Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Season

Christ is risen from the dead,
Andrea di Bartolo, The Resurrection.PD.
trampling down death by death,
to those in the tombs restoring life.
-- Orthodox Chant for Easter Day, 4th century

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where's thy victory, boasting grace? Alleluia!
-- Charles Wesley, 1739

Practice resurrection.
--Wendell Berry, Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front, 1973

Easter Season starts here, with such bold, uproarious praise.  We practice such bold praise this day, and, if to a slightly lesser extent, throughout the full 50 days of the Season, culminating in the Day of Pentecost.

But Easter Season is not seven weeks (8 Sundays) primarily to celebrate resurrection. It is indeed 50 days to become re-grounded, or, for the newly baptized, grounded for the first time in what the resurrection of Jesus means for our lives as disciple of the Risen One. This is the Season of Mystagogy, of being led into the mysteries of the Risen One among us in the power of the Holy Spirit. And so this is the Season par excellence for deep formation in doctrine and in ministry.

Celebrate this day! Practice the praise of God and the infinite delight the resurrection of Jesus both is and promises. Keep practicing that throughout this season. Let every day be filled with Alleluias!

And practice resurrection yourselves as you focus intently in these weeks on living in its power and wisdom, especially as you help the newest Christians among you or those preparing to take the vows of the baptismal covenant themselves for the first time  live out the commitments of the baptismal covenant.

Worship is a significant part of the formation of this season, but not the only part. Come alongside all who are ready to go deeper with individuals and groups who are prepared to help them do just that. Keep talking about the themes of worship throughout the week each week. Help persons discover and claim their spiritual gifts and their callings from God for ministry in the world-- and get them ready to be commissioned to use them come the Day of Pentecost.

GBOD's planning article for worship during this season and the weekly worship planning helps (starting with Easter 2) may help you gain and keep this focus throughout Easter Season.

Practice celebrating resurrection. Rejoice in it! Delight in it! Claim with great joy all the ways your are bathed in it through baptism! And feast in it each Sunday around the Lord's table.

And, as you do, in every way you can, help your congregation practice the life that Christ's resurrection makes possible, not just during these weeks, but starting here or re-starting here for the rest of their lives.

A blessed Easter Season to one and all.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Holy Saturday: The Great Silence

This is not the kind of silence one creates by "emptying oneself" (as if that were even actually possible). This is the silence into which we find ourselves knocked when terrible news arrives. This is the silence that those who have grieved deeply have come to know, and at once dread and welcome.

This is the silence of the tomb, or perhaps more accurately, the silence from the tomb. This is the silence that grabs us, if we are paying attention at all, when we contemplate the aftermath of the crucifixion.

This is what Holy Saturday has been about for centuries in the liturgical life of the Church. It is this silence, embodied in an assembly. It is the ultimate silence. The horror of the execution and our role in it was the day before. Facing the violence head on as we do and must on Good Friday also tends to move us into a kind of alternate reality removed from the usual patterns of our lives and thoughts. We can be tricked into thinking it was all just a horrible dream.

But on this day, on Holy Saturday, there is no question left. There was real horror. And the real horror took its real toll. Jesus is dead, buried in a tomb. On Holy Saturday, this reality sinks in.

And so on this day we gather in that silence. Everything we say or do in liturgy springs from that silence and returns to it. That silence-- crushing, undeniable, and at times unspeakable.

Just as we do the story of our redemption harm if we skip from Palm Sunday processionals straight to Easter, so we lessen its formative power in our lives if we move from the cross at mid-day on Friday straight to the Great Vigil of Saturday night or the Easter trumpets or Sunrise Service on Sunday morning without making the stop, together, in this silence.

For whatever reasons, the lectionary in The United Methodist Book of Worship did not include the Revised Common Lectionary readings for Holy Saturday. The Book of Worship does include one collect for Holy Saturday,  borrowed from the Book of Common Prayer (BOW 367).

So here is a proposed service for our use, however you may assemble on this day, in face to face or in virtual communities. It is designed with responses short enough to fit within Twitter's 140 character limit.

I will offer this service via Twitter this Holy Saturday, March 26,  at 10 AM Eastern Daylight Time. You may follow it at the hashtag #holysat16. If others wish to do so at other times or places, I would be delighted for you to do so. Just use the same hashtag.

The Twitter script, with the #holysat16 hashtag included for each tweet, may be downloaded for use in worship services via Twitter or other online platforms.

And so, may we keep the Great Silence.

All stand. Silent procession of worship leader (lay or clergy) carrying a Bible to the lectern or holding it in the midst of the people.

Leader: The Lord be with you.

People: And also with you.

Let us pray:

O God, creator of heaven and earth,

the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath.

(Silence for one minute)

So we may await with him the coming of the third day,
and rise with him to newness of life.


(Adapted from The Book of Common Prayer, 1979. Public Domain.)

(Silence for one minute)


First Reading Audio:

(Silence for two minutes)

The Psalm
(Read in unison, pausing in silence for a full breath between verses. Or, if via Twitter, simply tweet the entire psalm, pausing between verses, and encourage those following to say it aloud as it appears in their feed).

(Silence for two minutes)

Second Reading


(Silence for two minutes)

(All stand)

(Silence for three minutes)


Let us pray for the church and the world.

Hear our silent prayers, O God.

For the leaders and mission of your church in every place…
(Silence for one minute)

With all that lives and moves upon the earth, and all that sustains our lives…

(Silence for one minute)

For every leader and with all who work for justice, freedom and peace…

(Silence for one minute)

With all who labor and the fruits of their work…

(Silence for one minute)

With all who are sick, imprisoned, or lonely, and all who remember and care for them…

(Silence for one minute)

For all who are born this day, and all who will die…

(Silence for one minute)

With all who have commended themselves to our prayers...

(Silence for one minute)

We pray as Jesus taught us…

The Lord’s Prayer
(Unison. If on Twitter, encourage all to pray this aloud in their first language or the version they know best by heart)

(Silence for one minute)


Leader: Go in peace.

All depart in silence. If on Twitter, persons may respond Amen or PBWY.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Advent in Early November?

Wait, you say, doesn't Advent start in late November? For most Western churches, yes, it does. But as many ecumenical worship leaders have been noting for a number of years now, including at GBOD, the readings in the Revised Common Lectionary, and in fact lectionaries before it stretching back before the tenth century, actually start Advent readings right after All Saints!

That's because until Pope Gregory VI changed it in the 11th century, the celebration of Advent in the West was a full seven weeks, paralleling Lent. Like Lent, Advent was also a season for preparing persons for baptism and penitents for readmission to the full fellowship of the Church. While Pope Gregory VI shortened the season, officially, he actually did not change the readings.

Celebrating a full seven weeks of Advent helps congregations regain a strong focus on the actual primary point of Advent (celebrating and preparing for the culmination of all things in the second coming of Christ!).  It also helps us to use the readings we already have for the purposes they were originally gathered. A longer Advent starting earlier, even if not for the entire seven weeks, also takes a lot of the pressure off of the "December Advent/Christmas" wars many of our congregations have experienced.

The Advent Project website provides solid research and an ever-increasing array of resources, for free, for congregations interested in starting an Advent restoration project themselves. Be sure to check out the testimony of a United Methodist congregation that has been doing this for several years now, and how they've adapted the model for their context over time.