Monthly Archives: March 2011

Third Sunday in Lent

Collect of the Day
Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Exodus 17:1-7
Romans 5:1-11
John 4:5-15

Message: “Well Within” by Rev. Steve Breedlove
(Sermon audio available here.)

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The Stations of the Cross – A Devotion for Lent

You may have seen the announcement in the Sunday Bulletin or in the KNN that All Saints will be offering the Stations of the Cross on Sunday, March 27 at 6 PM, and Wednesday, April 6 at 7 PM (also, the sanctuary will be open over lunch on the weekdays for you to pray the Stations by yourself if you would like).  Some of you may be saying “Stations of the what?  What in the world is the Stations of the Cross?”  Good questions!

The Stations of the Cross are a traditional devotional practice during Lent.  Back in the early centuries of the church, Christians made pilgrimages to Jerusalem in the days leading up to Easter.  One of the things they did as they prepared to celebrate Easter is they walked and prayed along the traditional path that Jesus traveled from his trial to his death on the cross and then to his tomb.  Over time, different “stations” were identified where Jesus said or did something important along the way.  Some of these stations are found in the Scriptures–here Jesus was condemned to death, there Simon of Cyrene began to help Jesus carry his cross, there Jesus was nailed to his cross, etc.  Other stations seem to have grown out of local traditions about other things Jesus did as he carried his cross.  Eventually, over the centuries, the stations were set to be these:

1.  Jesus is condemned to death

2.  Jesus takes up his cross

3.  Jesus falls the first time

4.  Jesus meets His Mother

5.  The cross is laid on Simon of Cyrene

6.  Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

7.  Jesus falls the second time

8.  Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

9.  Jesus falls the third time

10.  Jesus is stripped of His garments

11.  Jesus is nailed to the cross

12.  Jesus dies on the cross

13.  Jesus’ body is placed in the arms of his mother

14.  Jesus is laid in the tomb

As you can see, Stations 1, 2, 5, 8, 10, 11, 12, and 14 come directly from Scripture.  The remaining stations are based on those local Jerusalem traditions that I mentioned above.

So, the Stations of the Cross are basically an extended meditation on the Passion of Jesus (his trial, suffering, death and burial).  They are especially associated with Lent because that’s the season in which, through special acts of prayer, self-denial, and service, we enter into Jesus’ Passion, so that at Easter we can also enter in a special way into Jesus’ resurrection.  We suffer with him, we bring our suffering and the suffering of others to him in his Passion, so that suffering can be transformed just as his suffering was transformed in his resurrection.

That last sentence really gets at what so powerful for me in the Stations of the Cross.  Through praying the Stations I begin to learn what it means to suffer with Christ, what it means to suffer as a suffering servant, what it means to give over to Christ all the suffering and hurt and crud that I am carrying for myself and for others.  The Stations challenge me to understand and to bear my suffering and the suffering of the world in light of that singularly most important moment in the history of the universe: the moment in which Jesus carried all the suffering and hurt and crud of the world straight into the tomb and, as the conqueror of sin and death, left it there.  And because he is the conqueror who has left it there, I too can leave it there.  By the grace of God and the power of the Spirit, I too can be more than a conqueror over the suffering and hurt and crud in my life.  Not a conqueror in the sense that I will ever be immune or impervious to my suffering or the sufferings of others.  Rather, with Christ I can be a conqueror in that no matter the suffering I encounter, I can know that suffering will never have the final word in my life.  Christ will always be there to redeem, to give meaning and purpose to that suffering (even when the suffering is so bad I can’t begin to fathom what possible meaning it might have, or how Jesus could possibly redeem it).

I’m reminded of the last few lines of one of my favorite passages of scripture, the Canticle of Zechariah…

In the tender compassion of our God,
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.  (Luke 1:78-79)

This good news is truer than true precisely because in his Passion, Jesus walked the way of darkness and the shadow of death.  He blazed a trail for us to follow, so that we can step with him into the glorious dawn of light and life and peace.  The Stations of the Cross provide us a way of walking that path with Jesus.

There is a lot more that I could say about all this.  I know folks who find the Stations profoundly meaningful in ways I haven’t even begun to mention here.  But it is far better to pray the Stations than to talk about them; it is far better to come face-to-face with Christ the Suffering Servant Lamb of God than merely to think about him.  So I heartily invite you all to give the Stations a test-drive.  I don’t think that you’ll be disappointed.

-Paul Marvin

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Second Sunday in Lent

Collect of the Day
O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Genesis 12:1-4a
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
John 3:1-8

Message: “Again, Who’s Your Daddy?”
(Sermon audio available here.)

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First Sunday in Lent

Collect of the Day
Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Romans 5:12-17
Matthew 4:1-11

Message: “Who’s Your Daddy?” by Rev. Steve Breedlove
(Sermon audio available here.)

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feeding the lambs

“What are the fourth and fifth graders doing up there in the front of the sanctuary?” As I’ve heard this question many times recently, it occurs to me that unless you’re a parent of a fourth or fifth grader, very few of you know why those children are suddenly doing something so different during the Children’s Church hour. I’m excited to fill you in.

The “what” of what they’re doing is easy to answer: they’re learning to participate more fully in the worship service in general, and more specifically, they’re learning how to engage with the sermon. But the “why” of what they’re doing is perhaps the more interesting answer.

For as long as I can remember, All Saints has offered Children’s Church programming for children up through fifth grade. The goal has been simple: to disciple and feed and nourish our church’s youngest members in a way that is more accessible to them than certain parts of the service, specifically the readings, sermon, and prayers. It has always been a high value in this system for the children to worship with their families, so Children’s Church takes place only during those times in the service, allowing children to begin the worship service with their families and to be present for communion as well.

As for how that time has been used, the content has varied over the years. Naturally, as the church has grown, so has our population of children, so classes have formed and re-formed and curriculum has changed along with those shifts. We currently have a class of preschoolers and kindergarteners working on The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a class of first through third graders working on the David C. Cook Bible-In-Life Anglican Edition curriculum, and a class of fourth and fifth graders working on an experimental curriculum that I have designed.

The goal of all three classes—and indeed of the entire program—is decidedly not babysitting, not keeping the children busy so parents can hear the sermon, not providing flashy multimedia-style entertainment so the children can have fun. Of course, those things are going to be a part of whatever we’re doing: we’re glad to give parents some space to be fed themselves, and any program involving children had better involve some fun if the children are going to engage with the material! But the ultimate goal of our children’s ministry at All Saints is for our children to build and grow in their own faith, ultimately leading to confirmation and full participation as adults in the congregation. The work that the children are doing in each of our three classes forms a piece of that process; together, I hope all these pieces prepare them to enter the youth ministry and confirmation class as seamlessly and naturally as possible.

In The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, preschoolers and kindergarteners are experiencing a Montessori-style liturgically-based curriculum focusing on spiritual formation in which they interact in a very hands-on, child-accessible way with the Scriptures and liturgical traditions of the church. As they listen to the parable of the mustard seed, for example, each child is given a mustard seed to hold and examine—Look how small it is! Imagine a great big tree coming from such a small seed! As they fold and unfold child-sized linens for the altar table, they learn why some are green while others are purple or white. Conversation after conversation with parents reveals that what the children are learning in this class transfers directly and immediately to what they experience when they return to church. They’re coming to understand—in a way that is translated to fit their developmental “size”—what they experience every Sunday. It is a powerful foundation for their newly-beginning lives in the church.

In the David C. Cook Bible-In-Life Anglican Edition, first through third graders are engaging in a more traditional Bible study style curriculum, again sized just right for them. The Bible stories they share weekly follow the seasons of the liturgical church, which means that while their parents are in church experiencing and learning about Lent, for example, the children are doing the same. When Maundy Thursday rolls around this year, you can count on the lower elementary student sitting nearest to you to be able to explain the significance of foot washing and its spiritual significance in the lives of Jesus and his disciples. As they read and engage with these stories, the children are participating in activities and conversations that encourage them to apply the spiritual principles in their own daily lives—what does it mean, for example, to “wash the feet” of their families and friends at school, where literal foot washing is likely not an option?

Finally, with these experiences as a backdrop, the fourth and fifth graders have begun using a curriculum I designed to help them make the transition from Children’s Church to full participation in the service. As you may know, in sixth grade children remain in the service throughout and are also invited to begin the process of preparing for confirmation. As fourth and fifth graders, then, it is important for children to begin to experience the parts of the service that have as yet been inaccessible to them. Rather than an abrupt change—one Sunday a fifth grader in Children’s Church, the next a sixth grader in the service—my goal with the new materials has been to help our older elementary students ease into this transition. Thus, the activities in the binders I have provided for the children are not meant to serve as a distraction—coloring and word searches and such—but rather as an aid to entering into what they’re hearing. Different note-taking activities and spaces for drawing and writing about what they’re hearing along with plenty of blank paper and writing utensils are provided; Bibles and bulletins are also available for those who choose sit in the front with me and their classmates, while others remain with their parents and use their own Bibles and bulletins to follow along. In tandem with these guided activities, these upper elementary students meet every six weeks as a Children’s Church class to talk about what they’ve been learning and what has been challenging; in addition, they meet along with their parents and various members of the clergy for monthly lunches to further broaden these conversations. As I mentioned earlier, this program is experimental; thus far, I have been pleased at how the children have engaged with the service and have stepped up to the very real challenge of participating in a new way.

Please keep our church’s youngest members and the many, many volunteers who serve and care for them so faithfully in your prayers. And the next time someone else’s preschooler accidentally wraps himself around your leg, mistaking you for his parent, take a minute to bend down and ask him what he learned in Children’s Church that day. You might be surprised at what you learn from his answer.

-Daniele Jackson

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A Season for Holy Use

Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of the season of Lent. Traditionally, Lent has been observed by the Church as a 40 day period of preparation for that most sacred time in the Church Year, Holy Week and Easter Sunday.

In many ancient cultures, there is a time-honored custom of giving a tenth of each year’s income toward holy use. For Christians, observing the forty days of Lent is to do the same thing with roughly a tenth of the days of our year. Hence, it is the intentional setting aside of a season in our schedules for holy use, marked by serious and consistent spiritual reflection, abstinence and fasting, caring for the poor, and a clear intent to refrain from sin, particularly habitual sin.

So then, Lent is a serious and sober time in the calendar of the Christian church where we are all urged toward a greater reality of our limitations and our sinfulness. It is meant to kindle in us a “bright sadness” where we take stock of our relationship with Christ, recognize our failures, remember our deepest longings, and renew our hope in our Lord. Therefore, do not be surprised when you notice a more somber tone in the prayers, songs, sermons, and liturgy on Sunday mornings. For example, after this Sunday, “Alleluias!” will strikingly disappear from our lips as we intentionally turn from rejoicing to repentance. They will not return until Easter morning when we celebrate our risen Lord.

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. Our Ash Wednesday services this week, for instance, remind us, lest we forget, that we are a frail and inadequate. A priest marks our foreheads with ashes, a reminder of our mortal nature. The words spoken during the imposition of the ashes are:

Remember, O Man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.

These are the same words first spoken by God on the day of the fall in Genesis 3:19. They echo down the long corridor of the centuries: “Remember! You are dust! To dust you will return!” We live with this reality ever before us.

Thanks be to God, this is not where the story ends! While Lent begins with the reminder of our finitude it points us, it sends us off towards that great victory our Lord won in his Resurrection on Easter Sunday! This is why the ashes (marks of mortality) are placed on your forehead in the form of a cross to remind you and all who see you that though you will surely die there is One over whom death has NO claim. And His death is the destruction of death itself, the wiping out of sin, and the promise of unending life.

As we approach Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent, begin to meditate on the Collect for Ash Wednesday below. Consider your life and your relationship with the Living God. Ask him to enable you to give this season in your life over to him for his most holy use.

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

-Rev. David Hyman

(Initially published on BlackBeans.)

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Last Sunday after the Epiphany – Transfiguration Sunday

Collect of the Day
O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Exodus 24:12-18
2 Peter 1:16-21
Matthew 17:1-9

Message: “Mountaintop Experiences” by Rev. Steve Breedlove
(Click here for sermon audio.)

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