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Lent Lament

Lament is an important expression of prayer that every Christian should practice. There's a reason why lament occurs all throughout the Bible (Job, the children of Israel, David, the Prophets, Jesus Himself, and the New Testament Church). But the idea of lament goes against certain cultural demands in our day, like never showing signs of weakness and the pursuit of happiness. Most people, including Christians who don't understand the gift God has given us in the practice of lament, try to escape their pain and suffering by running away from it or drowning it with all kinds of sin.

My challenge to myself and followers of Jesus everywhere is to embrace the practice of lament, especially during this season of Lent. Pray through the Psalms of lament individually or with other believers. Lament to God on paper, which is always a liberating experience. Songwriters, for heaven's sake, write a song of lament instead of the same old cliches. Be true to your personality as a musician. Chances are you are meloncholy, and it's more natural for you to lament than do anything else. "Woe is me..."

Don't follow the backwards world that calls evil good and good evil. Lament is good. God laments. Just be sure that you are lamenting primarily to God and not to other people. It is sinful to bring your complaints to other people before you bring them to God, because in doing so you are putting your trust in men, let alone probably annoying the people you constantly complain to.

Above all, remember that lament ALWAYS leads to praise. Our God desires joy for His children, even in the midst of pain. In fact, the sooner you lament to Him your complaints, injustices, anxieties, etc., the sooner He will fill you with His joy and peace. I promise.

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'Tis the Season to Confess

As most of you know, Lent began last week. This year we offered three services on Ash Wednesday: 7:00am, Noon, and 6:00pm. We led our people through a modified Ash Wednesday Liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer (p. 264), adding a few songs and decentralizing the imposition of ashes. After the thirty-five minute service we offered ashes to anyone who desired to receive them and welcomed everyone to journey on the Way of the Cross. For me, the most powerful moment was during the Litany of Penitence when Andrew, our college pastor, led us in the following series of confessions:

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the
pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation
of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those
more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and
our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to
commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.

Every Wednesday during Lent, at 7:00am, Noon, and 6:00pm, we are holding Lenten Prayer Services. The idea is to re-focus our hearts on the purposes of the season: repentance and preparation for the highest point in the life of the church - the death and resurrection of Jesus. What we did yesterday during each of these times was go through a Psalm of lament. At 7:00, we prayed through Psalm 3, pausing after every two verses, reflecting, and praying whatever the Lord put on our hearts. We did the same thing at Noon, only we prayed through Psalm 4. And at 6:00pm the group prayed through Psalm 5.

The Noon prayer gathering was particularly powerful for me, as about twelve of us prayed through Psalm 4. There was a moment when we paused after verse 4, "Search your hearts and be silent," that we spent a minute in silence, asking God to search our hearts. He began exposing individual sins, and after the minute several people, one by one, began confessing their sins of laziness, fear, desire for other things before God, and many others. I reminded the group that God tells us to confess our sins to one another, and that if we do confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us and to purify us from all unrighteousness. This was an incredibly freeing moment for me and I do believe for many others.

'Tis the season to openly confess your sins.

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Worship Banners

I hope you all have been having a splendabulous Epiphany Season. We have been working hard for the last month on the banners you see above. We will be incorporating them into our Sunday worship beginning this Sunday. They will be strategically hung on the perimeter walls of our worship space as stations for our people to visit during our time of worship response after the Word and during Communion. Eucharist literally means "thanksgiving," and so each of these banners represents an opportunity for us to actively give thanks to God for who He is and what He has done. We're not introducing anything new with the launching of these worship stations, we're just giving our people visible and textual (Scriptural) representations of what they already do. Hopefully, God's Word and the enhanced look of our worship space will encourage even greater participation by our people.

Notice that the hands images on three of the banners come up from the bottom of the banner, representing the acts of worship we offer to God: Offering, Prayer, and Song. The Sacrament of Communion is a different activity, representing the greatest of actions, namely the act of God giving Himself to us as a Sacrifice for our sins. The hands on the Communion banner come down from above, because Communion represents God's gift to us. That just tickles me.

Under each of the Offering banners will be offering boxes for people to give during the time of response. (We already have "Worship in Giving" banners there, but we're replacing them with the new ones.) Under each of the Prayer banners will be prayer ministers who can pray with anyone during that time. Under each of the Communion banners will be communion tables with the elements for people to take. In addition to those tables we will have tables around the jet stage (we seat in the half-round with the preacher in the center of the people), and servers will hold the trays with juice cups and crackers, looking into the eyes of each worshiper who comes forward, speaking, "The body and blood of Christ, broken and shed for you." The Song banners will hang on each side of the stage and at two rear perimeter spots. Anyone who comes in will know immediately what we do in this room when we gather for worship.

If any of you would like the PDF files for the banners, I'd be happy to give them to you. Ours will be two feet by five feet.

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