Free Resources: Ashes and Dust (Ash Wednesday) & Follow Me Art (Lent 1)
Lenten Theme 1 (February 18—March 4): Following Jesus
This week marks the beginning of Lent, with both Ash Wednesday on February 14th and the Lent 1 on February 18th. Both Narrative Lectionary texts involve “I AM” statements from Jesus: I AM the good shepherd and I AM the resurrection. However, also connecting the two stories is the theme of following Jesus. The sheep follow Jesus as the good shepherd, and Lazarus follows Jesus’ command, even when dead.
The Sheep Follow Jesus
In the reading for Ash Wednesday (John 10:1-18), Jesus continues his monologue with the Jewish leaders from John 9. He challenges the authority of the Pharisees by claiming to be the true shepherd of the people. He also slams the leaders by intimating that they are thieves whom the people don’t listen to. Within this extended metaphor, Jesus doesn’t claim that the people should listen to him, but they will listen to him. The sheep will follow Jesus.
The Disciples Follow Jesus
In John 10:22-42, Jesus has another argument with the Jewish leaders. This ends with them trying to attack him, though Jesus escapes. After hearing the news of Lazarus’ illness and death, Jesus intends to go back toward the very people he so recently escaped. His disciples question this, but since Jesus wouldn’t budge, they decide to follow Jesus into danger.
Even the Dead Follow Jesus
Then, Jesus arrives in Bethany and has conversations with both of Lazarus’ sisters (Martha and Mary). They and the other mourners follow Jesus to the tomb, still not imagine what is about to happen. Jesus issues a strange command, to open the tomb. After an expository prayer, Jesus issues a command to the lifeless body decaying in the tomb. And, to the utter shock of everyone, even the dead follow Jesus’s command. The text doesn’t describe the reactions of those present, but the image of the dead man walking out of the tomb, wrapped in strips of cloth must have freaked them out (mummy or zombie image anyone?). The Gospel writer doesn’t even mention specifically that Lazarus is alive, only that “the dead man” came out, following Jesus’s command.
Following Jesus through Lent
The raising of Lazarus is the seventh sign in John’s Book of Signs, the culmination of this declaration of who Jesus is. Jesus is the Word, the Son of God, the Messiah, in whom the power of God resides. This is the Jesus whom we worship; this is the Jesus whom we follow. In this time of preparation leading up to the resurrection, the ultimate sign of who Jesus is, the question is put before us: How do we follow Jesus in our own lives? What even does it mean to follow a first-century rabbi (the divine Son of God) in the twenty-first century? It is our task this Lent, as it is the rest of the year, to work as a community to explore these questions, both for our individual lives and our life together.
Both stories address following Jesus. Thus, our two free resources this week also deal with following Jesus. The Ash Wednesday resource “Ashes and Dust” from our Living the Word: Cross+Gen Worship product gives a tactile and visual way to reflect on how we fail to follow Jesus. Our “Follow Me Art” resource (from our Living the Word: Cross+Gen Education curriculum) for the First Sunday of Lent provides a creative, active way to demonstrate that following Jesus is not about everyone doing the same thing, but each unique individual follows Jesus down a unique path.
-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!
Image Copyright: keithlevit / 123RF Stock Photo