Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, the 40 or so days until Easter. We went to evening service tonight. The last time I scanned in all the pages of the bulletin from one of our church’s services it wasn’t exactly a wildly popular post, so I’ll refrain. THIS TIME ahaha. I find examining the differences of doctrines and religious practices to be quite fascinating without any bells and whistles (i.e. the black and white printed bulletin on plain paper). But this is a glog; heavy with bells (pictures!) and whistles (jokes! or at least a bad pun or a double entendre or two) so I’ve picked out the highlights from the service/message. The cover of the bulletin this evening read…
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
A notion taken from Ecclesiastes 3:20 which reads:
All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. (Ecclesiastes 3:20)
I was immediately reminded of one of our favorite posts (Hamlet for Babies). Here is an excerpt from that post to illustrate why…
Hamlet was grappling with the idea of our earthly worth. Perhaps if Hamlet were a gardener he would not be so conflicted on the worth of a person’s temporal life…
Fine dirt sounds pretty good to me! I try not to take the “earthly” things too seriously. We’re not really supposed to love money or possessions or measure our worth by our accomplishments, deeds or assets. I’m really nothing more than dirt here on earth. A speck of dust. Only in Christ is there value, joy and everlasting life and anything truly significant.
The idea of “giving up” something earthly for Lent I think is meant to disrupt your routine to focus on personal repentance in light of the suffering and death of Christ. But when I think about possibilities of something to restrict (sugar? caffeine?) such things seem SO insignificant in relation to the actual point of Lent…
“…a holy season of prayerful and penitential reflection…a time of special devotion, self-denial and humble repentance…” (taken from the church bulletin)
I mean, Jesus was fasting ALONE in a desert (with nary a garden for miles!). He couldn’t lament to his coworkers or friends about how much he missed food. He was alone. With only God (and the Devil) for company. Quite a far cry from sharing your “sacrifices” with all your friends and family, “Woe! I miss Dr. Pepper so much.*” Even if the sacrifices/restrictions have good intentions, i.e.”I’m giving up procrastination!*” or obvious benefits, they don’t necessarily equal spiritual value or make one more reflective or repentant or humble (especially if you’re sharing them with everyone and their brother, see Matthew 6:16 on that!). I think restrictions and changes to routines definitely CAN have spiritual benefits, but I suppose I’m giving up: sharing what I’m giving up for Lent. HAHahaha
*Actual Lent “sacrifices I’ve heard people say. HAHAHahhaa
Please share in the comments your thoughts on how “giving things up” does or does not make you more spiritually mindful. Love to hear different perspectives on this!
I’ve scanned in the entire bulletin from our church service this past Sunday. At our church we follow a liturgy, which is a specific order of worship. There are a few different variations (they change with the church seasons and communion is only part of the service on the second and forth Sundays each month), but it is always structured and there are few enough variations that it is easy to memorize many of the “usual” prayers and responses and songs that we sing (if you go often enough). I scanned the whole thing in because usually we follow the service along in the Lutheran service book (which has the various layouts of worship in the first part of the book and all the hymns fill the rest). The bulletin typically has an abbreviated order of service (like an outline). But last Sunday the whole thing was printed up in along with italicized notes about WHY we do each little “part” of the service. I thought it was really interesting and wanted to share:
I always regard our church as taking a sort of academic approach to understanding Christ (and the Bible). The bulletin is quite plain. Black text on plain white paper. A simple design on the cover. I love how it is so simple and unadorned. To me, the words, the messages and the meanings become the very clear focus. Focusing on Bible passages (at least for me) takes a lot of concentration. People have entire discussions (or write entire volumes!) on mere verses. The words are not like the sentences I’m hammering out here. They’re God-breathed. It really is a “living” work and every verse is a chance for an amazing encounter- direct (!) –with God. But it takes focus and concentration. Clapping or crying or waving my hands would not facilitate the concentration, I personally, need to grasp the messages of the Bible. Not saying I don’t sometimes cry/have an emotional response as a result of a deeper spiritual understanding—I just like taking this sort of “academic” approach first.
It’s never too difficult to catch which part of the Bible is being studied during service (even when accompanied by Babyzilla). The verses are always printed on the back of the bulletin!
The hymns have lovely old syntax and multisyllabic vocabulary words that sometimes stretch on for measures. Truth be told, I don’t really know what a measure is in music-speak. But I enjoy the opportunity of the hymns to hear AND see the notes, even if I can’t technically “read” sheet music. (Side note: the hymns from the service were not printed in this handout: we sang them out of the book). Maybe I’ll borrow a hymnal for some more “scanning in” next week!
Perhaps you’ve scrolled to the end of this post and haven’t actually read a word of any of the pages (I so painstakingly scanned in)? The following are some questions I considered during/after this service and I think sharing these questions may reveal why I find this so interesting. Perhaps after considering all of these questions maybe you can scroll back up through the pages and at least check out some of the italicized blurbs and see what you think in relation to how you worship or praise or understand the notion of “church”. I won’t directly answer things I consider in attempting to answer these questions below (this is an essay, not a book!), but if you leave a comment I will be happy to continue the discussion!
If a church has lots of “bells and whistles” (i.e. a “band”, more “contemporary” music, colorful logos, video components, etc): Do you think these things are distracting to the messages?
What about the church service as a “stage” (literally and figuratively) to share our God-given talents? Art, music, design? What place (if any) do these things have in a church service?
Is there anything wrong with using such “bells and whistles” if the main goal is to attract more people (because obviously the churches with the “bells and whistles” certainly DO attract LOADS of people)?
What do you think of the idea of the “perfect prayer” (The Lord’s Prayer: the prayer Jesus tells us to pray in Matthew 6:9-13)? Do you say this prayer at church?
How significant is syntax and diction when it comes to the language used in a church service? (an example of this would be “The Lord bless you and keep you” instead of “May the Lord bless you…”
What are the benefits of eliciting an emotional response during a church service?
The theater can elicit a very emotional response, but going to a show is not the same as attending church; how are they different?
How do you think attending a church service should differ from attending a “show”?
Do you feel like an active participant when you attend church or an audience member?
Do you think using sheet music (as in a traditional hymnal) is significant in singing songs in church? (At least for me it sure is educational and has that “academic” feel I’m drawn to)
What are the benefits of following a consistent order of service?
Do you think there are any negatives to following a “strict” order of service (a liturgy)?
What about social media (streaming church services/virtual bible classes, etc.) and not participating live (in person)? Is that church?
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20)
Please discuss among yourselves. Or here. And I do hope, Internet, God is among us at Spy Garden website. Perhaps it doesn’t qualify as “church” but it’s still a sort of gathering…or is it?