Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Observing Lent and Easter in Year B (2015)

Though I posted “Observing Lent and Easter in Year B (2015) just after Christmas, I am reposting it today because Lent may just now be claiming the attention of some of you (Ash Wednesday is five weeks from today!) and because the article has already morphed.  First, there was the idea of following Jesus around the sanctuary or home during Lent.  Then as I worked on Transfiguration Sunday I found a collection of ideas about making “Listening to Jesus” a congregation wide Lenten discipline.  So, here is the updated version.
t   Lent and Easter are the most important seasons of the church year.  They are filled by important disciplines and high holy days that are story-focused.  They can be claimed and observed by children.  I am so committed to including children in the congregation’s observances of these seasons that I have written a book on the subject – Sharing the Easter Faith with Children.  Of course, you need to buy at least one copy!  It is filled with both insights into how children understand the stories of this season and practical suggestions for how to include them in the congregation’s observances.   The book includes:
·       information about what children understand about these stories at each age,

·       commentary on the Holy Week and Easter texts from a child’s point of view,

·       detailed plans for Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter services at which children are expected to be part of the congregation

·       study session plans for parents, teachers, and worship planners

·       an annotated bibliography of children’s literature related to Lent and Easter

Go to Observing Lent and Easter in Year A of this blog for a pithy summary of the thinking that underlies the book.

t   The Topical Index of this blog includes a growing list of posts related to Lent and Easter.  Rather than repost all this every year, I am giving you a list of the links.  Choose those that look most appropriate to your children and congregation.

Instead of suggesting one discipline for children and their families to pursue for six weeks (forever for children!), suggest a new discipline to try each week.  This is much less overwhelming to families for whom most of the disciplines will be new.

Ideas about making Lent visible to the children (and all worshipers) in the sanctuary

Highlight banning the word Alleluia for Lent by hiding a poster or banner bearing the word in the sanctuary at the beginning of Lent, then bringing it out to parade around singing some Alleluias on Easter.

Why children should be included in one service at which they often are not expected

Suggestions for helping families with young children observe Holy Week/Jesus Week at home or on the road.

How to “encourage” children and their families to participate in Holy Week Worship

Directions for making passports for children to stamp as they make their way through Holy Week worship.

"The Firebird Suite" An Easter Season DVD

Lenten Seasonal Themes Especially for Year B

This year there are several themes that might be followed throughout the season.  Some of them are unique to Year B.  Others might be followed in any of the lectionary years.

t   The Year B gospel readings for Lent include lots of cross references.  It would be a good year to explore the meaning of the cross, the main symbol of the Christian faith.  Gather all sorts of crosses (especially those in your sanctuary) to display and discuss.  This could be a children’s time series or be worked into the “real” sermon each week.  Look for detailed suggestions in the posts for each of the Sundays of Lent.  The overview is:

Ash Wednesday:
The ash cross on foreheads as a sign of our needing God’s forgiving love

Lent 1 (calling the fishing disciples):
Identify all the crosses in the sanctuary
Give cross trinkets to carry or post during Lent

Lent2 (Take up your cross and follow me):
The cross on communion ware (it is a communion Sunday)
Cross stickers to remind us to take up our cross and 
           follow Jesus
Cross jewelry and tattoos
Explore the difference in just wearing them and letting them shape us

Lent 3 (Jesus chases the money changers from the Temple):
Plain wood cross
Nail cross
Picture of crucifixion – to discuss what happened

Lent 4 (Jesus will be lifted up and draw the whole world to himself):
Central American people cross
Paper cross on which to write the names of all who Jesus loves

Lent 5 (“This is what I came for”):
Central American people cross
Biggest cross at the front of your sanctuary

Palm-Passion Sunday:
Palm crosses
Nail cross

Good Friday:
Nail cross

Empty cross for the resurrection

When I worked through this series the first time in 2012, I learned that there are several potential crosses for each Sunday depending on the theme the worship planners pursue, hence the multiple suggestions.  I suspect that as I work through them again other possibilities will surface.  Use them all as seeds for your thoughts. 

Obviously not ready for prime time art, but maybe a starter for someone who can get it there.
t   Looking at the Lenten texts for Year B in an overview way this year, another theme is emerging.  It would be possible to start with the Old Testament texts then connect them to the New Testament texts to create a Lenten series on discipleship.  Covenant or partnership is clearly part of each Old Testament reading.  Consider making a large banner or series of banners featuring the key word for the series and the symbol for each week.  Assign a Lenten discipline related to each text as homework for the week after it is read.  The rough outline at this point is:

Lent 1: The Rainbow Covenant (Noah’s rainbow)
We are called to be God’s partners in caring for the earth.

Lent 2: Covenant with Abraham and Sarah (a cluster of stars)
We are called to be members of one big family and to be a blessing to the world.

Lent 3: Covenant at Sinai (the Ten Commandments tablets)
            We are called to follow God’s rules.

Lent 4: God heals the people in the desert/Jesus is lifted up to heal 
             the nations  (Red Cross or a snake on a pole)
 We are called to be healed and to heal others.

Lent 5:  A Covenant Written on Our Hearts 
             (big red heart maybe with an open Bible on it)
God calls us to keep the Word in our hearts.

I suspect that this will morph as I (and you) work with it each week.  For now, it gives us all a starting place. 

t   In any year it would be possible to move a figure of Jesus around the sanctuary and add different props to it for each gospel lesson starting with Transfiguration Sunday and going through Easter.  I will be including specific suggestions for each week’s gospel for year B.  For details about finding or making the figure and an overview of its use this year, go to Following "Jesus" through Lent - Year B

t   At the Transfiguration God says to the disciples, “This is my Son, the Beloved.  Listen to him.”  Go to Year B - Transfiguration of the Lord and scroll down to LISTEN TO HIM for 3 plans for turning listening into a congregation wide Lenten discipline. 
1.     Listen to stories of Jesus – a bookmark of gospel stories to read at home as households.
2.     Listen to God - A challenge to pray together once each day during Lent
3.     Listen to the world – follow Jesus in listening for and responding to the needs of people in the world 

t   Challenge the congregation to pray in some way every day during Lent.  For some households this might mean praying before or after one meal each day.  Others might commit to bedtime prayers together.  Musicians might commit to a singing prayer each day or to learning a hymn prayer on their musical instrument.  To help individuals and households succeed at this, provide resources.  One resource is a classic twist pretzel reminder.  Look at these pretzels to see the upper torso with the arms folded across the chest and hands folded together in prayer.  Pretzels were actually a Middle Ages invention to serve as a Lenten prayer reminder.  Give each person or household a small bag of edible pretzels or a hardened clay pretzel made by one or more children’s classes.  Either serves as a reminder to keep the commitment to pray during Lent – and even afterwards. 

    One Holy Week Idea Just for the Children  

t   One way to draw children into Holy Week stories is to create a series of interactive stations.  Go to Wednesday Festival: Easter Outdoors for a description of a four-stop tour done in the church’s cemetery.  With Easter so early this year, an outside plan might be a bit risky for those of us further north.  But, walking through these stories in a cemetery is loaded with advantages.  It places the story in a public death place giving it reality.  It gives children a comfortable experience with cemeteries that may serve them well should they make a trip there for a frightening family funeral.  It even leaves behind children’s witnesses to the story for all who visit the cemetery in the following weeks.

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