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Why Advent? 2

In my last post we took a brief look at Mark D. Roberts' e-book Discovering Advent, in which he suggests that Advent helps us grow in faith and align with Christ.  In this post we're going to take a look at an excellent article by Debra Dean Murphy entitled "The Advent We Hope For: A Modest Proposal."  I recommend reading the article for yourself, but I will offer a few of my own reflections here.

First, I feel I should confess that I myself have failed to properly observe this Advent season.  I am almost already sick of Christmas, having prematurely immersed myself in Christmas festivity.  I'm sure it has something to do with all the Christmas music I've been singing and listening to these past couple weeks, along with all the Christmas movies we've been watching and introducing to our kids.  And it doesn't help that just about all of our gift-exchanging that has already taken place, having given in to the pull to make sure everyone gets their Christmas cards and gifts before Christmas Day.  We've already held our worship ministry party, participated in three carol sings, and "done Christmas" with my side of the family.
Why is it so hard for most...to really embrace this season fully? We give it a wink and a nod, observing a kind of pseudo-Advent even as our Christmas celebrations—ecclesial, civic, and familial—are in full-swing.
Like Debra Dean Murphy, though, I refuse to beat myself up over this. In fact, failure might just be what I need to enter more fully into what the season calls for. She goes on to suggest that despite our giving in to the pressure the culture puts on us to half-heartedly enter into Advent, many Protestants actually desire to be led more fully into all that the season calls for.
Most people in the pews are up for the challenge—the mystery, the drama, the strange satisfactions—of Advent. ...In my experience, lay people are interested in church history and liturgical practice. ...They sense the poverty of worship when so much of it mimics the banal culture around them. They long for beauty. They’re game for change. ...Our jumping the gun on Christmas...is regrettable not so much because it violates a hard and fast rule regarding liturgical propriety but because it robs us of the gift of inhabiting fully a season of deep and necessary paradox—a lack in the life of faith that many church-goers feel keenly.
After talking a bit about the necessary and often overlooked Advent themes of judgment and hope, Debra makes three suggestions for helping us recover (or discover) this season in all its fullness. I was particularly convicted by her third suggestion, which has since helped me to loosen up and take more of a lighthearted approach to leading our church in Advent worship.
1. We can’t talk about Advent only in Advent. Habituating worshipers to the rhythms of the church calendar requires a year-long (years-long) attentiveness, regular reminders that we occupy time differently, ongoing catechesis about the patterns and practices that shape Christian identity. This truth can be taught in a variety of ways (studies, sermons, and all the rest), even as worshipers embody its reality Sunday after Sunday. But it’s not absorbed by osmosis; intentionality is key. 
2. Make changes slowly but resolutely. Decide long before Advent (and invite congregational reflection on) what the shape of the season will be. Maybe you’ll resolve to learn the Advent hymns you never sing; maybe you’ll organize a December study that goes deep into the Advent lections. Hopefully blowout Christmas celebrations will be saved for the twelve-day-long Christmas season. 
3. Maintain a sense of humor. There really is nothing quite so obnoxious as a know-it-all who insists on liturgical correctness at the expense of harmony and goodwill. The journey out of our cultural accommodations in Christian worship is an arduous trek that takes time (see suggestion number two); not being so hard on ourselves can lighten the load and bring others along.

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Why Advent? 1

I've been thinking a lot about why I am so drawn to the season of Advent. Is it because it's so fresh to me, having not observed it for the first twenty-five years of my life? Is it because it's the trendy "Ancient-Future" thing to do? Is it because I'm super mellow, which fits nicely with the mood of the season? Is it even necessary at all?

Instead of taking the time to write a dissertation of my own defending Advent, I'd like to share a couple resources I have recently come across that have helped me identify and articulate why this season is so important to me. I'll do this in two separate blogposts.

The first is a short, very accessible e-book written by Mark D. Roberts, entitled Discovering Advent. In the book he talks about how he wasn't always a lover of Advent, but grew to love it. Just before spending the last half of the book laying our some practical guidelines for observing Advent, he hits on one of the most common responses he (and I) get when we talk about our intentional practice of Advent: "But Is Advent Biblical?"

He begins the chapter by saying,
In fact, you can't turn to a place in the Bible and find specific teaching on Advent or a command to set aside the days prior to Christmas as a season of waiting, hoping, and yearning. Of course, you can't find in Scripture any instruction on celebrating Christmas or Easter either. ...Some Christians believe we should only use in our worship and devotion that which is specifically commanded in Scripture. This eliminates not just Advent, but the other popular Christian holidays as well.
He goes on to say,
I believe that we are free in Christ to do many things that are not specifically taught or modeled in Scripture. ...Yet, I do want to live my life in a way that is consistent with biblical teaching. Is Advent biblical in this broader sense? Could the observance of Advent help you and me grow in faith in a way that aligns with biblical revelation? (my emphases)
This last question, to which I answer with a resounding YES, is why we are leading our church into an intentional observance of Advent, both in our corporate worship and in our homes. Growth in faith and alignment with Christ aren't things that naturally happen in our lives without order and effort. We observe Advent (and the rest of the Christian Year) because it aligns us with the story of Jesus. It provides a framework for us to draw near to God, where we can be transformed. Otherwise, who are we drawing near to? What are we orienting our lives around this season? We can't not be giving ourselves over to something. We are always spending our time and directing our desires toward something or someone.

Mark Roberts then walks us through several passages of Scripture that call us into practices and postures associated with the great themes of Advent: waiting and preparing for the coming of the Messiah. We do the things we do during Advent, focus on the things we do, because the Scriptures lead us in this way, and because it makes sense to us (and to the early believers who began our Advent practices) to do so during this time of year.
So, though it's correct to say that Advent itself is not taught in Scripture, and therefore Christians are free to observe it or not, it is equally correct to say that the emphases of Advent are thoroughly biblical. If the traditions of Advent help us focus more on the Lord, get in touch with our need for him, replenish our hope, and celebrate Christmas with greater meaning and depth, then I'm all [for] it.
How does intentionally observing Advent help you, your family, your church grow in faith and align with Christ during this time of year? What kind of resistance to Advent do you experience in your own heart or in your conversations with other Christians?

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Merry Christmas. Good Night.

Advent Shalom! Some good friends of ours just compiled an EP of new Christmas songs, including fresh recordings of "Glory in the Heights" by Yours truly and "Repeat the Wondrous Story" by Sean Carter. It's FREE through Noisetrade if you invite five friends. You probably know how it works. Thanks and enjoy!


Here is the link to the EP on Noisetrade in case you can't see the widget above.

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The D's of Ancient Future Worship

I just returned home from a wonderful time at the Wild Pear gathering of artists in Franklin, TN. While there I had the privilege of sharing a few of my reflections--a Wild Pear Bite--on "Why Ancient Future Worship Is Necessary." Of course I felt as though I was merely a vessel through which Bob Webber himself spoke to the group of thirty-five or so passionate artists and worship thinkers. I can only hope I did him justice. If I sounded like a heretic, then I succeeded.

Briefly, Ancient Future Worship (AFW) is proclaiming, enacting, and singing God's story. We find ourselves in God's cosmic narrative--creation, incarnation, re-creation. AFW centers us in the truth of Gods Story, a Person who descends to us, not an idea to which we ascend. AFW centers us in the present time, calling us into a participation NOW in the past death and resurrection of Christ, and calling us into a participation NOW in the future restoration of all things in Christ. AFW trains us in real life rhythms, spiritually transforming us right where we are, and ushering us into an everyday lifestyle of God-worship.

I could write a book fleshing out the above paragraph (or you can read anything Bob Webber wrote throughout his career, especially his five-book Ancient Future series), but instead I'd like to share something that the Holy Spirit orchestrated quite beautifully during the weeks leading up to Wild Pear and during the minutes leading up to my talk. Here are the D's of Ancient Future Worship--a list of words that describe some of my own struggles in leading this kind of worship. Ancient Future Worship is:
  • disciple-oriented, not seeker-oriented
  • dynamic, not static
  • directed, not produced or programmed
  • different (radically), not like this world
  • demanding, not supplying
  • dialogical, not a one-sided conversation
  • dirty, not pristine
  • declarative, not explicative
  • daily, not once-a-week
  • denial of self, not self-help
  • deep, not superficial
  • dinner-centered, not sermon or song
  • doxological, not self-serving
  • devoted (single-heartedly), not double-minded
  • disciplined, not effortless
  • determined, not lazy or passive
  • disruptive, not flawless
  • discerning, not flaky
  • difficult, not cozy and comfortable
  • down-to-earth, not abstract
  • discussion, not study
  • deliberate, not trendy
  • desired, not obligated
  • dangerous, not "safe for the whole family"
Worship is a messy thing. Anytime people work together, which is the definition of worship (leitourgia), we can expect imperfection, conflict, and messiness. If none of this is present in our worship, we're probably doing something wrong. If we're trying super hard to avoid this in our worship, we might want to rethink what worship is for. We design our worship for disciples, which means we must design it for broken people who are serious about offering themselves to God. I believe Ancient Future Worship is necessary to lead us in this path of faithful worship.

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Bringing the Lord's Prayer Down to Earth

Over the past couple of months I have been teaching my kids the Lord's Prayer. It's amazing how fast they pick these kinds of things up. They've already got "The Doxology" down, as well as the first verse to "Be Thou My Vision" (the most requested bedtime song these days) and "Bless Us, O Lord" (the mealtime prayer). And even though they have no idea what some of the words mean, I do believe their hearts are being shaped by the practice. I know mine certainly is.

I have to admit that up to this point praying the Lord's Prayer has not been a regular practice in my life. I have given mental assent to it, studied its contents, and recited it in corporate worship on occasion, but it has never blossomed in my heart like it has recently, especially this past week.

I would venture to say that the Lord's Prayer for most of us is an abstract, in-the-clouds sort of prayer. Many of the words that make up the prayer--like heaven, kingdom, sin, and forgive--have been so churchified that they've lost any and all sensibleness and relatedness to our everyday lives. This cannot be what Jesus had in mind when teaching his disciples how to pray. To those first followers of Jesus this prayer was as down-to-earth as was his physical presence; these words were as basic as the language of two and four-year-olds.

This is what the Lord has taught me in teaching his prayer to my children.

Ow Foddo en evan, ho-yee is yo name

Our Daddy is with us. We are his little ones. He loves to gently scratch our back, kiss our face, and sing us a bedtime song. He holds the world in his hand, but all the power in the universe would be worth nothing to him if he didn't have an intimate relationship with us. We who have been touched by our Daddy cannot help but love him with every fiber of our being. We cling to him and depend on him and look up to him in every way. He is the most important person in the world to us.

Hear, O children, Daddy is your one and only love. Nothing and no one compares. Love him with your entire life--in your gut, in your thoughts, in your feelings, in whatever your body is doing--and love each other in this way, too.

Yo gingdom gum, oh wiyo be dumb en oaf as im evan

Our Daddy is actively involved in the lives of his children and in all creation. If our life is all about loving our Daddy, we watch him as he works and listen to him when he speaks. We follow his instructions and join him in his building project--the world's largest restoration project. It's nowhere near complete, but we've never seen something so beautiful. More and more people are helping, too. In every vocation and every place on earth, we are working with our Daddy to make all things new.

The most beautiful part of this project is the growing bond of love between Daddy and his children and the growing network of love between us kids. The more days we spend resting and working with Daddy and listening to his voice, the more we love him; and the more time his children spend alongside each other, the more we grow in our love for one another.

G'busta bay ow dayee bed

Daddy feeds us. As children, we don't think about where our food comes from, we simply trust our Daddy that it will be there. We take it for granted, and that's okay, because he's the one who freely grants it. We smell the bread even before we see it. We take it with our hands and eat it. The crunch enters our ears as the bread works its way into our blood.

The multiple-times-daily act of eating is one of the most physical and mundane things we do as humans. We don't have to look outside of our normal life rhythms to find Daddy. When we eat we are giving thanks to him for his provision and nearness to us. It is always a communion. We are never alone.

Fogib ow sins us we fogib ow dead-os

There are times when we do not care to join in our Daddy's building project. We refuse to see what he's working on or hear his plan for the day. We see taller buildings going up and better food being served, so we go taste and see. This takes us out of loving relationship with our Daddy and one another. It turns all our affections in on ourselves. Our actions may not be heinous and overt, but especially our small actions and negligences, our "harmless" words and imaginations, keep us from Daddy's love.

When we lose sight of Daddy's restoration project, we are looking out only for ourselves, and suddenly everyone is against us. We become victims of everyone else's offenses. In this lonely, selfish posture, we are unable to receive and give love. Instead of loving our brothers and sisters, we hold grudges against them. This is what we need to be relieved of. Our Daddy relieves us of this miserable way of life, and realigns us with the first three parts of his prayer, where we thrive in loving, resting/working/eating relationship with himself and with one another.

If anything, sin is what takes us out of our natural, down-to-earth element. Sin is living in the clouds of fantasy. The forgiveness of sins is not about praying a prayer so that one day we can escape from our evil, fleshy bodies. The forgiveness of sins is about perfecting our humanity, restoring the Daddy-child relationship and our relationships with one another. It's about resting in Daddy's love, joining in his work to restore the world, and enjoying communion with him and all his children.

An leab a snot indo demdation, budelibo us fum evo

If we are truly living out the prayer up to this point, we're REALLY going to need this last part. Living in loving, resting/working/eating relationship with Daddy and one another means we will be spending most of our time physically present among messy people in messy places. One of the most prevalent places in this world where Daddy's children are lured to participate in evil activity is the church. Here we find some of the most judgmental, self-righteous people on earth. It is easy to get sucked up into this miserable way of life. That's why he teaches us to pray this prayer.

As Daddy's children we are led into our neighborhoods, workplaces, and markets, where all kinds of self-seeking activity is going on. If we are going to overcome evil, we must be attentive to what our Daddy is saying and doing, we must join him in his building project, and we must do it together.

Overcoming evil at times will involve fleeing from it, but real deliverance is about making evil things good things. We may be tempted to rid the world of evil people, but Daddy is interested in taking the evil out of the people, not taking the people out of the evil. If we do not have a vision for restoration, and instead think the goal is to be delivered from our evil bodies and this evil world, the Lord's Prayer doesn't make sense.

I do not care to comment on the rest of the prayer (the part Jesus didn't teach us to pray :). I do hope you see how everything in this prayer is down-to-earth and is meant to help us sensibly relate to our Daddy, to see what he is up to in our everyday lives, and to respond accordingly.

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Order of Worship

Check out this post from the Internet Monk, The Order of Christian Worship. In it Chaplain Mike recounts his own experience of the two (and a half) predominant Christian worship structures:

Speaking broadly, the traditional liturgical pattern is designed for worship, the revivalist pattern for bringing people to a place of decision.

In the churches that have more of a teaching style, the revivalist/teaching pattern functions primarily to instruct and equip Christians through Biblical knowledge. The decisional aspect is not as immediate. Life change is encouraged through applying the Word.

Here are some more excerpts. Would love to know what you think.

I became convinced long ago…

  • That Christian worship follows a certain order.
  • That this order has been proven sound and salutary through the church’s history.
  • That the main parts of this order involve Christians meeting around (1) the Word, and (2) the Table (and Baptism on occasions when it is practiced).
  • That the purpose of these two main parts is to lead us to Christ through the retelling of the Gospel.
  • That the subsidiary parts lead to and from the main parts: (1) Gathering, and (2) Sending.
  • That whatever elements are practiced in worship should serve the liturgy (music, prayers, testimonies, readings, drama, etc.) by enabling the congregation to prepare for or respond to the revelation of Christ in Word and Table.
I became more and more dissatisfied with the revivalist/teaching pattern of church service primarily because I found it did not assist me in truly worshiping God. It did not lead me into Gospel realities week after week. It focused too much on specific instruction or areas of decision that did not always include the entire congregation. It did not enable me to feel that I was part of the communion of saints gathered around the throne. There may have been a “praise” portion of the service, but as a whole it did not seem to me that the service was centered on Christ and what he has done for us, but rather it was mainly about learning or making decisions about what I should be doing for Christ.
But some of you are probably saying, why do we have to talk about an “order” for worship at all? Aren’t we just called to come to church and worship God? Can’t we just gather and worship from our hearts?

No.

Every meeting has an order. No congregation that I know of is truly and absolutely spontaneous when they meet together. Everyone has a “liturgy,” a pattern of what we do when we gather. (Surprisingly, you might discover that the “non-liturgical” churches are stricter in their patterns and less “free” in their worship than many “liturgical” congregations!) This order is simple and centered on the Gospel. It provides the basic form in which we can freely worship God through our Lord Jesus Christ in the fullness of the Spirit.

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Worship Trains

My son loves choo-choo trains. We live a block away from some busy freight tracks. It's a "no horn" town, but occasionally a train blows it. And when it does, no matter how faint the sound, my son's magic ears pick it up, thanks to the tubes. He jolts to attention with a gasp, locates the eyes of either mommy or daddy, and squeaks, "CHOO-choo!" Then, temporarily abandoning his Thomas wooden starter kit or his Thomas DVD he runs to the bay window in his Thomas PJs. Sometimes I think he has magic eyes, too, x-raying our neighborhood, dense with old maples and even older homes, to see the trains go by. You can't see the trains from our house. Only he can. Choo-choo trains have ka-chugged deep into my son's heart and imagination.

How did my son come to love trains so much? Well, if there's one thing he spends more of his time doing than anything else it's playing, watching, imagining, no doubt dreaming, and even creating trains (any two objects adjacent to one another form a choo-choo). Train activity has trained him to love trains. Choo-choos are a huge part of his life, at least at this junction. :)

What's in your heart? What makes up your daily activity, and why? I recently listened to this talk, "Developing a Philosophy of Worship," given by David Fitch to a group of missional church planters. The whole thing is great, but one thing in particular really stood out to me. Fitch says (from my notes),

The Sunday worship gathering shall be part of life rhythm. Liturgy is rhythm. What you do together is what you do in the rest of your life. Everybody has a liturgy, a rhythm to what they do on Sunday morning. It should be no different than what Christians do in their everyday lives.
He then breaks down what a typical Sunday worship gathering looks like at Life on the Vine, the church he co-pastors, and goes on to talk about how "every element trains you to do everyday activity in your life."
  • Gathering trains us to be physically present in the lives of each other.
  • The Practice of the Peace trains us to share the peace of Christ with everyone in our life.
  • Silence trains us to make space to hear from God in our life.
  • The Sending of Children trains us to send out our kids with a blessing.
  • Readings train us to submit to Scripture every day -- to listen, submit, and see our world through Scripture.
  • Art trains us to find the beauty of the Lord in all of creation.
  • Confession trains us to confess our sins one to another everyday.
  • Creeds train us to pledge our allegiance to Jesus Christ and to no other worldly person or power.
  • The Lord's Prayer trains us to pray like Jesus taught us to pray.
  • The Proclamation of the Word trains us to submit to the declared reality of Jesus as Lord of our life.
  • Prayers train us to intercede and to uphold one another in prayer throughout our days.
  • Eucharist trains us to give thanks and fellowship with one another at every meal and other mundane activities.
  • Songs of thanksgiving and praise train us to constantly give thanks and praise to God throughout our days.
  • Benediction trains us to receive the blessing of Christ and to bless others in our life.
Why is it so profound to me? Why did I care to bullet point every single one of these worship elements? Maybe it's because I'm struck by how every single one of them touches a part of my everyday life, at least the worthwhile things I spend my time doing. These elements of gathered worship really aren't all that different from normal, everyday life activities, are they?

Worship is a formative encounter, or worship that shapes a people into life with God and mission. Worship is spiritual formation. We are coming together to encounter his presence, to be shaped into his life, to submit to this, and to be sent out...Worship teaches us how to respond to what God is saying/doing in our life.
What do you think? Does worship train? If we approached worship in this way, what might we change about our worship gatherings and the kinds of activities we lead our people in?

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Noelle Joy


Noelle Joy Flanigan
Born April 30, 2011 at 6:25pm
Weighing 7lb 5oz

Welcome to our world, Noelle. You embody the Joy we have in Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. The God of the universe became a little baby, just like you. He is not far away, he is near, closer even than the skin on your little bones. He loves you so much that he gave up his precious life for you. And he rose again and lives so that you can live with him forever. This is the story of Easter, the season of your birth. Without Noel there is no Easter.

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord;
That hath made Heaven and earth of naught,
And with His blood mankind hath bought.

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.

In case you know the Flanigans and the names of our kids, Lily and Liam, we couldn't really think of another L name we liked, so we chose "No-L" :)

Actually, Liam is William, so the only pattern we're breaking is the pattern of May birthdays. Oh-L :)

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Moving from Theatrical to Liturgical: Step 1

In a previous post I suggested that the opposite of liturgical is not free church or non-structured, but theatrical. Any kind of church can be liturgical, in that liturgy literally means "the work or service of the people." But most of the contemporary church has slid into theatre mode, with the paid pastors doing the "work," while the audience watches.

In this post [and one or two that follow] I'd like to put some flesh on what it might look like for a contemporary church to move from theatrical to liturgical. [I originally planned to include several practical ideas in this post, but the first one turned out quite long, so I'm breaking it up.]

Centralize Christ
First of all, foundational to this call is putting Jesus Christ back in the center of worship. He is the ultimate Liturgist, without whom we cannot worship God. It is HIS liturgical action that leads us into our Spiritual worship. But in the contemporary church that has accommodated consumers, the centerpiece of our worship has become a teacher/pastor along with a rock band or other elevated showpiece. The person and work of Christ has been moved to the periphery.

Now, if you ask most contemporary church leaders what is the center of their worship, of course they will say Jesus. But the problem is our words and space are communicating otherwise. We must do more than merely acknowledge behind the scenes the person and work of Christ. Christ must be the verbal and visual focal point of our worship. "I preach Christ and him crucified." Well, do we, or have we substituted Christ with an inferior message? "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church." Do our places of worship reflect this eternal truth, or have we replaced "the image of the invisible God" with inferior images?

I'm not an expert on preaching, so I'll leave the recovery of unabashed Christ proclamation to more qualified bloggers (read this, for example). I do have a couple ideas concerning re-centralizing Christ in our worship spaces, though. One thing we could do (something that Robert Webber advocated and others seem to point to, like Soren Kierkegaard and this guy), would involve abandoning the front-to-back orientation in favor of a round orientation with a prominent symbol of the person and work of Christ in the center around which everyone gathers. What this allows for, in addition to Christ physically being in the center, is people looking at each other as they worship, thus encouraging us towards communal participation and away from individualism. We are forced, in a sense, by our space to consider one another, maybe even to prefer one another over ourselves, seeing each others physical expressions of praise or grief. We might even be moved by the sight of our our sisters and brothers in worship to bear their burden with them in that moment or be encouraged to rejoice with them. Worship in the round puts flesh on the presence of Christ among us and can remove from us the temptation to worship God in abstract, detached ways.

I understand that most contemporary church buildings were built to accommodate the stage-play, front-to-back orientation, so you might be thinking, "Yeah, great idea, but impossible. What are we supposed to do with our permanent stage, our rectangular room, our pews?" If going round is out of the question, there are other ways you can centralize Christ. I might suggest de-centralizing the band, maybe even bringing the band down to the same level as the rest of the people. If Christ, then, replaces our former place of prominence, this move would silently speak volumes and subconsciously form people into participants. It would also open up a whole lot of room on the platform for art and symbol, giving more people opportunity to bring their gifts and contribute towards becoming a fully-functioning body. This gives room for Christ truly be the head of the church, leading us in worship. We, the elevated centerpieces, must dethrone ourselves so that Christ can be exalted and freely work in the hearts of all people.

Are we willing to do this? How might this look in your context?

Other steps we can take moving from theatrical to liturgical (which I plan to write about later) include 2) changing our language from theatrical to liturgical (e.g., is it a "stage" or a "platform," is it an "auditorium" or a "sanctuary"?) and 3) bringing the liturgy into our homes and daily lives (the work of the people never ends).

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Biblical Way of the Cross: Closing Prayer

The Resurrection
Jesus Appears to His Disciples


Take 1 or 2 minutes of silence.


Slowly read aloud this passage of Scripture:

That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” (John 20:19-21 NLT)

Kneel or simply open your hands and pray:

Jesus, with joy we view your victorious wounds, help us to meditate on them and to see in them the sign of victory. May they give us courage to go forth with your blessing.

O Jesus, bless us with your outstretched hands. Give us your peace, give us your love. We love you, Jesus; be with us as we go out to do the will of God in our lives.

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Biblical Way of the Cross: Station 14


The Fourteenth Station
Jesus Is Buried


Take 1 or 2 minutes to silently reflect upon the image above.


Slowly read aloud this passage of Scripture:



Then he took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in a long sheet of linen cloth and laid it in a new tomb that had been carved out of rock. This was done late on Friday afternoon, the day of preparation, as the Sabbath was about to begin. As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law. (Luke 23:53-56 NLT)

Kneel or simply open your hands and pray:

Jesus, now the time of surrender, of being at rest, begins. It is the seventh day when God rested from the work of creation. And you, the Son of God, rest and await the dawn of the eighth day when all will be made new—and we wait with you.

O Jesus, teach us to rest. Deliver us from thinking that everything depends upon our actions. Help us to be patient in trusting that God will bring about the completion of his creation through you. We love you, Jesus; fill us with your peace.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

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Biblical Way of the Cross: Station 13


The Thirteenth Station
Jesus Dies


Take 1 or 2 minutes to silently reflect upon the image above.


Slowly read aloud this passage of Scripture:

By this time it was noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last. When the Roman officer overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshiped God and said, “Surely this man was innocent.” (Luke 23:44-47 NLT)

Kneel or simply open your hands and pray:

Jesus, the Word spoken by the Father, you now return to him, having accomplished the purpose for which you were sent. Your trust in the Father remains, even amid the dark clouds of death.

O Jesus, may we too accomplish the purpose for which we were created. Help us to commit ourselves into the Father's hands, to trust in him, and believe in his love for us, a love that your death reveals to us. May your dying never be in vain. We love you, Jesus; help us to die to ourselves and live for you.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

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Biblical Way of the Cross: Station 12


The Twelfth Station
Jesus Cares for His Mother


Take 1 or 2 minutes to silently reflect upon the image above.


Slowly read aloud this passage of Scripture:

Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25-27 NLT)

Kneel or simply open your hands and pray:

Jesus, you give your mother to the disciple you love. Even as you face death, you entrust those whom you love most into each other's care. Your dying is marked by giving, and by concern for the ones who remain. You do not leave us as orphans, you have promised your Spirit to your church, and at the cross the church is born.

O Jesus, help us see that we are the disciples you love, and you have given us each other. We pray that we might allow the Spirit to give us life as sisters and brothers joined in mutual care. We love you, Jesus; bind us as one.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

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Biblical Way of the Cross: Station 11


The Eleventh Station
Jesus Promises Paradise to the Crucified Thief


Take 1 or 2 minutes to silently reflect upon the image above.


Slowly read aloud this passage of Scripture:

One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43 NLT)


Kneel or simply open your hands and pray:

Jesus, two others are nailed on either side of you. One challenges you to release him now; the other asks to be freed with you in your kingdom. One sees only weakness; the other sees power and is able to trust in a promise of everlasting life with you as his time in this world comes to an end.

O Jesus, look upon us now. See us in our need and hear us as we cry out to you. Help us to trust you in difficult circumstances. Give us eyes to see your power in helpless times, to see your kingdom in all we encounter. We love you, Jesus; remember us.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

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Biblical Way of the Cross: Station 10


The Tenth Station
Jesus Is Crucified


Take 1 or 2 minutes to silently reflect upon the image above.


Slowly read aloud this passage of Scripture:

When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice. The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. They called out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” A sign was fastened to the cross above him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.” (Luke 23:33-38 NLT)


Kneel or simply open your hands and pray:

Jesus, your suffering continues as nails are driven into your hands and feet and taunting jeers are hurled at your body imprisoned on the cross. Yet to those who mock and challenge you, you offer no reproach, only forgiveness and compassion for them in their ignorance.

O Jesus, how often we have acted as if the way of the cross were unnecessary and too difficult. We believe we know a better way, a way worn down by the crowd. We find that path goes nowhere. Forgive us; we do not know what we are doing. We love you, Jesus; by your wounds heal us.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

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Biblical Way of the Cross: Station 9


The Ninth Station
Jesus Meets the Weeping Women


Take 1 or 2 minutes to silently reflect upon the image above.


Slowly read aloud this passage of Scripture:

A large crowd trailed behind, including many grief-stricken women. But Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are coming when they will say, ‘Fortunate indeed are the women who are childless, the wombs that have not borne a child and the breasts that have never nursed.’ People will beg the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and plead with the hills, ‘Bury us.’ For if these things are done when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:27-31 NLT)

Kneel or simply open your hands and pray:

Jesus, after being silent, you speak. You turn the eyes of the women away from your suffering and toward the destructive powers of sin. You warn them not to shed their tears for you but rather for themselves and their children. If you, the innocent one, can suffer so, what will be the fate of the guilty?

O Jesus, the wood is now very dry! Set fire to the world so that it might burn with your love. Destroy all hatred, fill us with joy again. Teach us to mourn the way things are; show us the way they could be. We love you, Jesus; weep for us.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

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Biblical Way of the Cross: Station 8


The Eighth Station
Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus


Take 1 or 2 minutes to silently reflect upon the image above.


Slowly read aloud this passage of Scripture:

As they led Jesus away, a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, happened to be coming in from the countryside. The soldiers seized him and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. (Luke 23:26 NLT)

Kneel or simply open your hands and pray:

Jesus, the torture you experienced at the hands of the soldiers left you weak. When you prayed in the garden that the will of the Father be done, and angel was sent to strengthen you. Now as you seek to fulfill the Father's will, he sends Simon to help you.

O Jesus, strengthen us on our journey. Open our hearts to the help you offer through the kindness of others. Open our eyes to the needs of those who walk beside us. We love you, Jesus; lighten our burdens.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

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Biblical Way of the Cross: Station 7


The Seventh Station
Jesus Takes up His Cross


Take 1 or 2 minutes to silently reflect upon the image above.


Slowly read aloud this passage of Scripture:

Then Pilate turned Jesus over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus away. Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull (in Hebrew, Golgotha). (John 19:16b-17 NLT)


Kneel or simply open your hands and pray:

Jesus, like Isaac carrying the wood to the mountain, you set out with the wood of the cross. But unlike him you will not ask your Father where the lamb is, because you know you are the lamb of the sacrifice. You now begin your journey with the cross.

O Jesus, you carry a cross, which is given unjustly. You willingly bear the burden of our sinfulness and accept the cross of our guilt. There is no greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. We love you, Jesus; help us to show this love in our lives.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

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Biblical Way of the Cross: Station 6


The Sixth Station
Jesus Is Scourged and Crowned with Thorns


Take 1 or 2 minutes to silently reflect upon the image above.


Slowly read aloud this passage of Scripture:

The soldiers took Jesus into the courtyard of the governor’s headquarters (called the Praetorium) and called out the entire regiment. They dressed him in a purple robe, and they wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head. Then they saluted him and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” And they struck him on the head with a reed stick, spit on him, and dropped to their knees in mock worship. (Mark 15:16-19 NLT)

Kneel or simply open your hands and pray:

Jesus, soldiers of an earthly realm mock your kingship. You are so powerless in their eyes, so weak, the ruler of a kingdom that cannot be seen, and, therefore, must not exist. They treat you as a foolish impostor, caught in a lie.

O Jesus, how often do we look for the kingdom with the eyes of the world rather than with the eyes of faith. We forget your promise that your kingdom is among us. Help us to see your strength in our weakness, your reign in our powerlessness. We love you, Jesus; establish your rule over us.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

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Biblical Way of the Cross: Station 5


The Fifth Station
Jesus Is Condemned by Pilate


Take 1 or 2 minutes to silently reflect upon the image above.


Slowly read aloud this passage of Scripture:

Then Pilate called together the leading priests and other religious leaders, along with the people, and he announced his verdict. “You brought this man to me, accusing him of leading a revolt. I have examined him thoroughly on this point in your presence and find him innocent. Herod came to the same conclusion and sent him back to us. Nothing this man has done calls for the death penalty. ...But the mob shouted louder and louder, demanding that Jesus be crucified, and their voices prevailed. So Pilate sentenced Jesus to die as they demanded. (Luke 23:13-15, 23-24 NLT)

Kneel or simply open your hands and pray:

Jesus, Pilate perceives your innocence, but the crowd insists on guilt. Hearing their persistent shouts, Pilate sets aside the judgment of his conscience, and the decision is made. He hands you over to be crucified.

O Jesus, how often do we let the threatening voice of the crowd overwhelm the voice of conscience? Fill us with compassion for the outcast and commitment to the truth. We love you, Jesus; lead us beyond the crowd.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

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Biblical Way of the Cross: Station 4


The Fourth Station
Peter Denies Knowing Jesus


Take 1 or 2 minutes to silently reflect upon the image above.


Slowly read aloud this passage of Scripture:

Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.” But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said. A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.” Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed. Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly. (Matthew 26:69-75 NLT)


Kneel or simply open your hands and pray:

Jesus, you told Peter that he would deny you three times before the rooster would crow. He did not believe you. He swore that he would never deny you, and that in fact he was willing to die for you. Peter felt that he knew himself better than you knew him. But now as dawn approaches and the rooster crows, he sees the truth.

O Jesus, we set out to follow you but then quickly turn, going our own way. We are afraid to acknowledge you in front of others, but you speak to us in the midst of our denial. We love you, Jesus; keep us faithful to you.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

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Biblical Way of the Cross: Station 3


The Third Station
Jesus Is Condemned by the Sanhedrin


Take 1 or 2 minutes to silently reflect upon the image above.


Slowly read aloud this passage of Scripture:

Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” But Jesus remained silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I demand in the name of the living God—tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus replied, “You have said it. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Blasphemy! Why do we need other witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?” “Guilty!” they shouted. “He deserves to die!” (Matthew 26:62-66 NLT)


Kneel or simply open your hands and pray:

Jesus, your words are blasphemy to the ears of the high priest. He tears his garments, unable to see the presence of God in the one who stands before him arrested and accused. He cannot believe in a God who, because of such great love, would willingly become so powerless.

O Jesus, we can be so limited in our vision. We find it difficult to look beyond our narrow expectations and see you as you are. Give us the grace to hear your words clearly and to follow you in truth. We love you, Jesus; reveal to us what God is like.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

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Biblical Way of the Cross: Station 2


The Second Station
Jesus Is Betrayed and Arrested


Take 1 or 2 minutes to silently reflect upon the image above.


Slowly read aloud this passage of Scripture:

And immediately, even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders. The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss. Then you can take him away under guard.” As soon as they arrived, Judas walked up to Jesus. “Rabbi!” he exclaimed, and gave him the kiss. Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him. (Mark 14:43-46 NLT)

Kneel or simply open your hands and pray:

Jesus, as you wake your disciples, one who has not slept arrives with an angry crowd. Judas reveals your identity to them with a kiss. His act of affection is a signal to point you out as the one who loves but is rejected by his own.

O Jesus, we are quick to greet you with affection in our prayer and worship. But how often do our external words and actions conceal hearts that are easily turned from you? We love you, Jesus, help us to love you with all of our hearts.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

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Biblical Way of the Cross: Station 1


The First Station
Jesus Prays in the Garden


Take 1 or 2 minutes to silently reflect upon the image above.


Slowly read aloud this passage of Scripture:

He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. At last he stood up again and returned to the disciples, only to find them asleep, exhausted from grief. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation.” (Luke 22:41-46 NLT)

Kneel or simply open your hands and pray:

Jesus, we see you in the garden, praying in the darkness of night. Your anguished prayer is one of deep struggle with the Father's will. While you agonize over the Father's will and are strengthened to fulfill his plan, your disciples, overcome with sadness, can do nothing but give themselves over to sleep. As we begin this journey with you, Jesus, help us to see that for you it was a journey of love. May we learn from this walk how to follow you more closely and accept the love that you have for us.

O Jesus, wake us from our sleep. Help us to face life's difficulties honestly, knowing that we can trust in God. Strengthen us in the time of our trials. May our prayer always be an expression of all that we are, and all that we do. We love you, Jesus; teach us how to pray.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

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Biblical Way of the Cross: Introduction

Beginning Sunday, April 10 we will be posting daily devotions to lead us prayerfully on the Biblical Way of the Cross. We are invited to spend five minutes a day for 14 days (15 including Easter Sunday) as individuals, families, or groups to seriously reflect upon and enter into the death of Jesus, coming to grips with the reality of our sin and Christ's dealing with it--the ultimate demonstration of God's love for us.

If you have never taken the time to seek the Lord in this way, we encourage you to just do it. Give yourself to this ancient practice. Each devotion is very short and includes a piece of art depicting the station, a Scripture reading, and soul-searching prayers. The devotions are taken (and slightly adapted) from a wonderful little pamphlet, Biblical Way of the Cross. Amy Welborn and Michael Dubruiel wrote the prayers, and the artwork is by Michael D. O'Brien. Hear their heart from the Introduction:
Praying [the] Biblical Way of the Cross can lead to an experience of the deep love of God revealed through the suffering and death of the Lord. It can also provide an opportunity for reflection on how God's love is revealed through our experiences of loss, betrayal, and death. Praying these stations, whether in private or as a public prayer, should help a person draw closer to Jesus Christ. It is our hope that as you follow this Way of the Cross you will experience the same certitude of faith in the love that God has for you as Jesus did when he accepted his cross, and that you will be rewarded with a share in his resurrection.
We cannot rise with Christ unless we first die with him. So, join us!

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