Monthly Archives: March 2013

[a different calendar] what EASTER means for us today

happy easter!!! the greatest feast day of the christian calendar! in addition to my personal liturgy & daily devotional routines, i am celebrating today by attending early mass at the catholic church down the road [can.not.wait!], worship at my home church [we make a bigger deal out of communion this particular sunday], & a huge lunch with shaun’s colleagues [one of my favorite traditions]. how are you celebrating the risen Christ today?

these thoughts from my book of liturgy challenged me to view easter not just as a day but, as it should be in the christian calendar, a season. i especially love how the authors reframe what our holidays are in terms of God’s kingdom calendar. i hope you are equally blessed by this!

excerpt from common prayer: a liturgy for ordinary radicals:

“As Paul said in the first century, our faith means little if Jesus isn’t risen from the dead. If Advent is our New Year’s and Pentecost is the church’s birthday, Easter is our Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Presidents’ Day all in one. This is when we remember Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, celebrate his victory over the powers of evil, and honor him as our true Commander in Chief.

“Holy Week begins with Jesus’ inaugural parade on Palm Sunday and takes us through the drama of his last week in Jerusalem. In many ways, this is the week that teaches us our rhythm for every week in God’s kingdom. It’s often called ‘passion week,’ because it’s full of suffering. (Passio is Latin for ‘suffering.’) This is one of the harder things to learn about following Jesus: his way to real life isn’t easy. In the end, it’ll get you killed. And most of us don’t want to die. (This is why we have to practice denying ourselves through forty days of Lent, fasting from stuff that we usually enjoy so we can learn to hunger and thirst for God’s kingdom.) . . .

“Resurrection is such a big deal that we don’t just take one day to celebrate it. Every Sunday is resurrection day. But we also set aside fifty days for the Easter season, putting aside our normal fasts and taking extra time to celebrate what God has done in our world. Forty days after Easter, we remember Jesus’ ascension, when he returned to heaven and told the disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit, so they might become his body in the world. The ascension seals the deal for the disciples. (Up to that point, some of them had headed back to their familiar world of fishing and life as usual.) For us it is a reminder that the resurrection isn’t just a miracle that happened two thousand years ago. It’s a way of life we practice. Pentecost ends the Easter season, reminding us that we don’t practice resurrection by our own strength, but have the Holy Spirit’s power among us as a community called church. Jesus’ story is now our story. And the next chapter begins today.”

[top 10] reasons to observe the religious calendar

10. any excuse to celebrate!
i have a friend who told me once that one reason she participated in the religious calendar was unabashedly because she loves to celebrate. that resonated with me as a lover of all things parties, & i have indeed enjoyed the preparations & celebrations thus far this year. [our purim feast is one great example.] i thrive on planning a party, inviting friends over, & sharing good conversation & laughter. the religious calendar has given me increased opportunities to do just this!

9. to experience something new
as a student of life, i believe one tenet to guide our “studies” must be the willingness to experience new things on a regular basis, even the proactive seeking of new things, & sometimes doing something new just for the sake of the experience & the story. experience enriches our lives, teaches us important lessons, gives us something to share with others, & helps us grow. when we shy away from a new experience, it is usually due to fear, fear of the unknown, & fear is the enemy of the student of life. we must not let our fears prevent us from living life to the fullest.

8. to learn more about our faith heritage
christianity has a two-thousand year history, & before that it is steeped in thousands of years of jewish history & practice. this is our heritage. to understand Christ’s teachings, i must understand the religious audience to whom He spoke & His own life as a jew. to understand the current state of the church in its various sects & traditions, i must know our history, too. in looking to our future, we must first know where we’ve been to understand where we are going. knowing our faith heritage will enrich our current faith walk.

7. to identify with global christian community
millions of christians worldwide observe the religious calendar. [the same is true of jews observing their religious calendar.] it creates a sense of solidarity among us collectively & within each of us individually when we know there are others all over the world saying the same words, praying the same prayers, reading the same scriptures, meditating on the same thoughts. we become unified by our focus. we become thoughtful of one another. we remember we are not alone.

6. to establish new corporate traditions
i could write a whole post on how my particular faith tradition could learn & grow from incorporating some of the practices used in other churches, at least on occasion. but i’ll suffice to say for now that we can all learn from one another, always. just as no individual is perfect, neither is any organization of individuals. every church has need to reflect, to reevaluate, to learn, & to change in some way to more live like the body of Christ.

5. to reevaluate secular holidays
this is something shane claiborne writes about regularly, & his thoughts have affected my own views. as citizens of the kingdom of God, we define freedom, value, sacrifice, leadership, power, & a host of other concepts radically differently from our surrounding culture. these new ways of thinking should also affect our living & celebrating. while there exists a memorial day, an independence day, & a presidents’ day particular to america, when/how to we celebrate ultimate sacrifice [Christ’s on the cross], true freedom [found in Christ], & authentic leadership & authority [Christ’s as King]? do we hail one kind of holiday as more important than the other kind? should we? what are our reasons & motivations? how should we as christians look different from this world? i wish i had more answers than questions, but it is very important to question & to think on these things.

4. to establish new holiday traditions
there are many holidays we celebrate that have both religious & secular histories & traditions. observing the religious calendar helps us review what secular practices are beneficial & fun, & which ones need to be done away with. observing the religious calendar also helps us learn about new beneficial & fun traditions that we can begin. for example, i have a friend who shared her how grandmother includes easter eggs within the normal egg hunt that contain slips of paper with scripture references written on them. once their family gathers back together, after the eggs have all be found, anyone with a scripture egg reads that passage aloud for everyone. there are hundreds of creative ideas for bringing our minds back to the purpose of these holidays — some are unique to specific families & some are common in various faith communities — & we can learn from them.

3. to enrich our personal faith practices
we have probably all been encouraged by various teachers to have a “quiet time” with God each day. but how that quiet time is shaped is unique to each person. for years, i filled it with just bible study from a bought workbook. bible study comes easier to me than any other faith practice. as i’ve grown older, i’ve tried to add in areas that i need desperately to grow in, like prayer. over the years, i’ve used various tools to help me learn how to pray — informative books on prayer, devotionals that lead you through prayer, prayer journals, prayer lists, prayer schedules. all have taught me something, even though not all have been useful to me in the long-term. and what works for me may not work for you. this year, i added a daily liturgy [common prayer for ordinary radicals] & have been tremendously blessed by the practice. observing the religious calendar has helped me expand my understanding of personal quiet time but also ways to practice my faith in the rhythms of every day life beyond that set-aside morning hour. and so i continue to grow towards Christ as my quiet time evolves & as my daily routine includes putting my faith into action, too. [discalimer: i am not as consistent as i would like to be in having my quiet time or going through the prayer liturgy every day, so please don’t be fooled by my speaking in general terms! still, God is faithfully growing me every time i do choose to spend with Him.]

2. to live by kingdom seasons & rhythms
i’ve written about this before in my post on marking my time by a different calendar, but shane claiborne says it better than i, & this portion deserves reposting:

every sturdy society has created its own calendar according to its own values. for some time now, western civilization has used the julian and gregorian calendars, which are influenced largely by the roman empire’s traditions… but if we in the church are going to take our citizenship in heaven seriously, we must reshape our minds by marking our calendars differently. we must remember the holidays of the biblical narrative rather than the festivals of the caesars… the church’s calendar weaves in and out of the world around us. it is not that we need a “christian” calendar because we want to separate ourselves from the “secular” world… the point is not to be sectarian or to try to put ourselves at odds with non-christians. the point is to keep God’s story at the center of our lives and calendar… without liturgical time, we can easily forget our eternal identity. we can get lost in the hustle and bustle of business and efficiency that shapes our culture and society. likewise, without the cosmic calendar, we can become so heaven-bound that we ignore the hells of the world around us. and the glorious goal we are headed toward is not just going up when we die but bringing God’s kingdom down — on earth as it is in heaven.

1. to become increasingly centered on God
this is mentioned in the quote above, so i won’t belabor the point. but this is ultimately the reason for observing the religious calendar because ultimately this is the purpose of our lives — to become ever more focused on God, growing closer to Him, becoming more like His Son, & being Him to a dying world.

words to LIVE by #6 — PALM SUNDAY edition

“Let us say to Christ: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel. Let us wave before him like palm branches the words inscribed above him on the cross. Let us show him honor, not with olive branches, but with the splendor of merciful deeds to one another. Let us spread the thoughts and desires of our hearts under his feet like garments, so that he may draw the whole of our being into himself and place the whole of his in us.”

— Andrew of Crete [8th c. martyr]
this quote reminds me that palm sunday is something i read about taking place in a foreign place & ancient times AND something i can live out in my world today. i can shout Hosana! Hosana in the highest! praising His name today & every day. i can honor Him as my King by living as He decrees i should, acting justly, loving mercy, & walking humbly by His side [micah 6:8]. i can honor my King by preparing the way for the Lord into me, into the church, into the world. i can honor my King by letting Him draw me to Him as He so longs to do. palm sunday is happening today as much as it was two thousand years ago. palm sunday is happening in me. 

readings for HOLY WEEK

as i participate in the lenten season, i have found myself increasingly excited about holy week. the anticipation is palpable. one practice i’ve wanted to incorporate into my experience of the week is reading through the passion week in the gospels. i looked several places to find a “reading plan.” and i never found one that was comprehensive, for lack of a better word. so, i did my own trek through the pages of my bible to figure out the passion week. hopefully, my list is decently accurate. i will be reading through all four gospel accounts this year, but in the future, i may just go through one writer’s accounts. i thought i would post it here for anyone else who would like to follow along, too. have a blessed holy week!

saturday:
>> matthew 26:6-13
>> mark 14:1-9
>> luke 7:36-50
>> john 12:1-11

palm sunday:
>> matthew 21:1-11
>> mark 11:1-11
>> luke 19:28-44
>> john 12:12-19

monday:
>> matthew 21:12-17
>> mark 11:12-19
>> luke 19:45-48
>> john 2:13-22

tuesday:
>> matthew 21:18-27
>> mark 11:20-33
>> luke 20:1-8
>> john 12:37-50

wednesday:
[nothing specific is recorded for this day, but these passages are appropriate.]
>> matthew 24
>> mark 13
>> luke 21:5-37

thursday:
>> matthew 26:17-75
>> mark 14:12-72
>> luke 22:7-65
>> john 13:1 – 18:27

good friday:
>> matthew 27:11-61
>> mark 15
>> luke 22:66 – 23:56
>> john 18:28 – 19:42

saturday:
>> matthew 27:62-66

easter sunday:
>> matthew 28
>> mark 16
>> luke 24
>> john 20:1 – 21:25

my march [top 10]

in case you’re interested, here’s a smattering of things that occupy my time right now, in the form of my favorite kind of list-making, a top 10 list.

10. books on my nightstand: 
>> show me the way by henri nouwen
>> my utmost for His highest by oswald chambers
>> eclipse by stephanie meyer
>> wizard’s first rule by terry goodkind

9. song stuck in my head:
>> “50 ways to say goodbye” by train

8. latest memory verse:
>> “don’t be afraid, for I am with you; don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you & help you; I will uphold you with My victorious right hand.” [isaiah 41:10]

7. can’t-do-without accessory:
>> my locket with my midday prayer inside

6. next party i’m planning:
>> a harry potter party for our teens [it’s gonna be epic! 13 hours of shopping in diagon alley, getting sorted into our houses, attending magic classes, playing quidditch, & competing for the house cup!]

5. must-see tv [or netflix]:
>> college basketball [go duke!]
>> psych, season 7

4. annual goal i’m most focused on:
>> reading 48 books this year [i’m trying to read 12 books in the first quarter, & i still have 5 to go before the end of the month!]

3. biggest news:
>> my little sister is getting married! i’m the matron of honor & her wedding coordinator, & i’m loving it.

2. what i’m saving money for:
>> shaun & i are traveling to greece for our 10th anniversary in may, so every spare cent is set aside for that. i cannot wait!!!

1. heavy on my heart:
>> people around the world who don’t have easy access to clean drinking water [join me in participating in 40 days of water with blood:water mission.]
>> my friend julien in haiti, struggling to continue his work with the church & to support several orphans without consistent monetary support
>> my prodigal girl

happy friday!