Monday, March 12, 2018

A Sign Unto You--Lent 2018


Lent again.

As always, I put a lot of thought into what sort of Lenten practice I should encourage our congregation to undertake together. This year, our Lenten sermon series is "A Sign Unto You", and we're examining the symbols of our faith and how they help or hinder our ability to see Jesus. We're specifically addressing the cross, the (baptismal) font, the (communion) table, and the bible, plus a week on idols and, of course, Palm Sunday.

Symbols are kind of my wheelhouse, so I wanted to make sure that we connected beyond just an intellectual engagement with them.

On Ash Wednesday, we took four large cloths (two yards of fabric each--thanks, Joann's!) with a question written on each:

On the cloth laid in front of the cross: What is obscuring your ability to see Grace?
On the cloth laid in front of the font: What is obscuring the promises you've made to God?
On the cloth laid in front of the table: What is obscuring the personal connections that Christ desires for you?
On the cloth laid in front of the bible: What is obscuring your ability to hear the Word?

At one point during worship, we invited everyone to come forward and write their answers to those questions on each of the cloths. It didn't feel right to take pictures of people making themselves vulnerable in such a way, but trust me--it was beautiful to watch everyone milling about, considering those things standing in the way of Christ in their lives. It was especially poignant to watch the adults help guide the kids in reflecting on these questions...everyone took it seriously, no matter their age.

Once everyone was finished, we covered the cross, the font, the table, and the bible with the cloths (hopefully, the symbolism of THAT is pretty self-explanatory). We prayed a prayer of confession, and together spoke the Litany of the Seekers as those who seek Christ:

We seek wholeness, and yet we refuse to look past those things which keep us broken.
Lord, have mercy on sinners who long to see you.
Christ, have mercy.
Paul insists, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are being destroyed, but it is the power of God for those of us who are being saved.”    (1 Corinthians 1:18)
We turn from foolish vengeance and seek the one whose wounds heal.
John cries out, “I baptize you with water, but one who is more powerful than I is coming…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”          (Luke 3:16)
We turn from lives of shame and shadow and seek the one whose forgiveness sets our hearts aflame.
We proclaim, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”  (Psalm 23:5-6)
We turn from the greedy hunger that torments us and seek the one whose extravagant table welcomes and fills us.
Jesus reminds us, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”             (Matthew 4:4)
We turn from words that tempt us with serenity and seek the one whose words unsettle us towards holiness.
Lord, have mercy. Help us to seek your face.
Christ, have mercy.

After each of the bolded sections, we tore a cloth covering one of the symbols. By naming and claiming those things that stand between us and Christ, we began to strip them of their power.

After the service, I tore the cloths into strips, continuing what we had begun in worship:
There are A LOT more.
Then, I put all the strips out and invited the community to create braids with these strips, remembering that Christ takes that which is ripped and broken and makes it new.The intention was for this to be an opportunity to reflect further on those things that obstruct our view of Christ, and how we strip away those obstructions during Lent (and throughout our lives).

On Easter, we'll reveal what has been made with our offerings of our braids and brokenness. I'll write a followup post about my experience after all has been revealed ;)

No comments:

Post a Comment