Welcome, dear pastors. Pull up and chair and get ready again to fill up your plate with good things to nourish your spirit — or at least cross a few things off your to do list as Lent approaches again.
Welcome to another potluck that I’m so glad to host. Some of these morsels might seem familiar because you’ve already seen my round-up of resources in Another Lent in Coronatide so I’ll keep the summaries short and focus on the new things like my new release of Our Whole Hearts.
I am switching gears a little in my own self care and making room in my schedule to nurture my call to spiritual direction. This means that things will look a little different on my blog and I’ll be offering most of my prayers in paid downloadable resources like Our Whole Hearts for Lent. As you may have read way back when at the Epiphany potluck, I’ve been thinking about a subscription email with all kinds of liturgy. I haven’t given up on that yet. I’m still daydreaming about it and experimenting along the way. Blah blah blah.
I already shared a whole introduction to this resource but what I most love about Our Whole Hearts is how it feels like all of my self is in this 12-page download. There are station-like prayer experiences that I have so loved writing for Seasons of the Spirit in the past few months and there are heart-full questions that spring from spiritual direction in addition to the prayers that you have come to know and love from my blog since this pandemic began plus some suggestions for art, poetry and music to inspire your worship planning.
In the first of several related posts, I’ve offered some inspiration on how to use art in worship on my blog. Look for more free ideas as Lent approaches.
It is coming soon too. Lent begins in a few short weeks with our shared observance of Ash Wednesday. I offer some new prayers in Our Whole Hearts but you might remember that I shared Fire and Ashes last year for at-home worship. It’s a free download so please go ahead and use it again. Or if you’re looking for something new, might I suggest playing with clay in your worship?
Lent Needs a Good Book
I love a good book during Lent to nourish my soul and push me to consider the possibility of new life in my life. This year, I’m reading this one myself and find that there is a discussion guide here. I won't be using it but you might enjoy using it with your good people or you might consider another resource I created for last year based on Amelia Richardson' Dress’ wonderful book A Hopeful Family: Raising Resilient Children in Uncertain Times. I really believe this book has a little bit for everyone but it especially works well for those moms screaming on a track field. (Also, solidarity ladies.) I created a resource based on the book that leads through Lent called A Hopeful Lent that can be ordered for congregational use and for family use.
I would so love to hear what you are reading this Lent in your community or in your personal devotion. Who doesn't love a good book recommendation?
Moving into the Wilderness
On that first Sunday of Lent, we dare to face the very worst of ourselves up there on that mountain with the Tempter provoking and prodding us. It was asked in a worship planning meeting at Old First what the shared gesture might be for Ash Wednesday and it’s got me thinking about how we move our bodies into these strange postures of repentance and forgiveness. Maybe it looks like a confession that is beyond words each week like this invitation does ever so gently.
I really love this list of simple suggestions of what to do with our bodies within the usual functions of our worship and praise. I especially love the question, what other positions can you think to try? That first movement of Lent might be simply to share in putting our hands over our hearts and listening to our hearts beat. It may be enough for this to be the prayer or it may feel like some words might need to follow as an affirmation. Come and Fill from the Taize Community might work for that purpose.
The movement into the second week of Lent exposes our tenderness and pain as we long to be enfolded into the arms of the divine and weep for places near and far. Tears come easily for some but they are harder for others especially in groups of people. Most definitely not in church. How many times has someone apologized for their tears in worship? There is wonder in our emotions and maybe the invitation this week is just to weep or at least to offer the assurance that this is a place where we can weep together. It reminds me of this poem that made the rounds on Facebook a few months ago and that might be an entry into what feels so tender.
Or you might follow the lead of this chaplain and pray for all our sorrows with this guided meditation.
Parables of Trees and Prodigals
Sometimes the body practice might just be to say I am here. Just as it is in this parable of a fig tree, Jesus instructs us to do nothing but wait. We are here. We do not know what will come and we can’t fix everything though we wish we could. We are here.
I also really like the way this practice works with the Call to Worship I wrote in Our Whole Hearts though this Call to Worship would work well too. I might like this one even more. Though I’ve given several more options, mine hints a little more to being together and I know that’s a weird concept for those of you that are worshipping on Zoom. I’ve also heard how amazing your churches have been in holding each other together while still apart and waiting for things to finally shift so perhaps that’s something to uplift in the Prayers of the People.
This is that week where joy creeps in traditionally and so I’d be inclined add a joyful song to those prayers like the song Stand Firm from Cameroon. It could be sung after every petition as a word of encouragement and hope in the Prayers of the People. This prayer might serve as inspiration for those petitions. (And if you’re not singing, I think it would still work with a cantor.) Here is another original hymn inspired by the gospel.
Because it’s that week, I might also include this blessing by Amelia Richardson Dress. Yes, the same one that wrote A Hopeful Family: Raising Resilient Children in Uncertain Times and inspired A Hopeful Lent. You’ll find more of her blessings on her blog and even more on her wonderful newsletter. I love this one though.
I found it shockingly hard to write prayers for the Fifth Sunday of Lent where we hear the beloved story of the Prodigal Child. I’ve seen my parents finally but our life in Germany is still pretty reclusive with unvaccinated kids. (Still waiting on that approval, good people at the FDA. Please bring us good news.) It still feels hard to imagine such reunions and this might be true for some of your people too. Or it might not.
I felt a bit more for the other brother who stays and does what he’s supposed to do. There’s some definite frustration there and maybe a bit of anger. When anger rises, the body practice for prayer might look like this WTF Prayer. I happen to love that title especially at this point in the pandemic but you know your people and how to change that language so that it’s not a stumbling block. It would be a surprising twist with this passage, perhaps, but who doesn’t need a good surprise?
Or perhaps it is the familiarity of the Lord’s Prayer that needs movement this week. I’d suggest going a little slower than these kids but I’d definitely use their movements as inspiration.
Perfumes, Palms and Passion
This penultimate week includes my very favorite prayer from all of Our Whole Hearts. That Prayer for Our Noses could work really well with some adaptation of these creative prayers for the senses. (It would be a great resource to send out in Holy Week too to inspire folks to use their sense of wonder in these most high holy days.) This might actually be something I add to because I don’t love this. There needs to be more sensory experiences for corporate worship. Or you might use this prayer poem by Maren Tirabassi because there isn’t a time when you won't be blessed by Maren’s words.
Our Whole Hearts doesn’t include Palm Sunday or the rest of Holy Week but I have a number of resources including this entire liturgy that was originally published on the United Church of Christ’s Worship Ways. I am preparing something new and wonderful for Holy Week that I hope to release within the next few weeks though I know some of you are planning ahead.
If so, you might be interested in This Year: An Easter Pageant for a Pandemic Year that tells the whole story from to the resurrection. I really, really didn’t expect this one to still have relevance but even if you don’t want to emphasize the pandemic there is lots of room for adoption and play in the video clips your talented people create. If you’re looking for something with a little more structure, Theresa Cho offers this Palm Sunday Pageant designed for online worship.
Theresa also offers this great idea of a Lenten Sand Garden that I think would be great for a reflective space during Holy Week especially if you are worshipping online.
There is also this free download of this Easter Watch service that nicely bookends the season if you used the Ash Wednesday service. It hints to an Easter Vigil but I’m United Church of Christ and we are not so high church most of the time. It’s an opportunity to use your senses to welcome the resurrection outside so it could even work for your sunrise worship with some minor tweaks.
That’s all I’ve got cooked up for right now. I hope and pray there’s enough here to season your worship and hearts with something delicious — and know that I’m praying for you, dear pastor, especially as Lent begins.
OK so I am blushing, but yes, yes, yes, all of this!