Lent & Ash Wednesday for Kids (….or maybe not)


rabu-abuLast night, my church had their Ash Wednesday service. I had the honor of helping lead the liturgy by offering the greeting and opening introduction/ explanation. Unlike most times we gather, the kids stayed in the service so I was asked to make sure my opening words were at least somewhat comprehensive to children.

This turned out to be one of the most helpful exercises for me. I ended up spending more time thinking through these brief opening words than I normally do and crafting each line as intentionally as possible. And so, for the heck of it, I thought I’d throw this up on the blog for anyone who was struggling with explaining Lent and/or Ash Wednesday to their young ones, and also to get your thoughts on how best to communicate this to kids. Here’s what I said:

(Lent: Two things hold us back)

Tonight kicks off the Church season of Lent. Most all of us live our lives wanting to be better people than we are right now. But if we’re honest, there are two things that can get in the way of that sometimes and make us frustrated as we try and become the people we want to be.
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Welcome to Ash Wednesday. Lent begins.


ash-wednesday-pew-lentToday is Ash Wednesday. In just under two months from today we’ll come to the highest point in the Christian Church calendar, Easter. That is where we’ll celebrate Christ’s Resurrection and how God’s perfect world broke into the present and our greatest enemies–sin and death–were conquered and shown to have no more dominion over us and the rest of the world. It’s meant to be the most effusive, overflowing, even ridiculous time of joy.

And yet, when we look at Jesus’ Resurrection, we see that before it ever took place, there was Death. And before that, there was an entire lifetime of loneliness, pain, suffering weakness, and isolation. We see that it was a life surrounded by evil forces and whispers that haunt and hurt Jesus and the people he loved.

And so, our early Church Mothers and Father thought it would be wise to have this time before Easter to prepare, so we might end up celebrating during Easter all the more.

Resurrection was itself a statement against our two greatest enemies: Sin and Death. And so to participate in Resurrection, we take the time of Lent to meditate and press into those things to which Resurrection was the response. We do this not out of morbidity, but out of anticipation.

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Lent begins tomorrow. (Will you just give it a try?)


Jesus & The Cross

I grew up in a church tradition that did not take seriously the Christian Church Calendar. Even as I went to college and moved into communities that took some level of tradition more seriously (which was usually limited to quoting Puritans and Reformers in sermons), the Church Calendar wasn’t that big of a deal. It was seen as something sort-of cool that could be incorporated into the already established life of the Church; a buffet from which leaders could pick and choose some aspects that might be helpful in organizing some sermon series or songs. But it certainly wasn’t seen as something that a church should actually incorporate itself into, or build it’s own rhythm around.

I’ve had the privilege of having this paradigm rocked the past several years at my church, and have fallen in love with the Church calendar. It influences much of the rhythm and timbre of my everyday life–both ecclesial and otherwise. I find such life in living within a stream of thought that was not simply created within the past generation by baptizing modern Western American cultural ideas.

I love finding myself as embedded within the cloud of witnesses that have gone before me as possible–even those I may disagree with passionately and fundamentally. Because, at the end of the day, they are my family, and families have traditions. Sure, you can be “that guy” that does his own thing and doesn’t participate in the family rhythms, but where’s the life in that?

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Why go to church? Well, why get married? [QUOTE]

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If someone asks me what is the use of going to church, what good does it do me, what do I get out of it, how do I answer these questions?

It is as though someone asks me what the use is of getting married, what good does it do me. If I answered such questions by saying, “Well, it is very useful to get married! You have someone to do the housework, the shopping, cook the meals, etc.,” it would clearly be a false view of marriage. No woman wants to be merely a housekeeper, kept because of her utility!

There is only one supreme reason for getting married—for love’s sake, for the other’s sake, for mutual love, self- giving, a longing for intimate communion, and sharing of everything.

So in Christian worship, we worship God for God’s sake; we come to Christ for Christ’s sake, motivated by love. An awareness of God’s holy love for us, revealed in Jesus Christ, awakens in us a longing for intimate communion—to know the love of the Father and to participate in the life and ministry of Christ.

Worship in the Bible is always presented to us as flowing from an awareness of who God is and what he has done: “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob . . . I have loved you and redeemed you . . . I will be your God and you will be my people. Therefore, this is how you will worship me.”

As we have seen, worship in the Bible is an ordinance of grace, a covenantal form of response to the God of grace, prescribed by God himself. This is supremely true of the New Testament understanding of worship, as the gift of participating through the Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father and his mission from the Father to the world, in a life of wonderful communion.

– from James B. Torrance’s beautiful book Worship, Communion, and the Triune God of Grace (paragraph breaks added for clarity)

The Privilege of Church-lessness: a Donald Miller post-script


donaldmiller-bw-2Donald Miller put up another post sort of talking more about his church attendance thoughts, this time talking about how the doctrine of the “priesthood of believers” means he does sacraments on his own and whenever he wants because God has given us all “agency” in this world to do that kind of stuff. He longs that pastors would empower their people to feel free to do these sort of things as well.

I made my thoughts clear last week about how wrong I think he is on this stuff (especially so with the sacraments. He even says he does baptisms for other people even though he himself has never been baptized). I won’t rehash that here. I did want to bring up one thing I noticed in his other posts that was more explicit in this last post. He writes:

To be fair, I’m wired a bit differently. I’m creative and I’m a risk taker. I realize a mistake I often make in my writing is assuming people are wired the way I’m wired. They aren’t. Most people are looking to “do it right” and play by the rules. This saves them from the trouble I often find myself in.

I can’t get past the the feeling here that Miller is saying that “most people” (read: “those that go to church”) at least primarily go to church because they want to “do it right” and “play by the rules”; that not going to church is an act of freedom, while those that still go are bound by something Miller thinks he has freed himself from. It’s not that he necessarily thinks he’s “better” than others, but I fear he makes a dangerous division within the Body of Christ between himself and “most people”.
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The Body of Christ, Broken (a guest post for Restoration Living)


family-old-moustache

Yeah, that’s my family (I’m in the front left). This was one Easter Sunday in the 90’s in Dallas, Texas, at a time and place where (I promise) it was absolutely appropriate to dress like that for Easter (except the glasses, of course). I look at this picture a lot, and not just to chuckle. I find it so oddly and powerfully symbolic of what life in the Bible Belt was like.

You see, my family was deeply wounded by “Church folk” throughout my childhood. Just as in the picture, people in the Church would live their Christian lives dressed up and looking good, all while wearing masks, disguising who they really were. When things were hard at home, people at church had no categories to process it. After all, to be a Christian is to be cleansed by Jesus and walk in new life, right? Failures, sins, and brokenness were seen as signs of some disobedience – some place where you weren’t “okay.”

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And so begins a guest post I wrote for a wonderful site that should be on all of your radars, Restoration Living. Read the rest of the post here.