Forming Faith Blog

God’s Ways (March 6 & 10, 2019)

This Lent, see God's ways in a lowly child and the power of forgiveness.

God’s ways are not our ways. That’s basically a summary of the Narrative Lectionary readings for Lent. God’s priorities are not like our priorities. God does things differently in the kingdom of heaven. This Lent, we continue to look at the upside-down kingdom of heaven we saw in Epiphany as we learned to follow Jesus and witnessed God’s power. This is the first week of Lent, with both Ash Wednesday (March 6) and the first Sunday of Lent (March 10).

God’s Ways: The Greatest

One of the traditional themes for Ash Wednesday is humility. Along with the ritual of the imposition of ashes, we sometimes hear: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Or, don’t think too highly of yourself. But, our Bible reading begins with the disciples asking Jesus about the greatest in the kingdom. Part of me thinks Jesus might have rolled his eyes at this. They still don’t get it. They are worried about the social ranking system in God’s kingdom. The disciples want to know how they, who are near the bottom in society, get to the top?

God’s Way: Humility

In response, Jesus provides a parable of sorts, the example of a child. He says that we need to be humble like the child. Now, there are almost two thousand years and very different cultures involved, but “humble” is not a word I would use to describe my kids. In fact, we sometimes sigh about the “arrogance of youth.” But, I don’t think Jesus was specifically referring to an attitude, the opposite of arrogance.

Even in a culture where children were more respectful to adults, we see that Jesus didn’t change the conversation from social rank. The NIV translates Matthew 18:4 not as “becomes humble” but “whoever takes the lowly position of this child.” As I understand, children were basically at the bottom of the social ranking in first-century societies. So much more so, would be the children of the working poor. “You want to be super important?” Jesus asks, “Become a ‘nobody.’ And, most importantly, honor the “nobodies” you meet.” This is another example of God’s kingdom being upside down from ours. This is the premise for our Ash Wednesday free activity, “Great in the Kingdom” from our Living the Word: Cross+Gen Worship product. In addition to the whole spring quarter, you can also order only the Lenten worship guides or even one or more individual worship guides of your choice!

Intergenerational Relationships

Our society is much different than those of first-century Mediterranean cultures. Our relationship with children is very different. However, we as adults in church sometimes dismiss and send children off to do their own thing. One of the tenets of intergenerational (or cross+generational) ministry is that each generation has much to teach each other generation, and each generation also has much to learn from each other. Too often, we focus on adults teaching children, with no reciprocity. This Ash Wednesday, take this opportunity to include children, youth, and even young adults in leading worship. Imagine a child or youth marking the foreheads of adults at one of the stations for the imposition of ashes. Provide continued opportunities for children to lead and teach, and for people of different ages to establish relationships with each other.

God’s Ways: Forgiveness

Only a few days after Ash Wednesday comes the first Sunday of Lent. The reading for that day is just a little bit further in Matthew 18, including teachings about what to do when a community member sins and about forgiveness. Forgiveness is another place where God’s ways are not our ways, though forgiveness is a more common concept in secular society. God forgives us extravagantly and expects us to pass on this love and forgiveness to others in our lives.

Years ago, I had the honor of experiencing a vespers service at an Orthodox church on the first Sunday of Lent. That Sunday begins the observance of Lent and is called “Forgiveness Sunday.” There, I experienced a forgiveness ritual in which every worshipper asked for, received, and gave forgiveness to every other worshipper. That ritual is adapted as an activity in our Living the Word: Youth curriculum called “God Forgives.” This is a powerful activity that can be used or adapted in multiple settings, including with all generations in worship.

May God bless you this Lenten season.

In Christ,

-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

Lent is at hand, so it’s time to order Spring Living the Word faith formation resources (covering Lent through Pentecost Sunday)! As soon as your payment is processed, you can download the materials and start using them!

Year 2 (2019-2020) products have launched! Check out the announcement blog post for more information.

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!

Be sure to download our free Narrative Lectionary 2018-2019 Planning Tool and Scope & Sequence. The 2019-2020 Planning Tool, NL Readings Overview, and Scope & Sequence are available to download, too!