggadah as we eat and drink together and remember the Passover.

For Good Friday, we gather together for a Tenebrae service. As we leave in silence, the question hangs in the air, "What will become of the Light of the World?" We live life for the weekend as if Christ had just died and the story ended there.

We don't see each other again until we gather around the fire pit on Easter morning, to celebrate that Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)
Every candle lit

We enter the sanctuary, lighting every candle in the place and dive into our rehearsal of the grand narrative of scripture. 

We celebrate Creation with an artist creating on a canvas as she tells the story! We tell the story of Noah and the flood, the Exodus, the Valley of the Dry Bones, and look forward to the prophecy of Isaiah. 

Only after we've told the story of God and His people do we invite the kids who will be baptized to find their place in the continuation of the formation of the people of God. Now they can see where they fit as newly baptized believers. Now it is time for them to make their vows and take their place in the every-expanding communion of the saints.

Each baptismon first reads his / her conversion statement.
Then they step into the baptismal pool, facing the west and they are asked these questions:
Do you confess you are a sinner in need of reconciliation with God?  (I do)
Do you believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sin?  (I do)
Do you renounce Satan and all spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?  (I do)
Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?  (I do)
Do you renounce of all sinful desires that draw you away from the love of God?  (I do)  

After answering these questions, they turn to the east (toward the rising sun) and they make these commitments:
Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?  (I do)
Do you put your whole trust in His grace and love? (I do)
Do you promise to follow and obey Him as your Lord?  (I do)

Then they are baptized (to the sounds of hooting, hollering, and thunderous applause).

When they emerge from the pool, they are robed in a white robe and told, "You are now clothed in the righteousness of Christ."

They are annointed with oil and told, "You are sealed by the Holy Spirit, in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

And then they sign their name in the membership book, which we say is the symbol of their name being written in the Lamb's Book of Life.

After their baptisms, we come to the Lord's table together and the kids savor their first taste of Christ's body and blood as newly invited members of Christ's local body. 

We unpack much more of the significance of this meal in the week following their baptism.