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 Lent, Seminary, Spirituality

Hungering for Justice

I preached the following message at a mid-week Lenten worship service I was invited to participate in.  This congregation’s theme for this Lent is “Hunger.” I was asked to preach on Hungering for Justice.  This is what I came up with…


Micah 6: 6-8

6 ‘With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with tens of thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’ 8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

Word of God, Word of Life – Thanks be to God.


Grace to you and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Hungering for Justice. As I sat and reflected on what it means to hunger for justice I couldn’t help but immediately think of my family.  I am a first year seminarian, the mother of two, and a wife. My husband is African-American, so I’m sure you can imagine that I have a lot of thoughts and opinions on what it means to seek racial justice. What it means to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly.

Then I thought… no one wants to hear another sermon about racial justice… pick something else! Pick anything else, Ariel!!!  I immediately started running down the checklist of marginalized whom Christ called us to seek justice on behalf of in Matthew Chapter 25. Many are familiar with this passage… “35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

As I thought about who these people are in our society I thought of those who are in prison and realized that the vast majority of those imprisoned in our “justice” system are minorities. I thought of the homeless. According to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration nearly 60% of the homeless in the United States are minorities.  I thought of those who are hungry… according the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) 71% of participants were minorities… predominately women and children. I thought of those places in the world where there is no access to clean drinking water… Africa, Central and South America, Asia. Who inhabits these places?

Then it struck me… it doesn’t matter what form of justice I choose… racial inequality is ALWAYS a factor.

So back to plan A… racial justice, and why I hunger for it. My daughter is 8-years-old.  My son is 9.  As I follow some of the current movements going on in the United States and hear about people like Treyvon Martin, and Michael Brown, and Eric Garner and Tamir Rice; as I follow movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #ICan’tBreathe there’s a part of me that also can’t breathe. That lives in fear because that could be MY son. My husband and I don’t let our son play with toy guns unless they are some fluorescent bright Nerf thing that is CLEARLY a toy.  It is unfathomable to me that a 12-year-old child was killed because of a toy.  We don’t let our son wear his hood up on his sweatshirt jackets… it may not be a problem now, but when he is 16 who knows?  My beautiful, funny, kind, smart, articulate, incredible son could be in the wrong place at the wrong time and become a statistic.

Like any parent, I want the world for my children. I want them to be who God is calling them to be. I want them to grow and to develop their passions and interests and learn and to live. They will have to work harder for the same opportunities others receive, just because of their race.

I’m sure you are sitting here and thinking… wow… this depressing and in some respects it feels a little hopeless. When do we get to the whole grace and Jesus part? To be completely honest… This sat partially completed for about a week and half and I had NO CLUE how I was getting there. I just knew that this message is important.

Then last week my son came home with a writing assignment. He was to write a 150-250 word essay on What Freedom Means to His Family.  I posted a picture of this essay on Facebook and it is one of the most popular things I have every posted. It received 115 likes and 28 comments. For someone like me who is not a social media super-star, this is a lot of activity!  This is his first paragraph:10985308_10100658853644514_1507094474445309109_n

“What freedom means to my family is that my family gets to be a family. In some parts of the world people like blacks and whites cannot get married.  If my mom and dad did not get married, Izzy and I would not exist.”

Wow… out of the mouths of babes comes Good News!  I hope these words give you as much hope as they give me.  Because my children do exist. And they are beautiful, amazing, grace filled children of God. God created them to do justice, and to love mercy, and walk humbly in this world.  If a 9-year-old boy can so articulately address racial justice, then so can I.

I can do for the least of these just as Christ instructed me to. And so can you. I’m not going to give a laundry list of things to go out and do… you are all smart people and I’m sure you know what injustices in this world make it hard for you to breathe.  You know what form of justice you hunger for and you can determine how you are going to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly. The beautiful part of being The Body of Christ in the world is that we are all called to act differently and to show Christ’s love in many varies ways. I am called as a church leader, as the mother of two bi-racial children, and as the wife of an African-American to speak to racism and issues of racial justice. How are you called to act? To what are you called to speak out about? What issues squeeze your chest so tight that you feel as if you’re having an asthma attack?

Christ came into this world and addressed justice issues. He hungered for justice just as we do. And he died so that through his death and resurrection we all might receive new life. Through the sacrament of Holy Baptism we are drown and reborn into new people. Let us live into that new identity! Let us never forget our brothers and sisters who have less. Less resources, less privilege, less justice.  Let us never stop hungering for justice and always seek mercy and humility. 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 Devotions, Javaluia - VivaMoreCoffee, Lent

Family Lenten Devotion – Easter Sunday

EASTER SUNDAY:

Opening Prayer:

God of mercy, we no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for he is alive and has become the Lord of life. Increase in our minds and hearts the risen life we share with Christ, and help us to grow as your people toward the fullness of eternal life with you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Alleluia! Amen.

High’s & Low’s:

Share the best and worst parts of your day.

Yoga or Calming Breaths:

Consider lighting a scented candle to help with calming & relaxation. If your family needs to burn off a little energy to focus before beginning, consider performing the yoga stretches in Appendix B. If your family is relatively focused, then sit for a minute or so and breathe deeply and quietly.

Read (Lectio):

Luke 24: 1-12 OR  The Empty Tomb (Pg. 482 Spark Story Bible)

Think (Meditatio):

Think about what you just heard… talk a silent walk, sit quietly, or choose one of the relaxation yoga poses and reflect on the words… NOT THE MESSAGE!

Pray (Oratio): 

Pray in Color – Write down a word or phrase that struck you. Doodle & Color on the page until you feel it is complete. A template to help get you started is available in Appendix C.

Rest (Contemplatio):

Again, take a walk, sit quietly, or choose one of the relaxation yoga poses and reflect on the words and your prayer.

Share:

As a family, share your pictures and what words struck you.

Bless:

Remember that through your baptism Jesus’ resurrection is yours, know that God’s love overcomes sin and death, and rejoice that the Spirit of God is here to guide you now.

Posted in Devotions, Faith Formation, Lent

Family Lenten Devotion – Easter Vigil

EASTER VIGIL:

Opening Prayer:

O God, you are the creator of the world, the liberator of your people, and the wisdom of the earth. By the resurrection of your Son free us from our fears, restore us in your image, and ignite us with your light, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

High’s & Low’s:

Share the best and worst parts of your day.

Yoga or Calming Breaths:

Consider lighting a scented candle to help with calming & relaxation. If your family needs to burn off a little energy to focus before beginning, consider performing the yoga stretches in Appendix B. If your family is relatively focused, then sit for a minute or so and breathe deeply and quietly.

Read (Lectio):

John 20: 1-18 OR  The Empty Tomb (Pg. 482 Spark Story Bible)

Think (Meditatio):

Think about what you just heard… talk a silent walk, sit quietly, or choose one of the relaxation yoga poses and reflect on the words… NOT THE MESSAGE!

Pray (Oratio): 

Pray in Color – Write down a word or phrase that struck you. Doodle & Color on the page until you feel it is complete. A template to help get you started is available in Appendix C.

Rest (Contemplatio):

Again, take a walk, sit quietly, or choose one of the relaxation yoga poses and reflect on the words and your prayer.

Share:

As a family, share your pictures and what words struck you.

Bless:

Remember that through your baptism Jesus’ resurrection is yours, know that God’s love overcomes sin and death, and rejoice that the Spirit of God is here to guide you now.

Posted in Devotions, Faith Formation, Lent

Family Lenten Devotion – Good Friday

GOOD FRIDAY:

Opening Prayer:

Almighty God, look with loving mercy on your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, to be given over to the hands of sinners, and to suffer death on the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

High’s & Low’s:

Share the best and worst parts of your day.

Yoga or Calming Breaths:

Consider lighting a scented candle to help with calming & relaxation. If your family needs to burn off a little energy to focus before beginning, consider performing the yoga stretches in Appendix B. If your family is relatively focused, then sit for a minute or so and breathe deeply and quietly.

Read (Lectio):

John 18:1-19 OR  Jesus is Betrayed (Pg. 468 Spark Story Bible)

AND

John 19: 16b – 35 OR  The Day Jesus Died (Pg. 476 Spark Story Bible)

Think (Meditatio):

Think about what you just heard… talk a silent walk, sit quietly, or choose one of the relaxation yoga poses and reflect on the words… NOT THE MESSAGE!

Pray (Oratio): 

Pray in Color – Write down a word or phrase that struck you. Doodle & Color on the page until you feel it is complete. A template to help get you started is available in Appendix C.

Rest (Contemplatio):

Again, take a walk, sit quietly, or choose one of the relaxation yoga poses and reflect on the words and your prayer.

Share:

As a family, share your pictures and what words struck you.

Bless:

Through those around you and God within may you feel whole, though there’s darkness know that the light will shine in it, and may the peace of God help you overcome the turmoil of life.

Posted in Devotions, Faith Formation, Lent

Family Lenten Devotion – Maundy Thursday

MAUNDY THURSDAY:

Opening Prayer:

Eternal God, in the sharing of a meal your Son established a new covenant for all people, and in the washing of feet he showed us the dignity of service. Grant that by the power of your Holy Spirit these signs of our life in faith may speak again to our hearts, feed our spirits, and refresh our bodies, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

High’s & Low’s:

Share the best and worst parts of your day.

Yoga or Calming Breaths:

Consider lighting a scented candle to help with calming & relaxation. If your family needs to burn off a little energy to focus before beginning, consider performing the yoga stretches in Appendix B. If your family is relatively focused, then sit for a minute or so and breathe deeply and quietly.

Read (Lectio):

John 13: 1-17, 31b-35 OR  The Last Supper (Pg. 362 Spark Story Bible)

Think (Meditatio):

Think about what you just heard… talk a silent walk, sit quietly, or choose one of the relaxation yoga poses and reflect on the words… NOT THE MESSAGE!

Pray (Oratio): 

Pray in Color – Write down a word or phrase that struck you. Doodle & Color on the page until you feel it is complete. A template to help get you started is available in Appendix C.

Rest (Contemplatio):

Again, take a walk, sit quietly, or choose one of the relaxation yoga poses and reflect on the words and your prayer.

Share:

As a family, share your pictures and what words struck you.

Bless:

May the sacrifice of Jesus remind you of God’s love, may you have the strength to love others above yourself, and may you remember God’s promise that you are his.