Posted in Christian, Christianity, Devotions, Faith, Faith Formation, Lent, Spirituality

Family Lenten Devotions for 2018

Downloadable Document: Year B Family Devotional 2018- Lent


Background Information for the Devotional:

Lent – What does it mean?:

As early as the mid-fourth century, Christians have observed a time of preparation before the Easter celebration. The Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts for 40 days. The forty days of Lent recall the 40 day fast of Jesus in the wilderness after his baptism (Matthew 4:2, Luke 4:1-2) and Moses’ 40 day fast on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:28). It is a time of simplicity and preparation.

The Principal Themes of Lent include penitence; baptismal renewal; preparation for baptism at the Easter Vigil; prayer, fasting, and service; confession of sin rooted in the promise of God that comes through the cross of Christ.

Purple is the seasonal color which suggests somberness & solemnity as well as royalty.

(Taken from www.elca.org)

Lent at home:

Life is busy! Work, school, athletic events, extra-curricular activities, travel, church, civic organizations, friends, family, etc. occupy much if not all of our time. We often choose to “give-up” something for Lent that won’t really be an inconvenience for us. It rarely brings us closer to God.

This Lent I encourage you all to spend time as a family reflecting, praying, and preparing.  This devotional resource is intended to give you tools to have family devotions. It is built around the prayer practices of Lectio Divina & Praying in Color as well as the physical exercise practices of yoga and walking.  The weekly lesson is intended to be repeated each night so that you can continue to learn, reflect, and expand. Your prayers will inevitably shift based on your experiences each day. There are also lessons for Ash Wednesday and Holy Week.

Lectio Divina:

In Christianity, Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s Word. It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied, but as the Living Word.

Traditionally Lectio Divina has 4 separate steps: readmeditatepray and contemplate. First a passage of Scripture is read, then its meaning is reflected upon. This is followed by prayer and contemplation on the Word of God. For use with children I have simplified the steps down to read, think, pray, and rest. See Appendix A for a visual graphic explaining Lectio Divina.

Praying in Color:

Praying in Color is a concept developed by Sybil MacBeth for the times when we have no words but want to communicate with God. It is particularly wonderful for children as they often have short attention spans, don’t know how or what to pray, view prayer time as a chore, etc. Praying in color incorporates doodling, coloring, & prayer all together. No words are necessary. Think of a person, place, organization, that you would like to pray for. Write down their name and begin to doodle and color on the page while thinking about them. When your picture feels complete, your prayer is also. To incorporate in with Lectio Divina, write down a word or phrase that struck you from the passage you read and then doodle and color the page during the “Pray/Oratio” step. Two sample templates for praying in color are included in Appendix C & D.

Additional information regarding Praying in Color & additional praying in color templates can be found at http://prayingincolor.com/ or by purchasing Praying in Color; Praying in Color Kids Edition; or Praying in Black and White by Sybil MacBeth.

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Posted in Christian, Christianity, Faith, Faith Formation, Lent, Seminary, Sermons, Spirituality

Questions Not Answers

John 3: 1-17

When I was a teenager, growing up in Salem, Oregon, there used to be a man who would stand on street corners in the downtown area, yelling about the end-of-times and passing out pamphlets. My friends and I all knew that if we hurried past him in a small herd, he would leave us alone. So most of the time this is exactly what we did.

Unfortunately for me, one Saturday afternoon, when I was about 16-years-old, I was separated from the herd. Or maybe, going to meet the herd. I honestly don’t really remember why, but I was walking by myself. And the Street Corner Proselytizer pounced.

He blocked my way, shoved a pamphlet at me, and asked “Have you been born again and accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior???!”

Seeing how I couldn’t get around him I figured I’d have to speak, so I answered, “Yes??”

Apparently my answer was unconvincing because he replied – “Have you, have you really? Don’t lie, young lady, God will know. You don’t want to be damned to hell for lying!”

The snarky thought that ran through my 16-year-old mind at the time was “TOO LATE!” old lutheranIn a moment of uncharacteristic restraint I did not say this, instead, my response was, “Dude, I’m a Lutheran.”

He got this look of disappointment and resignation on his face, and moved on to the next unsuspecting passerby. I promptly recycled his flyer (yes – Green Team, in the mid 1990’s, Oregon had public recycling containers) and I walked on. I’m not really sure if my Lutheranism meant that I was saved and therefore a waste of his time, or if it meant that I was so far gone, I wasn’t worth his time. Regardless, on that day, I was incredibly grateful to be a Lutheran.

Pastor Matt Lenahan addressed this morning’s Gospel with this thought: “Faith involves mystery, questions, uncertainty, and conversation.”

I can’t think of a more true statement to frame this encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus. Nicodemus is a Pharisee, who came to Jesus under the guise of darkness with questions. It’s unclear if Nicodemus is skulking over to Jesus at night on his own, because he is curious about Jesus and doesn’t want anyone to know, OR if he has been sent as a representative and the darkness that John refers to is actually Nicodemus being in a state of unknowing. Perhaps it’s a combination of both.

The fact that he says, “Rabbi, WE know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God” would indicate that he is speaking on behalf of himself and others and that THEY want a concrete answer as to whether or not Jesus is from God.

Unfortunately for Nicodemus and the rest of “them”, in this particular Gospel Narrative, Jesus rarely gives anyone a straight answer. In the Gospel of John, Jesus’ response to
questions is to answer with seemingly random statements that don’t really answer anything.
questions-questions (2)During my summer Clinical Pastoral Experience, also known as CPE, we were taught not to answer questions for people, but instead have them answer them for themselves. “What do you think?” “How does that make you feel?” Help others discover answers for themselves rather than just feed it to them.

That’s what Jesus does with Nicodemus.  He CPE’s him. Jesus tells him “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” What does that mean??? Nicodemus immediately latches on to the idea of being born and fixates on how a human adult cannot be born again. Because we are all born from a woman’s womb and an adult can’t go back and do that over.

As the conversation continues Jesus tells Nicodemus that no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. Nicodemus again most likely would have taken this to describe a physical birth – waters break, a child is born, and that child takes its first breath. Water and Spirit.

But this is not what Jesus is referring to. Jesus is speaking to our rebirth – our moment of being “born again” in the waters of baptism.  For many, this occurs at infancy. For some, such as myself, it happens in early childhood, and for others it is much later. Regardless of when it occurs in Baptism God reaches down to us, establishes relationship with us, claims us as God’s own children, as members of God’s family, and we are born again into this new life.

We know this. Nicodemus did not. As the conversation progresses Jesus continues to give vague and confusing answers and even tells Nicodemus that he doesn’t understand earthly things, so how can he expect to understand heavenly things???

What is going on here? Why is Jesus being THAT GUY??? You know the guy – the one who spouts off things that sound profound, but no one really knows what they are talking about? What purpose is he trying to serve???

In regards to this interaction, The Rev. Dr. Phil Ruge-Jones said this: “What if Jesus is not trying to bring Nicodemus to a place of certainty, but is nurturing Nic’s own sense of the uncertainty and living questions. I am thinking about how much rhetoric of being born again suggests that now the speaker understands all things. This is the opposite of what it means to be born. At birth we know nothing and are just beginning.”

So maybe Jesus isn’t being THAT GUY. Maybe in this whole confusing exchange he is trying to get across to Nicodemus that he doesn’t need someone else to give him all of the answers. He needs time to ponder and question and for his faith to grow through that questioning. That even if a concrete answer was immediately presented to him, he probably wouldn’t accept the truth.

I think we all are a bit like Nicodemus. We think that we should have all of the answers. And like Nicodemus and the Street Corner Proselytizer we prefer concrete answers.  Yes or No! Facts that we can pinpoint.  Keep it simple. We think that we must understand all things when it comes to God and faith and if we do not, then we are somehow lacking.

I’ve seen this repeatedly through the years as I’ve served in Child, Youth, & Family Ministry. Parents who are afraid to have intentional conversation with their children about God and about faith because they are afraid they won’t have an answer to a question. We are afraid to say – “I don’t know.”  We forget that faith involves mystery, questions, uncertainty, and conversation.

In our Gospel this morning Jesus reminds us that questions are everything when it comes to faith. And answers are honestly not really necessary and sometimes block our ability to see truth for ourselves. What we think we know, or what we are afraid we don’t know, gets in our way and we are blinded or paralyzed with fear of uncertainty.what does it all mean

So how do we move beyond this? First of all, we talk about it. With our friends, with our family, with our church community, with our children. The more we discuss faith, the less intimidating it becomes. We ask questions, we answer questions, we encourage questions. We utilize the resources before us – literature, theological writings, people who know things. Grace has a group called Questions Not Answers that meets to ponder and discuss tough topics. Join them sometime.

We think. We pray. We gather in community to hear the Word and to share Sacrament. We embrace the mystery. We grow more comfortable with uncertainty. We tell our inner Street Corner Proselytizer that concrete answers are unnecessary. We embrace and grow more comfortable with the phrase “I don’t know.”

And in this process we will more fully know, appreciate, and understand the loving and forgiving God revealed to us in Christ Jesus.

Amen.

Posted in Devotions, Faith Formation, Lent, Spirituality, Youth Ministry

Lenten Devotions GALORE!!!!

Winding PathI completed this year’s Lenten Devotions today… attached are the Social Media Devotion, the Family Devotion, and a BONUS! My mother wrote a Stations of the Cross Devotion which I am sharing as well. I hope these resources help you in your Lenten Journey.

Blessings & Peace as you grow and experience God in new ways!

Lent Social Media Devo’s Year B

Year B Family Devotional – Lent

Stations of the Cross

Posted in Advent, Christmas, Devotions, Faith Formation, Youth Ministry

Family Advent Devotion

A few years ago, when I was working full-time as a Youth & Family Minister, I began looking for Advent Resources to share with the families of my congregation.  I found a lot of resources that were okay, but not exactly what I was looAdventking for. I decided to give devotion writing a try and shared what I created with others. So it turns out, apparently I’m decent at it and people enjoy the devotions, because I’ve been asked to keep creating them.

The devotions are based on the weekly readings from the Revised Common Lectionary. There is a devotion for each Sunday and a devotion for each week which can be used once or repeated each day.  Repetition often offers the opportunity for deeper reflection and understanding. We also live very busy lives and for some once a week is the best that can be done.

Feel free to use the devotion this Advent Season with your family and let me know how it goes!!!!


Family Devotional – Year B

Posted in Advent, Christmas, Devotions, Faith Formation, Youth Ministry

Family Devotion – Advent Week #1

Opening Prayer:
Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. By your merciful protection save us from the threatening dangers of our sins, and enlighten our walk in the way of your salvation. We light one candle and pray for peace and patience as we anticipate the coming of Jesus Christ, born to set us free.  Shine your light upon us with the promise of everlasting life.  In Christ’s name we pray, amen.

Candle Lighting:
Speak these words while lighting the first candle:
O Emmanuel, Jesus Christ, desire of every nation, Savior of all peoples, come and dwell among usAmen.

Highs & Lows:
Share the best and worst parts of your day.

Gospel Reading:
Read Matthew 24: 36-44 OR “Noah’s Ark” in the Spark Story Bible (or a similar story in your favorite story Bible) Families with smaller children – you may want to reference the Matthew 24 passage in regards to not knowing when Christ will return.

Activity:
Create a Bible Verse Advent Chain. (See Appendix A for instructions and templates.) Tear off one link each day and read the Bible verse for the day.

Pray:
Heavenly Father, you provide good and gracious gifts to us as signs of your redeeming love and of your imminent coming. Help us to share these gifts with others and to receive them with a grateful heart.  In Jesus name we pray, amen.

Bless:
Child of God, the time is drawing near, spread peace throughout the world, be patient and wait. 

Posted in Advent, Christmas, Devotions, Faith Formation

Family Devotion – Week #1 Activity

ADVENT CHAIN

Advent Chain

 

Print the list of Bible verses below. Cut out and glue them onto strips of colored paper.  Create an interlocking chain with the Bible verse strips. Make sure the dates are in ascending order. Remove one link each night and read the bible verses listed.

Dec. 1st – John 1: 1-5

Dec. 3rd – Isaiah 11: 1-10

Dec. 5th – Luke 1: 5-10

Dec. 9th – Matthew 1: 18-21Dec. 7th – Luke 1: 18-25

Dec. 11th – Luke 1: 39-45

Dec. 13th – Luke 2: 1-5

Dec. 15th – Luke 2: 8-12

Dec. 17th – Luke 2: 15-18

Dec. 19th – Micah 5: 2-5

Dec. 21st – Matthew 2: 3-6

Dec. 23rd – Matthew 2: 9-12

Dec. 2nd – Isaiah 9: 2-7

Dec. 4th-Jeremiah 33: 14-16

Dec. 6th – Luke 1: 11-17

Dec. 8th – Luke 1: 26-38

Dec. 10th – Matthew 1: 18 – 21

Dec. 12th – Luke 1: 46-56

Dec. 14th – Luke 2: 6-7

Dec. 16th – Luke 2: 13-14

Dec. 18th – Luke 2: 19-20

Dec. 20th – Matthew 2: 1-2

Dec. 22nd – Matthew 2: 7-8

Dec. 24th – John 1: 14

Posted in Advent, Christmas, Devotions, Faith Formation, Youth Ministry

Family Devotion – First Sunday in Advent

Opening Prayer:
Gracious God, as our nights grow longer and our days grow short, we look on these earthly signs – light and green branches—and remember God’s promise to our world: Christ, our Light and our Hope, will come bringing peace and spreading love.  We know not when he will come; give us strength to wait and hope, knowing that the time is near.  Keep us alert and vigilant.  In Jesus name we pray, amen.

Listen to the words of the Prophet Isaiah:
In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, ‘Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth instructions and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift ups sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

Families with small children – Instead of the words above, read “God will Bring Peace” (Pg. 164) in the Spark Story Bible OR in your favorite story Bible.

Candle Lighting:
Speak these words while lighting the first candle:
O God, rejoicing, we remember the promise of your Son.  As the light from this candle, may the blessing of Christ come upon us, brightening our way and guiding us by his truth.  May Christ our Savior bring life into the darkness of our world, and to us, as we wait for his coming.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Highs & Lows:
Share the best and worst parts of your day.

Gospel Reading:
Read Matthew 24: 36-44 OR “Noah’s Ark” in the Spark Story Bible (or a similar story in your favorite story Bible) Families with smaller children – you may want to reference the Matthew 24 passage in regards to not knowing when Christ will return.

Discuss:

  • Who knows when Christ will return? Do Angels? Do People? Does Jesus?
  • The Gospel talks about Noah and his family listening and following God’s instructions. Is it sometimes hard to focus and listen to God? Why?
  • How can we prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming?

Pray:
Heavenly Father, we cling to the promise of Christ’s return with joy and anticipation. We know not when that day will be. Guide us as we listen to your call, empower us to share your love with others, and nurture us as we prepare the way for his return.  In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Bless:
Child of God, the time is drawing near, spread peace throughout the world, be patient and wait.