Churches are scrambling to find creative ways to mark the events of Holy Week while we are unable to gather in person. Attending Holy Week services daily from Palm Sunday thru the Easter Vigil is something I have never missed, at least in my adult life. I’ve been wondering how to help folks connect to the deep readings our lectionary offers on these days, so I went back to look what I have posted on my other website, The Prayer Book Guide to Christian Education. Based on the book (3rd edition) that I edited and updated with Robyn Szoke, for many years I posted a weekly reflection based on the Sunday’s lectionary readings. All three years are now online, so the website simply sits there for folks to tap into.
So, I thought it might be helpful to link the posts from Holy Week for Year A here for easy access without having to use the website’s search engine. Hope these are helpful for any groups via Facebook Live or Zoom or simply for your own personal Bible study and reflection.
Wednesday, February 26, 2020 marks the first day of Lent – Ash Wednesday. For the next forty days (excluding Sundays) the people of God are called to self-denial and discipline, a solemn preparation for Easter. In the Early Church, Lent was a time of preparation for the Easter baptism of converts to the faith. Persons who were to receive the sacrament of baptism – “new birth,” “death to sin” – were expected to fast and prepare during these weeks. Candidates for baptism (catechumens) were led through the stories of the Bible that helped them examine the nature of the life they were about to enter. Through experience of fasting, self-denial, and acknowledgment of their need to repent and turn to God, they began to live out Paul’s vision of offering oneself to God:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)
Ash Wednesday is a time of confession that carries a spirit of sorrow and contrition over sins that permeates the Lenten season. For this reason, the word alleluia is omitted from all liturgies during Lent and restored again during the celebration of Easter.
If your church or family plans on participating in a Mardi Gras (the Carnival – “Carnem, vale” = farewell to meat) celebration in the tradition of Venice, New Orleans, or Rio de Janeiro or a Shrove Tuesday (shriven from sins) with the eating of pancakes (to remove all the butter, milk, eggs, and fat from the pantry), consider creating an Alleluia Banner and then ceremoniously burying it. This can be done the Sunday before Ash Wednesday also.
Today is the feast day of Julian of Norwich. I’m not a big “saint” fan (sports or religious) and I do not pray to any saints or ask that they intercede for me. But Julian is one who captured my imagination years ago. The Reverend Peter Holroyd (whom I invited to do a Lenten study on environmental spirituality in a church where I was serving about 20 years ago) handed each of us a hazelnut as we began. He shared that he always carried one in his pocket; a reminder that such a tiny thing has so much possibility and that we, too, are seeds of possibility. The hazelnut is often used as a symbol of Julian.
Born about 1343, the time in which Julian lived was one of upheaval: the Black Plague, the Hundred Years War, and the crisis of church authority due to a long papal schism. The people of Europe were full of anxiety and concerned about personal salvation. The yearning for a personal, experiential faith spawned a growth in Christian mysticism, including those who were not living in religious communities. Many mystical classics were written by lay people living as solitaries (recluses), sharing their experiences of the divine. Such was Julian. We do not know much about her, including her real name. The name Julian was given to her because St. Julian’s Church in Norwich, England is where she lived and worked. Nearly dying as a child, she had visions (shewings) in which she experienced Jesus. Most of her writings are all that we know of her. You can read more about her (as well as some intergenerational activities to do regarding her) in my forthcoming book Faithful Celebrations: Making Time for God with the Saints coming in July 2019.
“Honor your father and your mother . . . that your days may be long” (Deuteronomy 5:16).
The United States’ observance of Mother’s Day is held each year on
the second Sunday in May. The holiday can be traced back to the Mother’s Day
Proclamation written by Julia Ward Howe in the aftermath of the American Civil
War. It was a reflection of her pacifist reaction to the horrors of the war and
her conviction that mothers had a rightful voice in the conduct of public
affairs. There were other attempts to create a Mother’s Day holiday in the
ensuing years, but none succeeded beyond local observances.
The current holiday was created
through the efforts of Anna Jarvis, continuing the work of her mother Ann
Jarvis, who dreamed of creating a holiday to honor all mothers. With the help
of Philadelphia department store magnate John Wanamaker, Jarvis persuaded
President Woodrow Wilson to make it a national holiday in 1914.
Intentionally or not, the support of
retail genius Wanamaker proved predictive, and Mother’s Day soon became so
commercially successful that many opposed it, including its founder Jarvis, who
spent her inheritance and the rest of her life opposing it. Such opposition has
done little to slow down the commercial juggernaut that Mother’s Day has
become. It is the most popular day of the year for dining out in a restaurant.
According to the National Retail Federation’s annual Mother’s Day survey, 86%
of Americans celebrated this day in 2018 with the average individual spending
$180 on a gift; approximately $4.6 billion on jewelry, $2.6 billion on flowers,
and another $813 million on greeting cards.
Back by popular demand, just in time to start next year’s program planning, here (in easy-to-print and Word form) is my Christian Formation Planning Calendar for the coming academic year. It begins with the first Sunday of June 2019 and concludes at the end of August 2020.
You’ll find the “name” of the Sunday in the first column, followed by columns including the lectionary readings for the day, civic/ecumenical events (like Presidents’ Day), typical church events (like a day specifically set for baptisms), and blank spaces to write your own notes.
Now is the time to begin evaluating this past program year before planning next. And it’s a great time to start reviewing your curricula and program resources. Give plenty of time for all these important details in order to insure a smooth transition from one year to the next. And don’t forget to celebrate all your accomplishments!