Moments of Holy Week

Dear friends,

Spring is upon us, and pollen is in the air (and on the cars and everything else in sight). Other than the pollen, I love the beauty of the season and the chance to see much evidence of new life in the flowers, the trees, and even the baby ducklings I hope to see again this year in the lake behind my house. While there is much I celebrate during spring, this season also invites us to remember the difficult journey Jesus made toward the cross. I have been blessed to worship with you all during this Lenten season, and I look forward to the opportunities we will have to worship and reflect on the implications of Holy Week.

It always strikes me, however, that it is far too easy for us to miss the dark moments of Holy Week if we only attend worship on Sundays. We enjoy the joy of the children as they carry palm branches on Palm Sunday and the next Sunday, we join in the Good News of Easter. In reality, though, much happened in Jesus’ life between the two Sundays. While I understand that work, school, and other activities crowd our schedules during the week, I invite you this year to make every effort to join us for our Holy Week services on Wednesday, April 12, at 6:30 pm and Good Friday, April 14, at 7:00 pm.

Not only that, if you have children and youth, please bring them with you. Though childcare will be provided during our Holy Week services, there are several reasons why it is valuable to bring your children—especially those who are elementary school-aged and older—with you to these special services.

Amy shared with me an article she found in Worshiping with Children. Here is an adaptation of the reasons it is valuable to include all ages in Holy Weeks services. First, when children attend the weeknight worship services such as Good Friday, they hear the whole story of faith. Too often we want to protect our children from the harsh realities of the crucifixion, and so our children go straight from the Palm Sunday procession to the Easter alleluias. But until they hear the whole story, they will not understand the true joy of Easter. Second, hearing the story of the Crucifixion on the anniversary of the night it happened is like hearing the story of Jesus’ birth on Christmas Eve. As they imagine themselves standing near the cross, the stories have greater power. Third, children hear the whole story in the sanctuary with the whole congregation. As they sense the strong feelings around the stories and learn how important they are to all the people gathered there, they have a sense of belonging that helps them to claim the stories as their own. Finally, when their whole family goes to the trouble of worshiping together during Holy Week, they are acting out their commitment to the Gospel in a very real way that children notice.

Blessings,
Bill

That’s Grace

Dear friends,

During our Wednesday evening study on forgiveness, we have reflected on the overflowing and abundant love of God for us and the good news that we get to live in God’s grace rather than facing justice and what we truly deserve. Reflecting on this distinction between mercy and justice reminded me of a story told by Tony Campolo. Campolo recalls teaching a small group of junior high students about the difference between grace, mercy, and justice.

One boy, with a smile on his face and a glint in his eye, answered by saying, “If a cop pulls you over for speeding and gives you a ticket, that’s justice. If a cop pulls you offer for speeding and gives you a warning, that’s mercy. But if a cop pulls you over for speeding and gives you a Krispy Kreme donut, that’s grace.”

In reflecting on this insight, Campolo reminds us that grace is the unexpected good news that instead of giving us the punishment we deserve, God through Jesus offers us undeserved and unparalleled blessings. The longer I am a Christian, I become increasingly amazed by the grace God makes available. What a gift we are offered by God, and as we continue our Lenten journey toward the cross, let us give thanks for the grace offered to us and recognize how undeserved God’s love truly is.

I’m glad to be on this journey with you,

Bill

 

Do Something, Love Somebody, and Walk Toward Someone

Dear friends,

I suspect that few Baptists grew up with an emphasis on the season of Lent. In recent years, this church has joined many others in Baptist and Protestant traditions in discovering the value of this season which invites us to prepare our hearts as we follow Christ on His journey to the cross and ultimately to the great news of Easter. Lent is a 40-day season of self-examination and spiritual preparation before Easter. In the early history of the church, this was a time when new converts were invited to devote them-selves to prayer and study as a way of getting ready for baptism on Easter Sunday.

For us, the season of Lent is an invitation to reflect on our lives and seek spiritual renewal. We set aside 40 days to prepare our-selves to take in the Good News of Easter through deeper disciplines of prayer, Bible study, generosity, service, and self-denial (some people choose to give up something they like for 40 days as a way of reflecting on Christ’s sacrifice). It can be a season to recognize the junk and clutter that fill our minds and lives and then do some spiritual spring cleaning as we prepare for the darkness of Good Friday and the light of Easter.

As I have been preparing for Lent, I have been inspired by an idea being promoted by the leadership of Passport, the group that sponsors the youth camp our teenagers have been attending. This year, the camp theme, “Do. Love. Walk.”, draws from Micah 6:8. This verse says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” The Passport leadership reminds us that this call is still vital for the church. God still calls us to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

With this in mind, they have issued what they are calling the Micah 6:8 challenge for the season of Lent. Instead of just giving up something for Lent this year, perhaps we can take on or invest in God’s work in practical ways. On the Passport Facebook page, there is this invitation, “Instead of ‘sacrificing’ that Diet Coke or giving up sweets this year, perhaps we could Do something, Love somebody, and Walk toward someone. Might we spend these 40 days practicing justice, showing love in tangible ways, and walk-ing with humility on our minds? Justice can be shown in volunteering to serve the poor or standing up to the bully. Kindness and love can be shown through words that give life and build our neighbor up instead of tear down. Walking in humility can be done in deferring to the person in front of us instead of speaking or acting first.”

I like this idea. In what ways can we focus our hearts, minds, and actions in this season on doing, loving, and walking humbly?

Bill