by Ben Panter
As we lead up to Easter this year, our sermon series focuses on the last 7 things Jesus said on the cross. So throughout the series we'll be focusing on one statement a week in reflection on what it meant for Jesus as he said it, as well as what it means for us this Easter season. And with each statement, we've included an image or symbol that helps to illustrate or remind us some of the meaning. Throughout history art has been used to communicate deep truths at the visual level, so we wanted to give a short description of some of the intended meanings in these images to give you a starting point for your own reflection.
Three Nails - the implements of suffering and judgement.
In this case, there is a literal representation of the three nails: two for Jesus' hands, and one for his feet. This can serve as a reminder that these nails that were rightfully intended for us, but instead we placed them in the willing hands and feet of our savior.
City with a Tree - an eternal destination
This image is a representation of paradise as a city, which at its center has the tree of life. Additionally there are the "alpha" and "omega" symbols, which come out of the book of Revelations where Jesus refers to himself as "the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end". These images can speak many truths, but some of the key ones would be the upheld promise of Heaven or "Paradise" as a real destination that the follows of Jesus go when we dies. It also shows Paradise as being connected to the Garden of Eden, God's original paradise that will be restored. And lastly, it is a reminder that Jesus is eternal and rules eternally.
With each new sermon series we try to supply a handful of additional resources for you to explore. Books, podcasts and music can all help you go deeper into your understanding of the key themes being discussed each week. For this most recent series on lament there are a bunch we'd like you to be aware of.
A New Liturgy No 7: Lament
This video is by A New Liturgy and blends between a worship and spoken word lament. Take a few minutes and listen to this unfold.
Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament
Praying with the Psalms: A Year of Daily Prayers and Reflections on the Words of David
About a year ago we launched into a series on the book of Romans together and with it we began a "Common Life" series of devotional books. In the introduction of the first book it says " this small book offers a way for our whole church family to reflect on Christ together during the ordinary rhythm of our weekdays".
So what I'm posing to you now is, maybe it's a good time for you to revisit this series. I don't know where you were in life a year ago or how closely you were able to follow along throughout the Romans sermons. But I do know that our need for reminders of who Christ is and daily reflection is just as relevant now as it was a year ago. And a slow walk through the book of Romans and all the related passages may be just what you need this Fall.
You may also find value in revisiting the Common Life Book if you were able to follow along with the readings and questions originally. If you think about it like journaling, there is a lot gained through the process of writing, but even more can be learned and appreciated if you look back to see what God was teaching you in the past. And I think that looking back will fill you with gratitude and a renewed perspective on where and how God has been leading you and answering prayers.
So, if you still have your book, pull it out and start working through the readings one week at a time. And if you don't have it anymore or never had one, you can use a digital copy that is available for download here. I hope you find the daily practices and readings to be rich and fulfilling.
Written by Lisa Meyers
One of the hardest things to do when you are in the throes of raising children (diapers, school lunches, soccer practice!) is to take time out to think about and plan meaningful family activities. And yet, family traditions… vacations together to the same beach house or egg hunts at Grandma’s house or fall apple picking… are all occasions children remember long into their adulthood. And the truly important ones get passed on to their children. I know this because it’s happening to me! We have dear friends who we made memories with while experiencing those traditions year after year. We’d laugh and say,” why are we doing this again?” And the answer always came back, “because it’s a tradition!”
A Moveable Feast. Not to be confused with Hemingway’s famous autobiographical book, bearing this title, which describes his years as a young writer in Paris, full of joie de vivre (joy of life). No, the moveable feast, I’m referring to is Easter. Long before Hemingway wrote his memoir, Easter was known as a “moveable feast” because it was a Christian celebratory feast day which fell on a different date each year, unlike the other Christian holidays with fixed dates. In 2019, Easter’s moveable feast, falls on April 21st.
This description of Easter seems perfectly suited in more than just it’s nomadic calendar setting. A “moveable feast” suggests that this is a celebration we can take with us, where ever we go. It’s moveable and living, just as we are, just as Christ is. Like packing a fantastic picnic feast, we can celebrate Christ’s living presence in any and every place and situation we find ourselves. But a delicious picnic requires preparation. Historically, the Christian church has set apart the 40 days before Easter to prepare for the “feast” celebrating Christ’s saving death and resurrection.
Have you ever been driving home in the evening and glanced at a house you pass, noticing the warm light shining through the window? Have you thought, like I have, “I wonder what they are doing tonight? It looks so inviting in that room!” We’ve probably all experienced that wonder before. Chances are, the people living in that house are doing the same thing you and I do when we get home from work or an evening meeting. We kick off our shoes, make and eat dinner and settle in. Maybe we get the kids in the bath and in bed. Maybe we check email or Instagram or throw in a load of laundry. If we have time, we watch a movie on Netflix or read a few chapters of a good book (if we can stay awake!) We have that in common. We spend our evenings doing what most other people in our neighborhood or apartment buildings are doing. We live a common life.
At Fellowship, we also live a common life. We have in common the habit of getting up on Sunday mornings and making our way to church. We worship, listen to the sermon, drink coffee together and head home for a Sabbath afternoon. We have our faith in common. We share the belief that Jesus really is who He said He was, and that He will do what He says He will do. Together and as individuals we believe and trust in God our Savior.
Although our life is common, it is not mundane. It is not ordinary, although it may seem so at times. In reality, we live an uncommon life in that God’s Spirit lives in us. In 2 Corinthians 6:16 Paul writes to the believers, “And God has said, ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’” We live with the Spirit of the Living God dwelling in us. That’s certainly not ordinary! When I take time to simmer on that truth, I am blown away by the fact that God uses ordinary people to accomplish HIS unordinary deeds!
What is "Advent" celebration all about?
I think it's a common misconception that "Advent" is just another word for "Christmas", and that celebrating one is the same as celebrating the other. Certainly as we celebrate this season we need to keep the focus wholly on Christ, and work against the culture of consumerism, or at the very least, against the watering down of the real reason for celebration. And that is a part of both of these words, but "Advent" takes on a further significance with perhaps a longer perspective of what the season means to us today.
In looking for a good definition of what Advent celebration is all about, I stumbled on an article which I think perfectly sums up its significance:
"Advent symbolizes the present situation of the church in these “last days” (Acts 2:17, Hebrews 1:2), as God’s people wait for the return of Christ in glory to consummate his eternal kingdom. The church is in a similar situation to Israel at the end of the Old Testament: in exile, waiting and hoping in prayerful expectation for the coming of the Messiah. Israel looked back to God’s past gracious actions on their behalf in leading them out of Egypt in the Exodus, and on this basis, they called for God once again to act for them. In the same way, the church, during Advent, looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people. In this light, the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” perfectly represents the church’s cry during the Advent season:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
While Israel would have sung the song in expectation of Christ’s first coming, the church now sings the song in commemoration of that first coming and in expectation of the second coming in the future."
Excerpt from Christianity.com. Read more here.
What was to celebrate are available?