You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘The Church Year’ category.

Annual church seasons serve as regular reminders of certain aspects of Christianity. Reminders are beneficial, but it seems that the 40-day Lenten practice is incomplete to many in our modern world. Interestingly, a relatively new understanding of the number forty in biblical context suggests that the number represents “a very long time.” But suddenly, in Lent we regress to the literal interpretation of the 40-day length. Instead, we should extend our enriched faith beyond Easter Sunday. Perhaps it is our comfortable lifestyles that tend to prevent us from doing this. Maybe it is the speed at which we fly through seasons, checking off holidays in our planners as they pass. The Church calendar is beautifully cyclical, but as we move through cycles more quickly we seem to be missing the point, as if we were spinning faster and faster on a carousel. The faster we move, the less focus we can place on each season.

Why do we give things up? Why fast? In order to begin to appreciate the gift of abundant life given to us through Christ’s suffering death and resurrection, we practice empathy. We try to inhabit the mind of Christ. We sacrifice, but in sacrificing we should build ourselves up. In living more simply, we live more. We should fast from those things that consume us: that control too much of our time, souls, and bodies. By this cleansing we make room for something that allows us to understand Christ and subsequently deepen our way of life. The word Lent originally meant “spring”. Think of Lent as Spring Cleaning. Also, fasting is personal. We all have our own set of things that consume us, be they pleasures or burdens. Choosing from pleasures may not be enough when considering what we should “give up”. Do not sacrifice for sacrifice’s sake. Let go of something. This will give you empathy for Christ that eventually brings you closer to friendship with God. Zihna Edwards cautions that, “People who equate Lenten sacrifice with a New Year’s resolution are missing the richness of the possibility. We have before us a preparation for Life… and an invitation to die to the things that keep us dead in a little further way. We could make this out to be about chocolate. Or we could ask God what things are getting in our way.” Hopefully by disassembling our lives temporarily we can reconstruct them to a more balanced form. Furthermore, we should consider how others are affected by what eats at us. St. John Chrysostom of the fifth century questioned, “For what good is it if we abstain from birds and fishes, but bite and devour our brothers?”.  

There is nothing wrong with “giving up” Facebook, chocolate, television, or meat. But Lent is more. Giving up is the first step. Filling that void with a healthier practice, such as prayer or silence, is the second. This is a time of reflection that is sadly trivialized by many. Often it seems that many set a goal to endure six weeks of sacrifice, which becomes a fruitless ritual. We risk becoming more self-absorbed in our attempts at self-denial. Sometimes our motives for fasting during Lent are self-serving. Our intentions are not usually wrong, but we quickly revert to our pre-Lent selves. Lent is a forty-day period to sit down and think—to consider our own lives, God’s incarnate suffering for us, and how the two line up. In a wider context, the liturgical year extends beyond our 365-day symbolic cycle to encompass all of time. So when we mess up, when we are confused—any time of the year can be the humbling days of Lent, and any time the bright rebirth of Easter. It is never too late to begin!

 16When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 16-18)

Anna Mullen is a Junior at Salem Academy where she sometimes writes for Salem’s community paper, Grassroots. 

Advertisements

Last year a smiling teenager said to me, “Guess what I am fasting from for Lent?” I hazarded a few guesses.  “Nope . . . T.V.!” she proclaimed proudly. “No T.V. for forty days and forty nights!”  Her excitement about a new way of journeying towards Easter made me think more about how we, as families, might pull away from something that dulls our minds or hardens our hearts, so that we might engage in some new and life-giving spiritual disciplines.  Instead of turning away from each other to a machine, we might want to turn toward each other and God.

And, I thought, why not?  Give up something, in order that you might free up some space in our lives to try something new.  And what if in forty days and nights we may have acquired a good habit?  The Scriptures have given us some clues as to what those habits of faith might look like:

 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers…all who believed were together and had all things in common;  they would sell their possessions and goods an distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.  Day by day, as they spent much time in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the good will of all the people.” –Acts 2:42

Here are some ideas for Lent.  You might want to try one or two:
*For more ideas see the Lenten appendix in our new resource book, Loving Hearts United, A Moravian Guide for Family Living.

  • Eat one meal a day together, and take turns talking about your day. 
  • Bless your children and one another, each morning and before bed each evening.  Place your hand on his or her head and say a special blessing. This “meaningful touch” gives us solace and strength for our day and rest for our slumber.
  • Create a special family meal once a week that is sacred, uninterrupted time. Light a candle and share in devotions.  Your children will naturally want to find ways to make it special, by preparing the table or by leading a conversation.
  • Sing together the hymns of our Moravian tradition. 
  • Acts of Compassion:  Give yourselves to intentional service, by finding some ways as a family to engage in acts of compassion for a hurting world.  Our children and their friends in the neighborhood and at school decided they to raise money for tents for the children and their families in Sudan.  We parents got so involved in their mission. They made tie-dye tee shirts, beautiful blessing bowls, decoupage Christmas ornaments, votive candles and plates, which they sold at a neighborhood arts in the park.   We were so surprised when they raised $815.00, enough for 11 tents!  Young children and older elementary kids have a true hearts for mission.
  • Repentance and healing within your family—Lent is a season of repentance and confession.  It’s never too late to welcome God’s healing presence in a relationship.  Children sometimes need to hear from their parents that we are sorry. Lent is a good time to search our souls in terms of what lies hidden, broken and unspoken that needs to be held up to the light and grace of Christ.
  • Pray with your children. J. Bradley Wigger writes: “Prayers of praise and prayers of thanksgiving teach gratitude. Prayers of concern teach about care and sources of strength in hard times.  Prayers in hushed tones or silence teach reverence and respect; exuberant prayer teaches passion and joy.  As children themselves pray, not only are they practicing these things, but also they can reveal what may be going on in their souls.  A child may be afraid to start school, need protection from a bully, be so thankful for Grandma, or hope people who are hungry will find some bread today.  Hearing the prayers of our children teaches us about them, helps us pay attention, helps us know how they are doing. . . When a child sees a father bow his head or a mother raise her hands in praise, the child is learning to see that there is an authority greater than the parent.”  
  • At the end of the day share in a family examen (another word for examining your day).  The Linn family shared their experience of how this simple spiritual practice was so life- giving for them: “For many years , we have ended each day the same way.  We light a candle, become aware of God’s loving presence, and take about five minutes of quiet while we ask ourselves two questions. Pick ones that work best for your family. 

For what moment today am I most grateful?  For what moment today am I least grateful?    
When did I feel most alive today?  When was I happiest today? 
When did I feel the life draining out of me?  When was I saddest today?”

Moravian hymns provide rich questions for the examen: 
How did Jesus make my heart rejoice today? How did I know Jesus’ voice today?

None of us can underestimate the power any religious practice may hold for our children. It’s like giving them a trellis upon which to grow towards the Light.  May God hallow your season of Lent and Easter.

Grace and peace to you and your dear ones,

Rev. Lisa Mullen,
Director of Children and Family Life

 

I heard the first Christmas carol on November l4.  I remember being 1) confused and startled – Is that “Silent Night”?  Why in the world is “Silent Night” playing on the radio? – then 2) resentful – What in the world are they thinking?!  It’s only November l4th! – and then resigned; after all, hadn’t the stores already been decorated for Christmas for two weeks?  Why should I be surprised by a little premature carol-playing?

     As they say, Christmas comes earlier every year.  I confess, I’ve grown weary of the whole event.  By that, I don’t just mean the rampant consumerism, the endless messages that suggest that we adults must give, give, give to prove our love and devotion, and the endless messages pumped out to our children that their job is to ask, ask, ask for more.  (The number of items on my youngest son’s Christmas list is fast approaching thirty.)  I’ve grown weary as well of the anti-consumerism messages.  The simplicity messages.  The “real meaning” of Christmas messages that have become so clichéd as to be meaningless themselves.

     By the way, in the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that this article is supposed to be about … simplicity at Christmas.   Yet, whenever I think about Christmas, what comes to mind is a big to-do list – and backgrounding that list is an inventory that plays in my mind regardless of the season: 5 graduate school classes, 2 jobs, 2 small children, 2 aging parents – and somewhere in there is my poor spouse.   There is no way to simplify this formula, especially at Christmas.

     We like to reduce the advent and nativity story to a tale of sentimental simplicity.  But was it?  Think about Mary: according to Luke, twice in her pregnancy she made two long and arduous and perhaps dangerous journeys, first to see her kinswoman Elizabeth, and then to Bethlehem, with Joseph.  She was pregnant and young and unmarried.  She had been told that she was going to bear the son of God, of all things.  None of this could have been “simple.”  But what I love about Mary is that, despite what must have been overwhelming and frightening and terribly uncertain circumstances – she showed up.  She believed.  But she didn’t believe unthinkingly – she pondered these things in her heart.

     I cannot bring simplicity into my world, for as is true for most of us, it is a busy, complex, often overwhelming and uncertain and sometimes frightening place. I can’t make Christmas “simple.”  But I can show up.  I can believe the Good News.  I can ponder in my heart the love I have for my family  – and for a baby boy whose coming into the world changed everything, forever.  I can know the joy I receive from this is real, as my life – as all our lives – spiral toward return and completion in the Messiah.      

Karen Richardson Dunn writes for Morvian Roots and Wings,  even though she is a a wife and mother,  a full-time student at Wake Forest Divinity School, and serves at Fairview Moravian Church as a worship intern.

November 13th is fast approaching. Have you ever talked to your children or grandchildren about the Moravians’ view of Chief Elder? Do you know the story of how Jesus Christ came to be elected the church’s Chief Elder? Thanks to our friend Craig Atwood for providing a little background on the topic:  

Moravians really like the number 13. We have two festivals in the church year that fall on the thirteenth day of the month: August 13 and November 13. This is probably just a strange coincidence, but it does tell us that Moravians are not very superstitious about numbers! August 13 was the great day when the Moravian church was given a new life by the Holy Spirit. We celebrate that event with communion and lovefeasts, but what is November 13 all about?

On September 16, 1741, the leaders of the church were meeting in London to make a number of important decisions. One of them was to choose a new Chief Elder. Leonard Dober, one of the first missionaries to the slaves in the Caribbean, had been serving as chief elder for several years. It was a big job. He was responsible for the spiritual welfare of a church that had grown rapidly from a little community in Herrnhut, Germany to an international fellowship stretching from Greenland to South Africa.

The Chief Elder was primarily responsible for hearing people’s complaints and concerns, especially in spiritual matters. He prayed on behalf of the community, and at times he worked to make peace between individuals. He was a pastor who was expected to offer sound advice. There was also a Chief Eldress for the women of the church. For many years, it was Anna Nitschmann, the head of the Single Sisters Choir.

Leonard Dober was tired. The job was wearing him out, and people were beginning to complain about how he did things. So, he officially asked to lay down this office, and then the rest of the elders set about trying to find someone to replace him. The elders who were gathered included the Count and Countess von Zinzendorf, Benigna, their daughter (who was  only 16), Leonard Dober, Anna Maria Lawatsch, Friedrich von Watteville (Zinzendorf’s best friend), Rosina Nitschmann, David Nitschmann (not the bishop), and August and Mary Spangenberg. This was an impressive group that included some of the wisest people in the church.

It is amazing that there were as many women as men at the meeting. That would not have been the case for other churches at that time. It is also remarkable that most of the participants were under the age of 42. By our standards, these elders were quite young. They were also creative and adventurous. Each of them had travelled through many countries and across the ocean to spread the good news that God loves all people, especially those who have been rejected by the world.

Read the rest of this entry »



Recognizing the home as a community of faith, Roots & Wings provides avenues for families to discover and develop their spiritual roots and wings in today’s world. Roots & Wings celebrates and enriches family connectedness within the Moravian Church community.

Categories

Join us on Facebook!