Today, I wanted to repost this article on Ash Wednesday from 2013. Join us tonight for our supper and service at 6:30 PM
I don’t know if many know that I am a cradle Presbyterian. That means I was born a Presbyterian and for the most part have always worshiped as a Presbyterian. Beyond that I was raised in a Presbyterian Church that was influenced by a Dutch Reformed mindset. As such we were less than liturgical. The only liturgical traditions I remember were Maundy Thursday and Advent. I don’t recall growing up with any traditions around Ash Wednesday and Lent in general. That’s not to say they weren’t present, I just don’t recall them being very important in the life of the congregation. Continue reading →
Holy Week is upon us. Following the excitement of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, we begin to see the love of God expressed in the deepest and yet also most challenging way. Throughout this week the reality that God loves us and is for us comes into sharper and sharper focus. For some, this week is one that they would like to fast forward through. It is like a horror movie that we have seen over and over. Even though we know that the music is foreboding and we have seen the villain pop out from around the corner, we still jump. We know that this week has a joyous ending, yet between Palm Sunday and Easter there is a real darkness. While events of this week may have similarities to a horror movie there is one critical difference. The pain, suffering and death of Jesus is not an actor on a screen but is real. Beyond that, the suffering he bears is ours. For many years I remember being disconnected with this reality. As Reformed Christians we rightly focus our faith on the Risen Christ. Pastors are keen to point out the empty cross that stands in the front of our sanctuaries. We are part of the Christian tradition that seeks to focus on the deep love of God expressed in the fact that death no longer holds dominion over us. I’m glad that is our central focus. I’m not sure I could handle leading people to continual reflection on suffering without an overwhelming dose of Resurrection. Still, it is incumbent upon us to reflect on the suffering of Christ. Without this important part of our faith, we miss the depth of God’s love expressed in this week. Holy Week causes us to see God and ourselves more clearly. Holy Week is a snapshot of God’s reality in the world. During this week we are reminded of the gracious characteristics of God. The Palm Sunday experience reminds us that God is worthy of praise. Maundy Thursday demonstrates the deep compassion Christ has for us. In the upper room he demonstrates his service and sacrifice. In the garden we see the nature of Holy love and
obedience. Drawn to God at Gethsemane, Christ is honest and open before the Father. Glimmers of doubt and weakness are overcome with trust and submission. Good Friday is a supreme display of God’s steadfast love and willingness to do anything to restore us to full relationship. These very same events in Jesus’ life also highlight who we are as well. Palm Sunday gave us a glance into what life is like when we are captivated with God and offer our earnest prayer. In those who did not join the procession but scoffed, we see our ability to turn from God. Maundy Thursday demonstrates our weakness and sinful nature. Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper so as to give us a continual Spiritual connection with his love and sacrifice. Jesus knew full well that his first disciples, as well as modern day disciples, would need a powerful reminder of his spiritual presence in the world. In his service at the foot washing, he gave a definitive reminder of how his followers should live. In the Garden we are shown how our desire to serve and our ability to do so are often disconnected. How often do we find ourselves asleep while we are supposed to be keeping watch. Of course Good Friday cuts the deepest. On Friday our sin is brought to bear on Christ’s body and spirit. We also see our timid faith and ability to easily fall away. We can see ourselves in every part of this story. Whether it is the crowd spitting on him, the centurions beating him, Pilate disavowing responsibility, criminals jeering him, or the disciples who are off hiding somewhere, in them we are present. Many avoid this aspect of Christ’s life and our sinful nature because it almost makes us seem worthless. The fact of the matter is that Holy Week shows us just how valuable we are. God is willing to endure this suffering because in God’s eyes we are priceless. “God so love the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:16) These words summarize the reason and cost of this week. God’s love for us is so powerful and steadfast that He will withhold nothing to make us one with him. While we may see aspects of ourselves this week that we don’t like, what we also see is the very nature of God expressed. That nature is one that is Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of all life.
How do you live out a life that reflects this ultimate love God has shown you in Christ?
I find it amazing how easy it is to get distracted by the negatives in life. Truth be told, lately I have allowed some of the struggles of life hold more weight than the positives. Some of this is due to the fact that I have been struggling with a nagging sickness that seems to want to hold on to me more than I want it to. The reality of the mind, spirit and body connection is one that we often only pay attention to when it’s too late. Yet we know that when one part of our bio-psycho-spiritual being is off, the rest are surly effected.
I also know that we live in a world that celebrates the negative. We live life surrounded by bad news. In 1982 Don Henley released the song, “Dirty Laundry.” Continue reading →
I have talked about Mike Holmes from the HGTV series Holmes on Homes in sermons before. Mike is a burley man who is most often seen in a pair of simple overalls. His exterior image is very different from what you find out about him by watching the show, for he is in fact a caring and almost soft-hearted individual. The premise of the show is that he goes into homes of people that have experienced either poor building practices or unscrupulous renovation contractors. Continue reading →
This week we will hold our annual Celebration Sunday, with joyful worship and fellowship. I believe that this particular Sunday embodies a very important part of Church culture that we sometimes overlook. Celebration is a valuable Spiritual practice that we sometimes fail to engage in.
At times, I think we are hesitant to do any celebrating because we are accustomed to the worldly practice that it is often self-righteous or boastful. In the Christian mindset celebration is a completely different thing. Celebration is about recognizing blessings in our lives and thanking God. Continue reading →
x.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/communion.jpg” alt=”” width=”200″ height=”104″ />Tonight we remember the events of the upper room. Jesus displays his love and care for his disciples in physical ways. First Jesus humbles himself before the disciples by washing their feet. Then he gives them a new way to spiritually connect with him through the Communion meal. Jesus reminds us that it is in service we find the truest expression of God’s love. Washing and serving at table. How do we take up this call to servanthood? Reflect on this question as you view this video from Worshiphouse.com and join us tonight at 7:30 for our Maundy Thursday Worship Service.
Today begins the liturgical season of Lent and I am looking forward to gathering with our congregation for our annual Ash Wednesday Bread and Soup Simple Meal and Prayer Service. Earlier this month, I posted on the presbytery Facebook group a question about what other churches did for Ash Wednesday. Many of the responses were similar to our activity and those that responded practiced the imposition of ashes. That is except for one retired minister member of presbytery who said simply this, “Observance of church seasons, and imposition of ashes, is a Roman custom and NOT Reformed…” I was taken aback by this blunt and, in many ways dismissive, comment. Another pastor commented back on this statement with this, “…that is true. Do you think that it should remain true? While Ash Wednesday was never observed in my church growing up, when I have led services as a pastor, I have found that people are profoundly moved by the imposition.” This conversation, while a bit annoying, also has helped me ask the question, “Why do we do what we do and what benefit is there in the “customs” we both have experienced and haven’t yet? So here are my five reasons why I observe the liturgical seasons and Lent in particular:
The joy of Christmas seems to have given way to the pessimism of ordinary time. I have worked with our congregation to embrace the more traditional view of Christmas which encourages us to celebrate a Christmas that lasts until Epiphany. We were able to sing Carols and have special music in worship that highlighted the gift of Christ.
Just like the liturgical calendar, which quickly shifts to ordinary time, I believe that we find it very easy to put the joy of Christmas away with our decorations. A few years ago I told of how our family keeps many of our manger scenes out year round. This isn’t just because we have an extensive collection that would be way to hard to put up each year. We keep out the mangers in order to be reminded of the joy that God has provided. Continue reading →