Resource

Summer Slowing for the Soul

It’s already August, and if you are like me, you may be realizing that your summer has not included as much rest as you hoped it would when it first began. If this describes you, then the booklet Pastor Sandy Richter prepared for Savior’s summer silent retreat may be exactly what you need. Sandy provides us with spiritual exercises that help us move into the rest provided by a savior whose yoke is easy and burden is light.

Click here to access the retreat booklet.


Image credit: Elizabeth Wang, T-01406-OL, “God the Father greets with delight the briefest whisper of prayer and the briefest moment of our time. In the life of union, He can lift us high in contemplation,” copyright © Radiant Light 2006, www.radiantlight.org.uk

Help to Enter Holy Week

It’s intense and only once a year. What is going on?

For Christians, the most important week of the year is Holy Week—the name we give the final and ultimate week of Jesus’ earthly life.

We don’t so much study that week as enter it. The celebration of Holy Week began in the 4th century, as Christians in Jerusalem wanted to worship Christ in the exact places where he had been, to retrace his steps during those momentous events. Therefore, our worship during Holy Week is tactile, often primal—waving palm fronds, touching a wooden cross, lighting a candle, washing feet, dancing, ringing bells. (This is also why it’s a great week for kids. They often enter this worship better than we do.)

We celebrate Holy Week as one unified week, one giant wave rising and cresting and carrying us toward the shore. We aren’t used to thinking this way. Most folks I know grew up viewing Maundy Thursday as wholly optional, Good Friday as a funeral service, and Easter Vigil as that weird thing Anglicans do. Actually, those 3 services are 1 joint service. We don’t “end” the service after Thursday or Friday; there is no closing hymn, no recessional, no dismissal. We simply allow you a break to go home and sleep, then come back to continue in worship.

And now a few pastoral and practical words for each service:

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Liturgy of the Palms: Service of the Passion

As the service starts, we are the crowd along the road into Jerusalem, waving palm branches and singing to welcome Jesus as he enters Jerusalem as King. (Dress warmly, since this part of our service goes outside.) Back in the Sanctuary, we hear the Passion reading—the account of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. Now we are the crowd that turns against Jesus, shouting “Crucify him!” (Join in loudly at this part of the reading. If it feels jarring, that’s the idea.)

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Maundy Thursday

The word “maundy” comes from “mandate,” because on the Thursday night before he died, Jesus gave his followers a mandate: “Love each other just as much as I love you” (John 13:34). In this service, we are the disciples, and we see how much Jesus loves us: (1) He washes our feet (wear socks and shoes easy for you to remove); (2) He gives us his life in the Last Supper; (3) He prays in agony in Gethsemane until he can take on the suffering for our sake (you’re invited to stay and pray, as the disciples were invited by Jesus to pray with him.)

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Good Friday

Christians call this disastrous day in Jesus’ life—an event of government-sponsored torture and public execution—“good.” In what possible way could “Good Friday” be good? Because a greater plan was at work. Several times Jesus predicted that he would be betrayed, tortured, and killed (Luke 9:22; 9:44; and 18:31-33)—and, incredibly, this was part of God’s plan (Luke 22:22) and the reason Jesus came (John 12:27-28). Therefore, our worship is somber but not funereal. As Ellen Richard Vosburg has written, “This is not a somber recapitulation of Jesus' death, but rather a thankful and reverently joyful recollection of his death that gave us life.” On Good Friday, we are eyewitnesses of Jesus’ suffering and death. We hear and participate again in the Passion narrative. And we spend time in prayer at a wooden cross, taking in that God would love us enough to suffer this for us.

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The Great Vigil of Easter

In the early church, new believers could not receive the sacred mystery of Communion until they had been taught and trained. The final night of their training was the night before Easter. They would stay awake all night. At dawn, as the Easter sunrise began to light the sky, they would be baptized and put on white robes. That’s how the Easter Vigil began.

Like those early believers, we spend a long time in worship (so bring water and maybe a power bar). The service comes in 4 parts:

  1. Service of Light: a new fire is kindled, and from it the Paschal Candle (meaning Easter Candle) is lit, symbolizing Christ, the light of the world. We share in that light by lighting our own candles (When lighting candles, tip only the unlit candle).

  2. Service of Lessons: we hear how God saved his people in ages past and respond with songs and prayers. That culminates in the Acclamation that “Jesus is risen!” which is shouted and celebrated. (Bring a bell to ring!)

  3. Baptism: we baptize new believers and also renew our own baptismal vows (which includes the sprinkling of baptism water on the congregation, so if you wear glasses, you might want to remove those for that brief time).

  4. Communion: we celebrate the victory of Life over Death in this holy feast and continue the celebration with singing and dancing (wear comfortable shoes).

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Easter Sunday

Our joy continues with singing and Communion—this year, an Agape-style Communion around tables. And we share a leisurely brunch with one another, enjoying community and thanking God for all he has done among us during Holy Week. (You’ll be tired, so enjoy some coffee, and if you can, go home and take a nap.)

Thanks to Erik Peterson for the Holy Week graphics.


Kevin Miller was editor and vice-president at Christianity Today for 26 years and then associate rector at Church of the Resurrection for 5 years. He has been the rector at Savior since January 2017, and is also the co-founder of PreachingToday.com and CTPastors.com.

Kevin Miller was editor and vice-president at Christianity Today for 26 years and then associate rector at Church of the Resurrection for 5 years. He has been the rector at Savior since January 2017, and is also the co-founder of PreachingToday.com and CTPastors.com.

 
 

Not a Taskmaster: Turning to Jesus in our Lenten Discipline

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the traditional Lenten disciplines I grew up with. As a child in the Roman Catholic church, I vividly remember one Lent when I gave up candy. My grandmother made this amazing pecan brittle and one Sunday she offered it to me and my siblings. That candy was a rare treat but despite encouragement to enjoy it, since it was a “feast” day, I abstained. About a week after Lent, my grandmother paid me a visit and brought me a whole batch of that pecan brittle! I thought, “Wow! did that fasting stuff pay off!” 

Over the decades since, my experience with spiritual disciplines has matured and it has also become more challenging. Whether Lent is the first time you’ve taken up a spiritual discipline or you regularly engage in spiritual disciplines, you have probably experienced struggles, setbacks or have neglected your practice. This is normal though it is easy to be hard on ourselves when this happens. 

Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers says it takes 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” to become an expert. Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin says, “Extensive research in a wide range of fields shows that many people not only fail to become outstandingly good at what they do, no matter how many years they spend doing it, they frequently don’t even get any better than they were when they started.”

Even knowing this kind of information, I still feel the need to master my spiritual disciplines. The first memory I have of struggling in my discipline was at least ten years ago. I was discouraged, feeling guilty and anxious about how I was doing. In desperation, I turned to Jesus asking what I needed to do: “Should I spend more time, try to be more focused or fervent?”

Surprisingly, what I heard was “I am not a taskmaster.” Jesus didn’t instruct me on my activities or lack of them but on my wrong thinking about Him and who I had made Him out to be. He spoke into the core of my concerns, telling me that He was not judging me — Jesus is not standing over us and judging us as we practice our discipline. That critical voice is not His!

Recently, I sensed that the Lord was inviting me into a different discipline, one that gets me out of my comfort zone. I am to listen each day to know how I am to spend my time with Him. I have to pay attention and it could be different every day. For me, this is a challenge. Did I mention that I like routine? As I began this practice of listening, here is what I sensed the Lord saying to me that I wrote in my journal:

“I know this feels uncomfortable because it is new and not how you naturally go about things. It is like learning anything new. You will make mistakes or false starts. You will not be able to do it well or comfortably as you are learning this new rhythm. I am gentle and kind and do not judge or condemn you as you judge and condemn yourself. But, as a loving parent, I encourage and delight in your efforts and am ready to pick you up when you fall short. Try to think of this as a new adventure with Me, not something you have to get right but a path we can journey together.”

These are certainly not words I would say to myself. They are much too gracious and surprising. But this reflects the Lord’s gentle and gracious nature towards us.

In times of struggle, I have gotten to see and experience who God truly is. Rather than floundering in guilt, self-doubt or recrimination, we’ve been invited to turn our faces to Jesus, to let Him speak into our hearts, into the situation. To be reminded of the truth, “For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13).

Wherever you are with your Lenten disciplines, the Lord is right there ready to encourage you, pick you up or welcome you back. I love the story that Father Thomas Keating tells, when the nun who tried Centering Prayer for the first time says, “Oh, Father Thomas, I’m a failure at this prayer. In twenty minutes I’ve had ten thousand thoughts.” And he says, “How lovely – ten thousand opportunities to return to God.” May we also continue to return to God!


JoAnn McNeely has been a member of Savior with her husband, Steve, since 2008. She’s a spiritual director and artist; she serves on the intercessory prayer team and on the aesthetics team — and at Savior we enjoy her handiwork every week in the seasonal banners and many of the clergy vestments.

JoAnn McNeely has been a member of Savior with her husband, Steve, since 2008. She’s a spiritual director and artist; she serves on the intercessory prayer team and on the aesthetics team — and at Savior we enjoy her handiwork every week in the seasonal banners and many of the clergy vestments.

 
 

Prayer Requests for Holy Week

As Holy Week approaches, we invite you to use the following suggestions as you pray for our services and our community:

For our preparations

  • For all of us to enter our Lenten practice of communal lament

  • For Sandy Richter, our Holy Week coordinator, to have strength, health, and wisdom as she leads our planning

  • For Erin, our minister of music, and all our musicians to be drawn upward in worship as they prepare to lead us

  • For wisdom about how to handle any limits in parking or seating

  • For God’s Spirit to anoint and guide each preacher: Father Kevin on Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday; Mother Karen at the Easter Vigil; and Mother Linda on Maundy Thursday

For our people

  • For our children and youth to deeply experience the love of Jesus and the life of the church, and for Pastor Mary, Sarah Lindsay, and Ellen Vosburg to be strengthened to serve them.

  • For our members who are sick and suffering, and those who love them, to have grace to bear with these limitations and still meet the Lord

  • For people who are new to Savior or returning to church in general, to be gently opened by God’s Spirit to receive all God has for them

  • For at least one person to return to God

  • For the many who serve in hidden ways, that they will enjoy the smile of Christ

  • For God to lead us as a people through these services, giving us discernment about the people and places He would have us serve

  • For God to raise up people with gifts as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers who can lead a new Savior community when the time is right

For our worship:

  • For the Word of God to be proclaimed boldly and creatively through the Scripture readings in each service

  • For our prayers to be honest and Spirit-led, particularly during the Prayer Watch on Maundy Thursday and the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday

  • For people to have the grace to give freely, joyfully, without compulsion to the Good Friday gift, and for our gift to bless immigrants and refugees

  • For all the arts—music, drama, dance, banners, craftsmanship, and more—to be more fully released in our midst

  • For a deep taste of resurrection joy at the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday services; for heaven to come down during our worship at these services

Candles and Holy Water: Embodied Worship During Lent

In the non-liturgical tradition in which I grew up, we seldom thought about worshipping God with our bodies. We thought about theology and invited Jesus into our hearts as we emphasized the spiritual and intellectual aspects of faith, but we talked very little about what it meant to worship God in our physical bodies as we live in the material world.

Only when I discovered liturgical traditions did I encounter a form of worship that sought to engage the whole person, not just the mind and heart. The "smells and bells" that had baffled me as a child and young adult suddenly clicked into place as forms of worship that engaged our senses.

Kneeling in prayer, walking forward for communion, standing for the Gospel reading: all of these physical movements involve our bodies in worship. Our physical postures also reinforce our worship, as we stand to show respect, bow our heads to show contrition, shuffle along the pews with our neighbors as we commune with Christ as a body.

The colors of the vestments and altar cloths direct our minds to the seasons of the church year: purple for the fasts, white for the feasts, green for the growing time. We feel the bread in our hands as we receive the body of Christ, taste the sweet acidity of the wine. The water of baptism runs down our heads.

Without doubt, we learn about and experience God in intangible ways. But we also experience God through the material world and in our embodied existence, a reality towards which the motions of our liturgical worship point.

During this season of Lent, Savior makes available two different tangible ways to connect with God in worship: through the holy water in the baptismal font at the entry to the sanctuary and through the candle table available during the Eucharist.

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The baptismal font, filled with holy water, stands first as a reminder of our own baptism. Even in this season of Lent, when we remember our great need for a savior, we take comfort in our baptism, in knowing that we are Christ's own.

Additionally, the baptismal font at the entrance reminds us that Jesus was baptized by John immediately before he went out into the wilderness to fast for 40 days, during which time he experienced temptation. Like us, Jesus suffered and was tempted in the wilderness; like us, he could cling to the assurance of his baptism as he suffered hunger and temptation.

Perhaps simply seeing the font is enough to remind you that you belong to Christ and that Christ suffered like you and for you. Dipping your fingers in the cool water and making the sign of the cross, physically engaging your senses and your body, can also be a powerful reminder of the cleansing waters of baptism.

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Like the physical presence of the water, the candle table offers a tangible representation of our prayers. The light of the candles, flickering upward, can remind us that our prayers are ascending to God; the flame itself might remind us of the Holy Spirit, present with the people of God, or of the light of Christ.

However, no matter the tradition we grew up in, candles can feel a little strange, a little too ritualistic — as if we are catching God's attention through our actions. The candles we light are symbolic, but not magical. They are a physical representation of something spiritual, but they do not give our prayers special weight.

Lighting a candle for a prayer can be meaningful, but it is never necessary; do not feel obligated to light a candle if you are uncomfortable with the idea. But as you see the lit candles flickering on the table, your own or those of others, take a moment to prayer for the needs represented there. We all know that others in our community are praying for many things; as we see a physical reminder of those prayers, let it also remind us to pray for our community.

Lent is time to remember that we experience and worship God in our bodies as well as our minds and hearts. The ashes imposed on our foreheads at the start of Lent and the traditional spiritual discipline of Lenten fasting forces us to remember that we are embodied, we are dust.

Whether you engage with the candles or the water, Lent is a good opportunity to reflect on what it means to be embodied people whose Savior also became embodied with us, suffering as a human being for our sakes.


Sarah Lindsay currently serves as the Director of Communications and Coordinator of Children’s Ministry at Savior. Sarah has a background in teaching (English literature and writing) and she enjoys reading and writing. She has been an Anglican since she discovered liturgical worship in college; she and her family joined Savior in 2017.

Sarah Lindsay currently serves as the Director of Communications and Coordinator of Children’s Ministry at Savior. Sarah has a background in teaching (English literature and writing) and she enjoys reading and writing. She has been an Anglican since she discovered liturgical worship in college; she and her family joined Savior in 2017.