Tag Archives: Lent

Good Friday for Kids

CrownofthornsgreenMany parents have told me that they do not attend Good Friday services with their children because the services offered on this day are not appropriate for them. Many churches do offer services and “Stations of the Cross” for children that are experiential, following the events of Holy Week in which each child can take part in waving palms, washing feet, feeling nails and a wooden cross, followed by entering a darkened room or stairwell. In doing such re-enactments, we must remember to go from darkness to light, allowing children (especially those who are very young) to experience the joy of resurrection while not dwelling on death.

With very small children, using the metaphor of the transformation of a caterpillar to butterfly as a symbol of resurrection is helpful. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is a great picture book to discuss the mystery of new life. Check out some other ideas on my Pinterest pages of Lenten Ideas & Resources that include Holy Week ideas and other books for children about this season.

Ministry Matters, a blog from the United Methodist Publishing House offers other suggestions, including a sample worship bulletin (in the Methodist tradition) for a Good Friday service for children at:   Ministry Matters™ | Articles | Good Friday for Kids.

“Giving Up” or “Taking On” for Lent?

AshesDustLent begins in just a few short days. Are you one that gives up something for the 40 days or do you begin a new practice for this penitential season? Perhaps both? Perhaps none of the above?

Anglicans Online offers this great reflection for their weekly post as the season of Mardi Gras ends and the distribution of ashes occur in churches (plus sidewalks and train platforms) around the world.

Anglicans Online: Lent? No, thank you.

Concluding Lent

Yesterday I was reminded by a colleague how different Holy Week is when you are not working in a congregation. It’s been 15+ years since I’ve been immersed in the planning, preparation, crazy hours and last minute details of assisting in the implementation of the wonderful experiences of walking through Holy Week from the inside out.

Since then, Holy Week has become a more personal journey, participating from the outside in for lack of a better description. The work week continues the same, but there are few phone calls and less e-mail. Everyone is focused on the moment to come.

Many of us in the pews may be looking forward to reclaiming what one might have “given up” for the season of Lent. I never give up anything. I do try to do something new or take on a contemplative practice. This year it was purging.

Not purging of the physical kind, although I am trying to lose weight – the old fashioned way by eating healthier. I’ve been purging the contents (again) of 60-years worth of stuff. My dad moved to an Assisted Living facility right before Ash Wednesday. The condo in which he and my mom were living is now just about empty. We have a tenant to move in May 1st. The carpets still need to be cleaned and perhaps painting will be done. Two pieces of furniture remain – a 100+ year-old Federal drop-down desk that has been in my father’s family for years, and a 10-year-old dining room hutch. Craig’s list has become the latest bookmarked site on my computer.

But I still have all the stuff. Stuff of years of accumulation which I thought they had sold, given away or tossed out when we moved them to be closer to us from eastern Maryland almost four years ago. Boxes of 3 generations worth of china, crystal, knickknacks, photographs, papers, and memorabilia.

Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Matthew 19:21

I do not need more stuff. Even though it may be valuable to its once owners, it is stuff. Our home is already full of 18th century antiques from a previous deconstruction of my husband’s parents’ estate. The pieces are beautiful and serve as wonderful conversation pieces. I doubt my children will want much of it someday – they are not about the accumulation of things. It is a generation that travels light and desires to be mobile at a moments notice. Stuff gets in the way and inhibits freedom.

We rented a storage unit when the kids finished college and had not yet settled into a “permanent” location. For the past several years the boxes and furniture have slowly left the unit – for the summer tag sale, new apartment or donated to those in need. We were about to rid ourselves of the unit, having purged what we did not “need.” Now it is full again – with stuff. Stuff we do not need. But stuff that was sacred to past generations. And things that my dad still cherishes and believes are worth more than their weight in gold. “You don’t want it?” he asks. “Then sell it. I can use the cash.” He shakes his head in despair. A lifetime of collecting things with no one to share it with. And so he tries to hide money in his unit for when he needs it. For all those trips he should have taken with his wife when he could. For that new winter coat my mom needed but they couldn’t “afford.”

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Well, the stuff is not worth anything anymore. It doesn’t fill the regrets of “we should have done it when we could.” While all these possession and treasures of their lives have not been stolen – their “golden years” have been. He visits Mom at least three days a week as she calls him her “sweetheart” and asks to go home, even though she does not know where home is. She asks for her mother, and she calls me “Mama” sometimes. She is what has been stolen.

Almost a year ago my husband said goodbye to his mom. On Good Friday we decided to stop all medical care and allow her to die in dignity. Yesterday the nursing home called to let me know that Mom has suspected pneumonia – test results due today. It’s Holy Week again. Amidst talk about bank accounts, hiding cash, and selling stuff I wish this was all over. I want to purge the responsibilities of being the daughter, the eldest child. But Good Friday must come first.

I give thanks to all my friends and colleagues who are deep into the preparation and logistics of these next few days. The planning is done. It is now time to re-create the annual pilgrimage to the cross. Thank you for allowing me to forget about all the stuff. Ultimately, the stuff is so unimportant. Who do we break bread with? Who do we allow to wash our feet? Who remains with us when we are alone and abandoned?

Blessings as we wander the streets of Jerusalem together this week. For there is hope when all has been purged and given over to the One who accepts and embraces us all.

Stones Cry Out

Yesterday we proclaimed the arrival of Jesus with “Hosanna” and the waving of palms. And we suddenly are confronted with how easy it is to rejoice, but even easier to walk away – not sticking around for the hard part. How many of us go right from waving palms to Alleluias a week later, skipping over Jesus’ journey to the cross. “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” (Luke 19:40)

Lent has not been a contemplative time for me this year. It has involved lots of travel, lots of ‘feeding’ others through workshops, presentations, and planning. My intentions have been to read reflective texts while at 39,000 feet, but I have fallen back to playing word games on my Kindle or reading a mystery novel. I’ve filled my time with work projects and worrying about tasks undone and the well-being of parents.

Yesterday, I stopped by the hospital to visit with my mother-in-law who has been hooked up to numerous tubes and machines there for a week. She’s 90, now frail and perhaps drawing her last labored breaths. She seems to be at peace, but is still talking up a storm . . . talking to anyone and everything . . . a conversation that only she can comprehend. My daughter and future son-in-law accompanied me yesterday – it was an Ash Wednesday moment for them. A recognition of our mortality. And my husband has patiently sat with her every day since her arrival on “the hill,” even as tax season reached it’s peak.

Before we headed to the hospital yesterday, I met Becca & Jamie at the florist in New Haven; the person who is doing the flowers and centerpieces for their wedding in October. They brought a bag of stones, the bottom tearing open just as we entered the door. They brought them back from Acadia National Park, one of their favorite spots. They have meaning for them, and will be a focal point for their wedding. I collect rocks also – not so many – from my travels. I have a small glass jar with a stone from Iona, one from a beach in Virgin Gorda, one from the Grand Canyon, …. all reminders of places that have touched me with the beauty of God’s creation. (Yes, I know I’m not supposed to have taken them.)

Somehow, all of this has prepared me for Holy Week. I’m not sure how. I wonder, how do airports and hospitals, hotel rooms and dining room tables, stones and trees, earth and oceans cry out? about holiness? about life and death? about violence and peace?

“Never doubt the meaning of Lent. It happened a long time ago, but it happened. Jesus walked this earth. He practiced a ministry of radical inclusivity, drawing to himself all the despised and rejected members of society. He lived what he taught: a life of justice and love, of profound compassion for all people. He lived a life acceptable to you, O God. His death terrifies us, because it reveals how committed the world is to its own way, and the price the world exacts from those whose commitment is to you.”

As we extinguish the light this Friday, we acknowledge the darkness and pain of all God’s children, young and old alike, in the world who suffer in body, in mind, or in spirit.

What we contemplate this week is beyond words, beyond understanding. May the Holy Spirit intercede for us and give voice to what, for us, is inexpressible. Amen.

The above quote and prayers are adapted from several resources: “Before the Amen: Creative Resources for Worship” edited by Maren C. Tirabassi & Maria I. Tirabassi (2007: Pilgrim Press) and “An Improbable Gift of Blessing: Prayers and Affirmations to Nurture the Spirit” by Maren C. Tirabassi & Joan Jordan Grant (1998: United Church Press). 

Marked by Ashes

by Walter Brueggemann (b. 1933)

Marked by Ashes

Ruler of the Night, Guarantor of the day . . .
This day — a gift from you.

This day — like none other you have ever given, or we have ever received.
This Wednesday dazzles us with gift and newness and possibility.
This Wednesday burdens us with the tasks of the day, for we are already halfway home
halfway back to committees and memos,
halfway back to calls and appointments,
halfway on to next Sunday,
halfway back, half frazzled, half expectant,
half turned toward you, half rather not.

This Wednesday is a long way from Ash Wednesday,
but all our Wednesdays are marked by ashes —
we begin this day with that taste of ash in our mouth:
of failed hope and broken promises,
of forgotten children and frightened women,
we ourselves are ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
we can taste our mortality as we roll the ash around on our tongues.

We are able to ponder our ashness with
some confidence, only because our every Wednesday of ashes
anticipates your Easter victory over that dry, flaky taste of death.

On this Wednesday, we submit our ashen way to you —
you Easter parade of newness.
Before the sun sets, take our Wednesday and Easter us,
Easter us to joy and energy and courage and freedom;
Easter us that we may be fearless for your truth.
Come here and Easter our Wednesday with
mercy and justice and peace and generosity.

We pray as we wait for the Risen One who comes soon.

For over thirty years now, Walter Brueggemann (b. 1933) has combined the best of critical scholarship with love for the local church in service to the kingdom of God. Now a professor emeritus of Old Testament studies at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, Brueggemann has authored over seventy books. Taken from his Prayers for a Privileged People (Nashville: Abingdon, 2008), pp. 27-28.