I've got one of my own kids home today and two of the neighbors' so I have don't my writing from the Lent devotional guide yet. I'm itching to do it, but I haven't had a moment to myself since I woke up at 6:00 a.m.. The neighbors head home in about 45 minutes and then my kiddo will have a rest time. I'll do it then. HOWEVER, I can do a Friday Five!
1. Did you celebrate Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday this year? Any memories of memorable celebrations past?
Our church did have a Pancake Supper on Tuesday. Last year was the first one in any recent memory. It was a fun time for the whole church family (and mine). We had pancakes and sausage, then went into the sanctuary where the worship band led a bunch of gospely/bluegrassy songs. It's particularly fun because they also throw in some good kid-friendly songs, and the kids spend the whole time dancing around at the front of the sanctuary without any parents having to worry about "reigning them in." No real memorable celebrations. I haven't done much with Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday in the past.
2. How about Ash Wednesday, past and/or present?
We did worship together on Ash Wednesday, and it was a blessing to many, I think. We did a stations based worship service so one of the benefits (for me) was the need for little preparation. I wrote about my Ash Wednesday qualms below. After those reflections and really in the actual moment of "ashing" folks, I gave myself permission to change up what I say as I do that. I really liked it. I did the usual "From dust you have come..." for some of the time. I did "You will always be with God" for the children. I also used "In life and in death you belong to God" for some based on the situation. We have an elderly man who has decided to live with his cancer as long as possible instead of treat it. I don't think the dust message was the one I was called to deliver to him. "In life and in death" though, that's a promise I could share when I looked into his eyes.
3. Does your denomination or congregation celebrate "this joyful season"? Any special emphases or practices to share?
More and more Presbyterian churches are "celebrating" Lent, but it's definitely church by church. I have emphasized it the 2 years I have been in solo ministry. As an associate pastor for 5 years before that, I mostly went with the flow of whatever the other pastor was emphasizing (I worked with 3 different ones in that time). The church did all the "holy days" of the season, but disciplines among individuals or as a congregation were pretty spotty.
This year I'm not feeling the major solemn atmosphere of the season. That and the lectionary was just heavy for me this time around. I was hearing the Spirit. Tomorrow as a congregation we have a planning session to begin to discern new direction and ministries to which God is calling us. The session already did a visioning session in the fall at which they wrote a parable for our church (an understanding of what our church would look like if all was going exactly as God intends for us) and identified three areas of ministry for which we are uniquely gifted. I'm only here for 4 Sundays in Lent (on vacation the week before Palm Sunday), so I'm going to preach about the visiong process itself on Sunday, the day after it took place, and then each of the next 3 Sundays I'll work with the 3 ministry themes. Since the session did it's visioning with an activity about parables, I chose 4 Lukan parables to be my texts for preaching during all of this.
So, it's not a "usual" Lent, but definitely still in the spirit of growth and introspection (albeit as a community) and moving foward as disciples of Christ. It will probably just be a little more positive and celebratory than many Lents can be. I'm OK with that.
4. Do you have a personal plan of give-ups, take-ons, special ministries, and/or a special focus for your own spiritual growth between now and Easter?
Well, I didn't really come up with a good give-up this time around. I am committing myself to devotional time each day. I am NOT good at keeping up with a dedicated routine or scheduled time for prayer and study, so with a resource I enjoy and the blog (and hopefully readers for encouragement) I hope this will help me grow into a more regular discipline that lasts beyond Lent.
5. What is your dream for the image of Christ coming to perfection in you, the church, the world? How can we support you in prayer?
I'll take this one as a multiple choice instead of answering all three! The church is on my mind because of our planning and discernment session tomorrow. I dream that we will join together to be of one mind about our ministry and united in purpose and calling. We aren't in a divisive place right now, but in a goal-less place. The active folks are activie in a gazillion different ways and the less active people don't know where to jump in or start their own things. Everyone feels pulled in too many directions by our commitments in LOTS of places in the community. Unity of spirit and purpose would be a LOVELY way to display the image of Christ! Feel free to pray for us tomorrow morning as we meet 9:30-12:30 central time (or any other time - I'm sure God can work all that out). The staff and leaders will stay on until 2:00 p.m.
Bonus: Song, prayer, picture, etc. that sums up your feelings about this liturgical springtime.
Well, this one doesn't really sum up my feelings about the season, but it's one of the Lent/Holy Week hymns that I love to hear the most. It's sort of out of character for me in one way (crucifixion hymn with lots of focus on the violence), but totally IN character for me as a spiritual. I'm pretty sure if I believed in reincarnation I was African-American in another life. The music just speaks to me like no other.