Ash Wednesday, Lent, and telling the Gospel Story through Liturgy
“These ashes remind us that we all need Jesus.” We passed around a small bowl of ashes to the children and let the children touch them and make observations. We pointed out how the ashes came from something alive but are now just ashes and dust (ashes are usually burnt from left over palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday).
We then put a sign of the cross on the back of their hands with the ashes (or forehead if they want) and we allow them to make their own cross on a poster with a large cross on it. It is a simple and interactive liturgy that embodies the message of Lent—intentional self-examination and reflecting on our need for God.
Our faith community “imposes” ashes the Sunday following Ash Wednesday. Ashes are just one way to tell the Christian Gospel through liturgy. “Liturgy” literally means the “work of the people,” in other words, what specifically we do in our worship, e.g. prayer, reading, and other elements of our worship.
In the context of the gathering community of faith, it is the shape and movement of our worship. Think of liturgy as the “worship arts” of the church… the thoughtful, meaningful, and artistic expression of our theology and faith. Continue reading
I had a cool encounter last night at a panel discussion on Christian Unity at the Newman Centre (the Catholic Student Union) at McGill University.
During a break, another out-of-place looking guy walked over and introduced himself: “I’m Terrell, and I work as a Parish Vitality Consultant for the Catholic Church.”
Surprised, but excited, I replied back, “No way! I’m a Congregational Vitality facilitator in the Protestant church! In fact, I just finished a graduate certificate in Congregational Vitality.” Continue reading
At our junior camp this year, we had a boy who liked to ask a lot of questions—questions in the middle of our lessons, questions about completely different subjects, questions that evolved into stories, etc. I gently responded each time, “that would be an excellent conversation to have after our lesson.” Finally, when I started to say this yet again, he cut me off, “I know… that would be a good conversation to have later.”
Realizing this could have been discouraging for him, I caught up with him later in the day. I said, “I want you to know that I LOVE all the amazing questions you have… and I don’t ever want you to stop asking them, because your questions are a gift from God.” I image the lessons from camp are probably long forgotten now (even by me), but his experience of camp and his experience of Christian leaders and volunteers remains.
For the last several months, a church I work with has been considering the sale of their building and the possibility of renting another church or alternative space for their community. All practical challenges of the church are also theological in nature. How should we understand the spiritual or sacred dimension of our church’s building? Continue reading
It was a beautiful hike up the mountain. My wife and I were in Canmore for a retreat, and we had just enough time for a late afternoon hike. We’d fallen in love with the colour pallette of the Rockies in the autumn, which is very different from home in Quebec.
The terrain was relatively easy and the route well marked. But coming down, the trail became unfamiliar and we struggled to get good footing in the only casual shoes we brought with us. Suddenly we realized that we were off the trail and had to backtrack. Finally we found some other hikers who assured us of the best way down.
A bit of Grassi Lakes trail outside of Canmore, Alberta.
The Christian holiday of Epiphany was this Friday. If you’d like to read a good devotional on Ephiphany, check out Seven Lessons from the Magi (unless you are in my small group, in which case, wait until tomorrow night:).
Many ministers have prepared a sermon for tomorrow on the Visit of the Magi. I got a chuckle reading an online conversation about it this morning.
“Could any of the wise men have been wise women? Why or why not?” wrote one minister.
I’ve been trying to figure it out for months… how to make sense of this election year. And then finally, I did.
We’re all stuck in a real-life version of the Great Gatsby.
I discovered the Great Gatsby in high school. I loved the intrigue of Gatsby, mysteriously wealthy, wildly popular, secretly heart-broken… and a complete hoax. Continue reading