Ash Wednesday Interactive Liturgy

Ash Wednesday

February 14, 2018

East Rochester United Methodist Church

Greeting

*Hymn        Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days, No. 269, v.1&3  

Old Testament:                                                                         Joel 2:1-17

Silent Reflection

Epistle Reading:                                             2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Silent Reflection

Gospel:                                                                    Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Meditation

*Hymn:                                   Just As I Am, Without One Plea, No 357

Four Prayer Stations

(Individuals are encouraged to move between the four prayer stations set up in the sanctuary and atrium of the church building. Remain as long as necessary until so moved to approach a new prayer station. When completed, rest in silence in the sanctuary until all return.)

  •  Create “Lent in a Bag”

            Create a “tool box” to use on your Lenten journey from

Ash Wednesday to the resurrection celebration.

  •  John 3:1 Greeting Project

Sacrifice some time weekly to pray for people, then share a

personalized message of encouragement or connection.

  •  Prayer Net, based on the Lord’s Prayer

            Praying the Lord’s Prayer involves trusting Him. Reflect

on where you hope to increase trust and dependence

on Him. As a visual representation of your commitment

tie a ribbon on the net.

  1.     Imposition of Ashes,

(Ashes are imposed with these words: “Remember;  

            from dust you have come, and to dust you shall return.”)

Prayer

Let us pray a prayer for repentant hearts and lives: These days, the fabric of the world is shredded.

       We are coming unraveled in hatred and division.

So many voices are raised in fear, in anger,

       We can hardly hear the Spirit who calls to us.

We enter this season of ashes and sackcloth

       Standing before the Holy in our brokenness.

Heal us, God of mercy, of our hardened hearts,

       Our judging natures, our fears of The Other.

      Walk with us, God of Love, through deserts of

Hopelessness,

      Stay with us through valleys of brokenness.

Take us, God of love, and transform us

      As we find the path that leads to resurrection.   

      Amen.

                              [By- Beth A. Richardson, 2017 Alive Now]

*Hymn:                         More Love to Thee O Christ, No. 453

The Lord’s Prayer   

*Benediction

As you have been blessed with the mark of repentance

you are now called to go out from this place and live out

your repentance.

Go forth to love and serve the Lord.

Amen.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Those who are able are invited to stand in body or spirit.

Bold print indicates a congregational response.

Thank you for silencing your cell phone during our time of worship

  

An Accessible and Meaningful Ash Wednesday

If it is January than Ash Wednesday must be soon! We are preparing our annual interactive Ash Wednesday service that is accessible and meaningful to all people.  That sentence is much easier to type than it is to put into action. Accessible and meaningful to all people…

The congregation of East Rochester United Methodist Church (Upper New York Conference) and their downstairs tenants (a group of people who volunteer at various not-for-profit organizations in the area and who use disability services) are accustomed to celebrating the holidays of the church calendar together.

The process we use to create this annual interactive Ash Wednesday service is simple but time consuming. It requires much time in prayer. I start with reading the lectionary scriptures, available online from Vanderbilt. . Next is a time of pondering and meditating the scriptures, mingled with prayer. The prayer flows around questions:

What do your people need from this season?
What do I need from this season?
How can this diverse community unite in seeking your face and heart for the next 40 days?
How can our senses of touch, taste, hear, smell, and sight be used to prepare our hearts for Lent?

My next step is to visit Pinterest! There are hundreds of interactive faith and prayer stations pinned by myself and other Pinterest users. My Pinterest board for Lent is this link.

Please check back to AbleFaith as I will be sharing my plans and interactive stations for the 2018 service.

Have you used interactive stations for your congregations? What worked? What did not work?

Interdependence

Every profession has its acronyms. We throw them about so freely it may sound like a foreign language to an uninitiated listener. Acronyms can be confusing. In some conversations the phrase, “I am opening an IRA’ means that the person is setting up an Individual Retirement Account. In the context of my professional life of supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, “I am opening an IRA” means that the speaker is part of a team of people opening an Individualized Residential Alternative home for people with disabilities. There is quite a difference

One of the acronyms in the field of supporting people with disabilities is referred to as The 3IPs. Independence, Inclusion, Individualization, and Productivity.

  • Independence- every person has the right to be as independent as possible
  • Inclusion- every person has the right to be included in the mainstream life and to share a community’s common places
  • Individualization- every person has the right to be honored as a unique autonomous person with specific dreams, gifts, goals, tastes, choices and purpose
  • Productivity- every person has gifts and talents to share to contribute to the community

I would like to propose that there is a fourth I, making it 4IPs. The fourth I is Interdependence. We each need each other. You need my gift for words and I need your gift for numbers. The musicians and artists among us are vital. We all need the gift that some have for growing food . We need those with the gift of listening. We need the encouragers, the thinkers, the teachers, those who can analyze and those who synthesize. We need the slow movement people and we need those who charge into the world at lightening speed. We need the brick layers and the surgeons. We need the dog walkers and horse whisperers.  We need those who pray and those who act, those who smile and those who provide a strong shoulder to lean on.  The knitters and weavers, the dolphin trainers and the doll makers, the egg gatherers and the snow shovelers- all are needed. We each need  these people so that we can not just be alive, but so that we can thrive!

Interdependence. We need the diversity of life to make life. Independence does not happen in isolation. The only way to be independent is for interdependence to be strong and healthy. Every person needs every person. Those without and those with disabilities need each other because all are gifted with purpose. We are gifted for the sake of each other. We are not complete without each other.

Interdependence- every person needs every other person; no one can be left out.

The apostle Paul wrote eloquently in 1st Corinthians 12:

 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work… 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

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Righteous Anger (part 2)

Writing yesterday’s post about what happened to a friend at church had its cathartic effect on my soul. Writing the words and mulling them over provided space for prayer. And the prayer has led me to mercy.

I am still angry about the injustice experienced by my friend and his peers. In my quest to be angry but not sin, I need to find a way for the anger to become an expression of love. God’s love is serious and strong, not sentimental and mushy. The Message bible says that “Love always looks for the best.” (1st Corinthians 13:6) My prayers, plus my musings about the nature of God’s love and how to express it in this situation, have taken me to the sage advice of a friend: see the innocence.

I absolutely believe that the pastor, who stopped his sermon to tell my friend that he needed to leave the sanctuary because his soft vocalizations were a distraction, did not intend harm. The pastor was not motivated by meanness. He likely believes that preaching and interpreting the word of God for a congregation is a very serious task and should be handled with utmost respect and decorum. His application of the apostle Paul’s words in 1st Corinthians 14:40, “Let all things be done decently and in order” is that those who are gathered to hear a sermon must be respectful and that equates to silent. He and I disagree on how the words “Let all things be done decently and in order” are to be experienced.

I see the innocence on his part. I understand that he only intended to maintain a ‘decent and orderly’ service. I attended a church with that culture for many years when my children were young. I lost count of the number of times an usher quietly tapped me on the shoulder with an offer to carry the diaper bag for me as it was indicated that the fussy or fidgety child needed to leave the service to not be a distraction. I, and the other parents of restless little ones, understood the church culture. We were not dealt with in an embarrassing way or publicly signaled out as a disruption to an otherwise orderly service.

Very gradually the culture of the church my family attended began to change.  As I sifted through memories in search of why or when the change began I recalled an older woman who had Alzheimer’s disease. She continuously paced at the back of the sanctuary. Inclusion of her may have been the catalyst that led to a change of culture that engaged active, young families in the worship services. The desire to include a woman with a disability and accommodate her unique needs led to open doors for more people in that church 25 years ago. Today that church is a model of inclusive worship.

So, how does this memory and experience guide an expression of love for the pastor who humiliated my friend?  In attitude, I am attempting to be merciful and  see the innocence. In practice I am not sure, yet, beyond continued prayer. That developing wisdom may make a part 3 of Righteous Anger.

Righteous Anger

I am angry. I am so angry that I hesitate to write while feeling what I am feeling. But, perhaps putting my anger into words will help me begin to simmer down and be angry but not sin. Righteous anger has its place (Ephesians 4:26).

What has happened to cause my anger? Injustice. Injustice to a friend of mine. I know, the world seems to be flooded with injustice right now, so what is one injustice to one man? One is one too many.

Okay, deep breath. Count to ten. What happened? In a nutshell, a friend, who has a disability, was told that he needed to be removed from the sanctuary in the middle of the service because it was felt that his soft, happy vocalizations were a distraction. My friend, his friends and those supporting them were humiliated when they were told, by the pastor using a microphone in front of the congregation in the midst of a sermon about loving all people, that he needed to leave. His communication style made him unacceptable. Did you get that? In the middle of a sermon about loving all people someone was told to leave.  And I am angry.

Yes, his vocalizations may have been a distraction. The support staff who were with him are professionals who are trained to understand how the people they support communicate. They are also trained to protect and promote human dignity. If my friend had been communicating dissatisfaction or discomfort the staff supporting him would have helped him quietly leave the service to address his needs. If they felt that the volume of his voice was a distraction they would have helped him quietly leave the service to protect his dignity in the eyes of his fellow worshippers. In their judgment his quiet, under the breath, vocalizations were not a distraction to the level that he was bothersome to those around him.

I am not angry that he was asked to leave the service. That quietly happens from time to time. I am angry that he was devalued as a person and humiliated in the process. Isn’t there a way that this could have been handled that did not humiliate him? Were his happy sounds so disruptive that the sermon could not be finished and then after the service have a quiet, private conversation to discuss the issue?

I am angry that this man, a  person created in the image of God, a man who loves Jesus with his whole body, mind and heart was humiliated by a church leader. I am angry that his friends, who also have disabilities, had to share his humiliation. I am angry that the support staff (who maybe unsure about this whole church and religion thing) felt the rejection and embarrassment as well.

I am angry that in a sermon about love for all people the real message that was conveyed was that disabled lives do not matter.

#disabledlivesmatter

A New Rhythm

Life has rhythms and cadences. Rhythms are comforting and soothing. Predictable. It is their predictability that makes them meaningful. Music, rain drops, bicycle pedal strokes, a child’s laugh, heart beats, firing pistons, lapping waves, foot steps, chewing, breathing, chanting, dance steps, hoof beats, skipping rope, swim strokes, clock chimes, labor contractions, sunrise and sunset, and prayer.

The rhythm of prayer speaks to generations of hearts. The rhythm of the Lord’s Prayer, unchanged for millennia:

     Our Father/ who art in heaven/ hallowed be thy name/ thy kingdom come/ thy will be   done/ on earth/ as it is in heaven/ give us this day/ our daily bread/ and forgive us our sins/ as we forgive those/ who sin against us/ lead us not/ into temptation/ but deliver us from evil/ for thine is the kingdom/ and the power/ and the glory/ now/ and forever/ amen.

While in Guatemala, worshiping at an indigenous Mayan church, I recognized the beautiful rhythm of the Lord’s Prayer during the service. The cadence was slightly different, but the rhythm, the rise and fall of the voices and the accented words, were familiar in the unknown language that surrounded me. My mother taught me this prayer, using the rhythms of it to break it into memorizable chunks that my five year old mind could remember. A familiar, comforting rhythm of voices, of connection and cadence with generations of pray-ers.

That is why a change in the rhythm of the Lord’s Prayer startled me one day when worshiping with friends at their church. I was so startled that I stopped praying, opened my eyes and looked at my praying neighbors who prayed as if there was nothing unusual about the change of the rhythm of their words!  What prompted their departure from the familiar rhythm? Love.

Love and determination to include a man who offered them the opportunity to change their rhythm so that he was included in their communal prayer. Love and the willingness to make an accommodation to include a man whose words of prayer were echoes of the words they prayed. Love and the knowledge that the presence of this man and his prayers enriched their community. Love and a desire to be the whole Body of Christ.

Our Father/father/ who art in heaven/ in heaven/hallowed be thy name/ thy name/ thy kingdom come/ come/ thy will be done/ will be done/ on earth/earth/ as it is in heaven/ heaven/ give us this day/ this day/ our daily bread/ bread/ and forgive us our sins/ us our sins/ as we forgive those/ forgive those/ who sin against us/ against us/ lead us not/ not/ into temptation/ ‘tation/ but deliver us from evil/ from evil/ for thine is the kingdom/ kingdom/ and the power/ Power/ and the glory/ glory/ now/ now/ and forever/ forever/amen.

 

 

Bartimaeus

bartimeus

I attend a church that follows a lectionary for the scriptural theme of each Sunday. The lectionary provides a framework for daily and weekly bible stories, music, prayers and preaching. Typically lectionaries revolve around a three year cycle, meaning that every three years the same scriptures come around again. So, in my years in a lectionary church I have heard the story of Bartimaeus and Jesus at least once every three years.  The story has become familiar to me, the story of “Blind Bartimaeus.”

This lectionary cycle, however, it was as if I was hearing the story for the first time! I noticed some elements in the story that were fresh and engaging. To me, as a person keenly aware of disability advocacy and faith-community inclusion for people with disabilities, I heard a story that models the way. (Jesus has a way of doing that, modeling the way.)

  1. “Blind Bartimaeus” is not the moniker that Jesus used to identify this man. It is the label that others have stuck on him, others who did not understand the harm that may happen when a person is identified by their disability instead of being identified first as a person. The interaction between Bartimaeus and Jesus, as described by Mark, is centered on the person of Bartimaeus, not his disability.  Jesus modeled People First Language and ideology before it existed!
  2. Jesus noticed a man who lived on the fringes of his society; Bartimaeus was a person who was culturally, socially, and economically  marginalized. By reason of his disability he was forbidden to participate in the daily life of his community, his hometown of Jericho. He was a person to whom it was acceptable for others to say, “shut up!” (Mark 10:38: Many sternly ordered him to be quiet.) Jesus noticed a person that others rejected; Jesus, again, modeled the way.
  3. Jesus did not impose his own opinion and plan on a person with a disability. He did not make an assumption about why Bartimaeus was calling out to him.  Jesus asked Bartimaeus what he wanted, then he listened and honored the answer. By not assuming that he knew what another person wanted, Jesus models for us how to unprejudiciously listen to other people. Jesus was person-centered with his interaction with Bartimaeus. (In a nut shell, person-centered means putting aside personal agendas and plans for the sake of focusing on the desires and needs of another person. It is a term used in service and life planning with people who have disabilities).
  4. Jesus modeled the way of inclusive communities by not turning Bartimaeus away when he chose to become a follower of Jesus. I realize that I am making an assumption about Bartimaeus with this point, but I believe that there is sufficient information about the first century mid-eastern region where this story occurred to make this assumption: As a marginalized, disabled beggar who lived on the margins of his community, Bartimaeus did not have observable education, talent and skills to offer to the ministry of Jesus and his band of followers. But that did not matter to Jesus as he seemed to delight in including the misfits, tax collectors, zealots and others of questionable reputation to be his followers. Bartimaeus was included, just as was everyone else.

Jesus always models the way!

Mark 10:46-52 (NRSV)   46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Note regarding image- I found this using a Bing search with the key words “Bartimaeus,” “healing.” It seems to have originated from the University of Michigan, but no citations were attached to it. If this image is yours or you know any details about where it originated from please contact this author and it will be removed or proper citation added.

End the R-Word

 Words matter. They are a reflection of what is in our hearts. Jesus put it this way, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks*.”

When I say to my son, “I love you,” my words are expressing my heart and thoughts about him. I say three words that express a world of emotion, hopes, memories, and delight in him as a human being.  My son knows what I mean when he hears or reads those words.

Similarly, when I say, “You are beautiful,” to a friend my words are telling her that she is a kind, gracious, and strong person. My friend knows what my heart believes about her when I say those three words.

Yes, words matter. Whether the words are shared for other people or they are directed at ourselves, they matter. So, what does it mean if I say to someone, “That’s so retarded” or “I am such a retard”? The R-word is being used to communicate stupid, slow, clumsy, or unattractive. What is this communicating to people who have been labeled “mentally retarded” by a doctor? When they hear someone use the R-word they hear themselves being insulted; they hear all people with their medical diagnosis being slammed .

The big problem with using the R-word is that in the origin of the word it was a medical diagnosis. Doctors stamped that word on to people’s medical charts. Somehow a medical diagnosis became part of common vernacular and came to be used as a putdown or an insult.

The R-word needs to disappear. It needs to disappear because words matter and when this word is spoken it matters that it is being used to insult, slam, judge, demean, or criticize.  It matters because there are people who have that medical diagnosis** and use of the word as an insult is a painful insult to them.

Words matter.

*Luke 6:45

**In 2013 the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual officially changed its vocabulary to delete references the diagnosis “mental retardation” and replace it with “intellectual disability” and other terms. Also is 2013 the Federal Register noted legislation to officially replace references to “mental retardation” in government documents with “intellectual disability.”

Words Matter

My words matter.

My words paint images in your mind.

I can use my words to manipulate the image they paint in your mind.

If I tell you “She is a cripple” I say those words for a reason- for pity.

If I tell you “She is an artist” I say those words for a reason- for admiration.

Both sets of words maybe accurate about She, but only one set of words is true.

Only one set of words about She matters.

The words about She’s purpose, She’s giftedness, She’s difference that she makes in the world; those words matter. Those words make She matter.

The other words describe what the environment does to her.

The other words make She not matter, they make her different. They are not true about She.

“She is a cripple” is not about She, but about the non-accessible world She inhabits.

Crippled. Crip. Handicapped. Bound to. Confined. Suffers with. Words that are not true. Words that do not matter.

Artistic. Fun. Creative. Adventurous. Contributor. Delighted. Cherished. Words that are true. Words that do matter.

Words matter.