Category Archives: worship

Experience Maundy Thursday

This evening at Resurrection Lutheran Church our Maundy Thursday worship will include participatory prayer stations where worshipers will experience the story of Jesus’ final hours. The worship will begin in our familiar pattern of singing, call to worship, scripture reading and sermon. The pattern will change during the Lord’s Supper. Instead of simply coming forward for communion, worshipers will have the choice of participating in four different prayer/story stations. People will be free to move about the worship area, engaging in the stations for as long as they desire. The stations are as follows:

communion_elementsHoly Communion
Holy Thursday is the night when Jesus transformed the Passover meal into our meal of Holy Communion. People can come to the altar for the bread and wine of communion. There will be kneelers available for those who would like to kneel as they receive.

 

Washing of Feet Station

Washing of Feet
During the supper, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, as sign of loving service. Worshipers will have the opportunity to either wash the feet of a family member or have their feet washed by a staff member or others.  Warm water, basins and towels will be provided.

 

 

Garden of Gethsemane stationGarden of Gethsemane
After the supper, Jesus and his disciple went out to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Worshipers are encouraged to pray for the whole Christian church around the world. They can light a candle and mark a nation on a world map for which they are praying.

 

 

 

christ mocked by soldier, bloch

 

Trail of Jesus
While praying in the garden, Jesus was arrested and taken to the High Priest Caiaphas and later Governor Pilate for trial. He was beaten and mocked, dressed in a purple robe and a crown of thorns. People will have time to reflect on Jesus’ suffering while confessing their own sin and recognizing that our baptism both connects us to Jesus’ suffering while forgiving us our sins.

Silent Reflection
If a worshipers prefer not to participate in the stations, they can sit in their seat and pray while reflecting on a series of audiovisual paintings and photographs are displayed on the video screens.

The purpose of each station is to make the story of Jesus come alive for us, that we are participants in Christ’s story. People can choose to participate in all stations or simply stay at one the whole time (about 12 minutes).

The worship will conclude with a song and blessing. We will gather again on Good Friday evening to remember Jesus’ crucifixion.

Lord Jesus, let us walk with you this day.

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Day Two: Finding the Holy

The primary lure of backpacking for me is the opportunity to visit isolated high alpine country: where a trail breaks out above the tree line and the vista opens up to snow-capped peaks. There are several place where one can drive to such regions. Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park near my boyhood home of Port Angeles is one such location.

Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park

Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park

But simply driving to a vista takes away the challenge of the hike. As I started my second day of hiking, I knew that I would be entering my “sacred space” later that morning as I climbed towards Suiattle Pass, at 5800 feet. Shortly after starting, I needed to crossed Agnes Creek which had no foot bridge.

Already I was missing my trusted Leki hiking stick that I had used for years. I had forgotten to place it in my airline duffel when I packed my gear. Still I carefully waded across Agnes Creek without a problem, the ice-cold water reaching above my gaiters. In yesterday’s rain I had hiked in wet shoes; a stream crossing was no different. (Somehow I forgot that lesson three days later.)

As I climbed up towards the pass, some vistas did open up, especially towards Cloud Pass. I kept climbing towards Suiattle Pass and I looked forward to seeing deeper into Glacier Peak Wilderness. However I soon learned that Suiattle Pass, in spite of its higher elevation, is mostly forest with a few small meadows. The alpine flowers were gorgeous, the views less so.

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As I trekked down the other side of Suiattle Pass towards Miner’s Creek and eventually Suiattle River, I caught my first glimpse of Glacier Peak. Clouds surrounded the peak, but I could see a few of the many glaciers that cover it. Glacier is volcanic like Mount St. Helen’s and Mount Rainer and it is the fourth highest peak in Washington. It would take me two days to hike around it, mostly due to the arduous descents into and tougher climbs out of the deep river canyons that the melting glaciers feed. I was expecting some tough days ahead.

Glacier Peak from SuiattleAs I descended deeper into the forest, the trail became less rocky and more pedestrian. I found my pace quickening as I approached Suiattle River. I had heard stories about the old crossing of this river. In 2003 a rainstorm flooded the river and the bridge was wiped out, leaving fallen log for hikers to traverse.

Until 2011, the only way across the Suiattle River.

In September 2011 a new bridge was opened but it was built two miles downstream at a (hopefully) more secure spot. This added four miles to this section of trail, two miles down one side of the river and two miles up the other. I was anxious to get back to the high country, so I did not look forward to an extra four miles of river-bottom hiking. My disappointment turned to surprise.

After completing eighteen miles, I found a cozy camp site near the river. The next morning, I finished the hike to the new bridge and started back up the river along new trail.

As I trekked, I slowly realized that I was hiking through some old growth forest. Most of western Washington was heavily logged in the last hundred years, but for some reason this section was missed. Huge western red cedars stretched to the sky. I felt like I had stumbled into an ancient temple; the feel of sacred space surrounded and surprised me. I was awed and humbled.

A short video clip from the forest (you may need to “full screen” to see it.)

The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. Psalm 104:16

What space or place has surprised you with holiness?

Lord God, evoke within us the holiness of your kingdom.

Seething White-fire Enthusiasm

Monday I am headed to Washington state on vacation to visit family and to backpack.  I am looking forward to spending about a week on the Pacific Crest Trail, hiking north of Steven’s Pass.

I feel in love with the mountains as teen-ager. My first backpacking trip was at age 15 with some friends to Lena Lake in Olympic National Park. I continued to hike as often as I can. Recent hikes on the Superior Hiking Trail and in Rocky Mountain National Park have become posts on my blog.

I find spiritual renewal in being on trail. I have been reading selections of John Muir’s writings from Richard Cartwright’s book Baptized in Wilderness: A Christian Perspective on John Muir.  Muir’s travels in the wilderness of the American west evoked spiritual rapture. Writing about his first summer in Yosemite Valley,

John Muir, American conservationist.

John Muir, American conservationist. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now we are fairly high into the mountains, and they are into us. We are fairly living now. What bright seething white-fire enthusiasm is bred into us–without our help or knowledge. A perfect influx into every pore and cell of us, fusing, vaporizing by its heat until the boundary walls of our heavy flesh tabernacle seem taken down and we flow and diffuse into the very air and trees and streams and rocks , thrilling with them to the touch of the vital sunbeams. Responsive, we are part of nature now … How glorious the conversion. (p 11)

When I read Muir I am reminded of the psalmist who writes that all creation can give glory to God.

Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost,
stormy wind fulfilling his command!
Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!  (Psalm 148:7)

Though I do not worship the creation, the beauty and glory of God’s creation can fill my soul with “seething white-fire enthusiasm” and wonder.

How does the wonder of creation touch your soul? Are there special places where you find God’s Spirit present?

Lord Jesus, renew me through the wonder of your creation.

Running Out of Water

English: Dripping faucet Deutsch: Tropfender W...

Confirmation students often surprise me with the questions they ask. Recently we were discussing the Lutheran sacrament of baptism. They wanted to know, “why do we use water for baptism?”

The simplest answer would be that this is what Jesus used and commanded (though technically Jesus never used water since he never baptized anyone, see John 4:2). Though John the Baptist baptized Jesus with water, he remarked that the Messiah would “baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 4:11).  However water remained the essential physical element for baptism in the early church.  As the Ethiopian Eunuch observed after his conversation with Philip about Jesus, “Look, here is some water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?’ (Acts 9:36). Since the early church, water has remained an essential element of baptism.*

Jesus might have chosen another physical element, but water was what he chose.   Water remains a basic part of life. Without water, biological life dies.  Jesus takes this simple, basic element and does something extraordinary.  That is the power and wonder of the baptism.

In my old church I was leading worship and preparing to do a baptism. I discovered a great-grandfather of the child was a former governor of Minnesota and he was present for the service.   I was a bit nervous knowing this. As I called the family forwarded to the baptismal font to start the service, I looked into the baptismal bowl. It was empty. No water. My nervous meter shot straight up.

Silver bowl with modernist base designI picked the empty bowl up and said, “An essential part of baptism is water and our bowl is empty.”

I started to walk towards the side door, saying as I walked, “There are two essential parts to baptism: the Word of God and water. I have God’s Word here (holding up my Bible), but I need water as well. And do you know where we get our water for baptism?”

I stepped into the kitchen.

“From the faucet right here in the kitchen.”

I turned on the water and filled the bowl.

“It is just ordinary water that we start with, but used with God’s Word it does extraordinary things.” I walked back into the worship area holding the bowl of water.

“And that is part of the power of baptism. God takes ordinary people, like you and me, and does extraordinary things we them. Turning us into the children of God.”

I placed the bowl of water back into the font and continued the baptism.

Later the former governor told me that was one of the most memorable baptisms he had seen.  It was for me as well.

Lord Jesus, thanking for taking ordinary stuff, like water and me, and doing extraordinary work with them.

*The gift of the Holy Spirit remains connected to the act of baptism, but certainly not restricted or limited to water baptism (see the story in Acts 10:44-48).

5 Reasons I Support Youth Sunday

Youth Sunday WorshipYesterday was Youth Sunday at Resurrection and I was a very thankful pastor as I watched our youth sing, pray, read, welcome and preach. Here are my top five reasons for celebrating Youth Sunday.

1. The opportunity to celebrate talent. The youth of Resurrection are blessed by God with incredible talent that needs to be shared. Like any member, they could do this any Sunday, but Youth Sunday gives them the excuse or reason to do this with their peers’ support. The whole congregation, young and old, can celebrate together.

Youth Worship Band2. Parents can rejoice with their children. Parents of high school youth know that their children need to start the process of differentiation – separating from their parents. This includes making their Christian faith their own. But this can be painful for the parents to watch. The celebration of Youth Sunday gives parents a moment to see the faith being handed down to a new generation without directly pushing their children into it.

3. Young children are given aspirations and models. Young elementary age children see older siblings/peers/teenagers participate in a special way within the life of the church. This participation can spark such aspirations in them to perform in the worship band or read scripture or present the children’s message. Also parents of young children see and hear how the ministry of this congregation has impacted its youth, giving them reasons for their family to be actively involved.

4. Mentors share their gifts. Yesterday was a real celebration for John Moore, a member of our worship team, who for the past six months has coached and directed the youth band as it prepared for yesterday’s worship service. He and the band did an outstanding job. Our youth director Hannah Koehler also had the opportunity to directly mentor students as they participated in leadership roles in worship.

5. Pastor try-outs. This one is personal for me. As high school junior I had the opportunity to preach at my home congregation. Though my preaching on the “Population Bomb and Environmentalism” was strange and controversial, the affirmations I received were part of my process of discerning my call as a pastor. Though our youth can serve God’s kingdom in a wide variety of vocations (see here), the church will need good pastors, youth directors and music directors in the future and I am praying that God will call some of the youth of Resurrection Lutheran Church to serve in this way. God continues to call forth his servants to serve among us.

What are some others reasons to support Youth Sunday?

Lord Jesus, I am thankful that you call all ages to follow you, including our youth.

The Journey

Next week is central to my identity. My life changes as I enter it. It is the annual pilgrimage of Christians worldwide.

Holy week is more than a seminar on how to improve my life skills.

A popular way to read scripture, preach sermons or write devotionals is to seek life application. The goal is to find specific practices or concepts on how to improve my life. For example, how I might be a better parent or a better spouse, how I can worry less or trust God more. There is a place for life application, but I don’t see the final days of Jesus’ life as serving that primary function.

I want to use a metaphor to explain this. Our lives can be compared to a home where we live. We have our spaces, our furniture, and our routines that shape daily lives. “Life applications” help us do minor rearrangements and some remodeling to our home, but we still manage how the day-to-day routine flows in our home.

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( ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But Holy Week actually forces me out of my home. I am on a pilgrimage to ancient Jerusalem in my imagination. I am part of the crowd that shouts “hosanna” as Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey. I join with the disciples in eating with Jesus the upper room. With the crowd outside of Pilate’s court, I shout,  “Crucify him.” Finally I hurry to the tomb with the women, full of wonder.

I gather with the people of Resurrection Lutheran to worship, pray, sing and sit in silence. I will seek no specific application or wisdom other than to be with Jesus.

Through this journey my daily story is rewritten, reworked. Like the hobbit Frodo Baggins, I am on a journey far from my comfortable Shire. And when I return to my home, I have been changed by the journey.

Are you ready to enter the story of Christ’s passion this year?

Lord Jesus, let me truly walk with you this week.

The Day I Killed a Pastor

Yesterday I preached on Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). In my sermon I stated that the rich man had not “died” spiritually because he still wanted to order Lazarus to serve his needs. The rich man still acted as if he was in charge. He had not died to himself.

Afterwards I remembered when such a death became real for me.

mark_web

Pastor Mark Wickstrom

I have always felt comfortable about my ability to pray extemporaneously in front of large groups. Years ago I served on the staff of a large congregation with four other pastors. One Sunday morning I was preparing to lead prayers during worship when a pastoral colleague, Mark Wickstrom, handed me a prayer request. He asked that we pray for a former staff person who had died the previous week. Mark was not participating in this specific worship service so he wrote out the name of the person on a prayer request card with his stereotypical scribbled handwriting. I glanced at the card, recognized the name as a former custodian who had health issues and continued the preparation for congregational prayer.

As I lead prayer, we prayed for many written requests. When it came time to pray for those who are grieving, I glanced down at Mark Wickstrom’s scribbled note and prayed, “Lord comfort all who grieve the death of   (pause)   Mark Wickstrom.”

An audible gasp came from the congregation. Mark was a much-loved pastor whose death would be devastating. I immediately knew that I had made a huge gaffe and felt the red crimson of embarrassment rising in my face.

The next words out of my mouth must have been a gift of the Holy Spirit, because after a brief pause I continued, “And Lord, we thank you that you have raised Mark up and that he is alive and well, serving you in a different part of this building right now. (pause)  But we do pray for those who grieve the death of Mark Webinger, our former custodian.”

There was an audible sigh of relief from the congregation as well as a few chuckles. After worship during the coffee fellowship, Mark received many affirmations for being alive, while I endured some ribbing for “killing a pastor.” But what happened that day was not simply a prayer faux pa, but also my trust in myself as a pastoral leader. I realized that I can become too self-assured in my abilities, even in prayer, and that I need to ‘die’ to myself and rise to newness of life in Christ, even as I pray for others. In a way two pastors “died” that morning. Thankfully, also two “resurrections.”

I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:19b-20).

Lord Jesus, let me die to self and live for you.

P.S.  Dr. Mark Wickstrom continues to live and serve as lead pastor of Community Lutheran Church in Las Vegas, Nevada.