1 Many people have already applied themselves to the task of compiling an account of the events that have been fulfilled among us. 2 They used what the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed down to us.3 Now, after having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, I have also decided to write a carefully ordered account for you, most honorable Theophilus. 4 I want you to have confidence in the soundness of the instruction you have received. (Luke 1.1-4)
For this Lenten season, I wanted to focus on “preparation.” Advent is mostly associated with the theme of preparation. But through the eyes of Luke, Lent is all about preparation: Mary and Joseph preparing for birth; John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus Christ; and Jesus preparing himself for the ministry ahead.
For Lent, instead of singing a song after the sermon, we invited instrumentalists to play music and use that time as an opportunity to reflect and engage in Scripture. I was intentional about adding intergenerational moments during that time as well.
Below is a breakdown of what we did each Sunday of Lent, focusing on the theme of preparation through the eyes of Luke:
2 Sundays before Lent
My friend, Rev. Adam Fischer, helped me chalk a labyrinth in front of the church, inviting passersby in the neighborhood to take a moment to slow down.
Luke 1.46-55 – Mary’s Song
On this Sunday, I introduced the theme for Lent and used Mary’s Song to frame the season of Lent as a season of preparation. People were invited to quietly listen to the music and reflect on these questions: What promises do you enter into? Where has God’s promises already fulfilled in your life?
Sunday before Ash Wednesday
Psalm 51.1-12 – Create in Me a Clean Heart
Since this Sunday was right before Ash Wednesday, I chose an “Ash Wednesday” text. Instead of preaching a sermon, I led worshipers in a lectio divina. In each bulletin, there was a strip of tracing paper. I find that tracing paper burns fast and with minimal smoke. Letting the words from Psalm 51 guide them, they were invited to write down any regrets or anything they wanted to let go of or ask of God to create in them a new heart.
Words were written on the table. Using ashy paint (ashes mixed with a little bit of oil), they drew a cross on the word they needed to remind them of a new pattern of living they’d like to begin this Lenten season.
First Sunday of Lent
Luke 2.1-7 – Preparing for Birth
For this Sunday, we had interactive prayer stations to kick off Lent. Focusing on Luke 2, it was challenging to not make this a “Christmas-y” worship, but one centered on “preparation.” The prayer stations were about Mary and Joseph preparing for the birth of Christ. It is apparent that they were not physically prepared – made no reservations ahead of time, didn’t have the supplies needed for a baby, etc. But how did they spiritually prepare? How were they able to say “yes” to a future that was uncertain?
2nd Sunday of Lent
Luke 3.1-21 – John Prepares the Way
On this Sunday, I preached on John the Baptist preparing the way. How did John know how to prepare for someone he had never met or experienced? In many ways, John was doing the ministry that Jesus would be known for doing: attending to the outcast, preaching the good news, and standing against powers-at-be. Following the sermon, there was a baptism. So during the reflection time, they were asked to meditate on the following questions and write a promise to the baby being baptized as their active commitment to prepare the way as this baby grows up in this faith community: How do you prepare the way for Jesus? How and what do you share with others so they experience Christ’ love? These promises were put in the baby’s baptism box as a reminder of how this community covenants to nurture him.
3rd Sunday of Lent
Luke 3.21-37 – Jesus’ Baptism
It seems too soon to preach on Jesus’ baptism, especially since Baptism of the Lord Sunday was a few weeks ago. However, the focus for this Sunday was less on the event of Jesus’ baptism and more on Jesus’ baptismal identity.
During the reflection, worshipers were invited to follow these instructions. Using the thumbprint as a symbol of who we are, they wrote words describing themselves along the lines of the thumbprint.
Worshipers were invited to come up and place their baptismal identity thumbprints in the water.
4th Sunday of Lent
Luke 4.1-13 – Temptation in the Wilderness
If baptism is about who we are and whose we are, we can reflect on Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness as who we are not – continually trusting in God that we are created and called by God.
Using the “baptism thumbprints,” my 8 year old son taught me how to make paper out of them, which he learned how to do in his 3rd grade art class.
While still wet, I displayed them for people to see. What was cool about the paper is that if you looked closely, you can see hints of what people wrote. I displayed the paper as a symbol that we are all in process – process of claiming who we are, trusting God in whose we are, and living faithfully God’s call on our lives.
During the reflection, they meditated on these questions: What is important to you that you feel confident of God’s support – maybe it’s the love of family, a job, or relationship with God? These are things that matter, that you may worry about, and yet you trust God with them. What is difficult to trust God with right now? Maybe it’s a particular relationship, a job or school decision, or something challenging at work or home, or an uncertain future. Sit with the things you trust & mistrust to God, asking God to be present with these things.
5th Sunday of Lent
Luke 4.14-21 – Jesus’ Call
The final Sunday of Lent was also my church’s 143rd anniversary. I put some old photo albums out to display on the communion table.
I also had my 8 year old son paint a thumbprint image on the paper we made together. Over the thumbprint, I wrote the words from Luke 4.18-19.
I also had a wonderful opportunity to co-preach with a fifth grader.
In his sermon, I asked him to describe himself . . .
I’m an over-social extra-friendly spoken-word poet/punk-rocker who loves to cook and have conversations with people with ages ranging from 1-100.
Name something he struggles with . . .
I think that the way I was called to act in the way Jesus, is to accept everyone. People have told me that I can do that. No matter what race, religion, or sex you are, I can accept you. But unfortunately not always.
Name what he feels is his call . . .
So I think Jesus calling me to accept EVERYONE. Including the people that don’t necessarily have the beliefs that I wish that they had. I guess I’m figuring out who I am as we speak.
Reflecting on the church’s past in my sermon, I invited worshipers to ponder how God is calling us now. The following were the questions they reflected upon: The Spirit of the Lord is upon you. How is the Spirit moving you to engage in the world?
As they reflected, they were invited to place their thumbprint on the paper made from previous reflections on our baptism as a sign of our willingness to be open to where the Spirit leads.