Easter Vigil Baptisms

“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” – Romans 6:4

Even as we journey deep into the heart of Lent, we’re keeping our eyes lifted toward Holy Week and the great hope of Jesus’ resurrection.  The culmination of all of our Holy Week services and the beginning of our celebration of Easter is the Great Vigil of Easter.  The Vigil is held the Saturday night before Easter Sunday.  This year, it’s on April 3rd at 8:30 pm.

The Vigil is a beautiful, powerful service of worship (definitely my favorite of the whole year).  The liturgy is in four parts, and through scripture, song, and sacrament, it unfolds the great story of redemption.  It begins in silent darkness and proceeds to a joyous, light-filled proclamation of Alleluia!

The Vigil dates back to the earliest centuries of the church, when it was the time that new converts to the Christian faith were baptized. (This came after a period of preparation and fasting — what eventually became the season of Lent.)  Baptism is still at the heart of the Easter Vigil.  Not only will we all renew our baptismal vows, but we’ll have the opportunity to baptize any adults who want to be baptized!

Would you like to be baptized? If you have committed to following Jesus as the one who forgives and rescues you — or if you would like to — and you’ve never been baptized, we would love to baptize you at the Easter Vigil.  If you’re interested or have questions, please contact David or Erin (you can reach us here). We’d love to talk with you!

(If you have an infant whom you would like to be baptized, we’ll have infant baptisms on Pentecost, May 23rd. Please contact us if you’re interested.)

I really hope that all of you will consider coming to the Great Vigil of Easter. I promise that you’ll experience the joy of Christ’s resurrection in a profoundly powerful way!

Lent has begun

Lent is a season of waiting, anticipation, denial, adding on.  It is our most corporate time as a universal, historic church. For 40 days (just over a tithe of the year!!), we choose disciplines and practices that prepare us to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus.

You will notice some differences during our Sunday worship:

  1. After a song of worship, we begin with a litany of penitence. The leader will read each of the 10 commandments and we will sing, “Lord have mercy upon us and incline our hearts and minds to keep this law.”  Out of this reminder of the ethic that is to shape our life, we pray the prayer of confession.  We begin each of the 6 weeks with a deliberate choice to face our shortcomings and intentional disobedience.  It is my prayer that this will whet our appetite for grace.  Self-examination is always ‘in vogue’, but only the cross has a means for us to be truly transformed.
  2. After the sermon, we have built a song of response around the prayers of the people.
  3. We are using a different Eucharistic liturgy. It is older, more robust in its theology, and longer.  You will hear some words you might not immediately recognize:
  • Oblation:  from the Latin oblatus which means offering.  On the cross, Jesus was an oblation for our sins–  a full satisfaction for the penalty we deserved, a perfect offering who needed no forgiveness, a sufficient sacrifice for all of our sins.  That’s what we mean by oblation.
  • Procured:  Yep, you probably know what this means– to obtain something.  But you’ll hear me say it as I give thanks for all the benefits that Christ’s passion, death, resurrection, and ascension ‘procured’ for us.  Remember, when we come to the table, we come to be reminded that Jesus has rescued us.  It’s a memorial meal so that we can remember what He has done.

If you hear other words you don’t understand or find curious, post them here as a comment.  I’ll answer them in the blog.

At the end, you’ll hear me say ‘we are unworthy to offer you any sacrifice, but we ask you to accept this–  our required duty and service…’ The Eucharist wasn’t our idea, it was Christ’s.  When I pray that prayer, I am asking God, by His Word and Holy Spirit, to make a little bread and a little wine a sacrament–  a visible, tangible reminder that we have been rescued, that we have received grace.  That prayer tells the story of what Jesus did and why He had to do it.  Sometimes it gets a little long and the words might be unfamiliar, but it’s our story.  Thanks be to God.

Ash Wednesday

Services on February 17 at Restoration:

6:30am:  Imposition of Ashes, Litany of Confession, Holy Eucharist, Jamie Brown is our guest musical worship leader [65mins]

Noon:  Imposition of Ashes, Litany of Confession, Holy Eucharist, Jamie Brown is our guest musical worship leader, nursery for children 2 and under [65mins]

8:30pm:  Compline Prayer Service, Imposition of Ashes, Litany of Confession [30mins]

From the Book of Common Prayer:

Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism.  It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of Christ, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and selfdenial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.

Shrove Tuesday

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 17.

Historically, during the days before Ash Wednesday, Christians were expected to confess in preparation for the penitential season.  Today, many Christians make a point of self-examination on Shrove Tuesday, focusing on sins from which we need to turn away and asking God for spiritual direction.

Shrove (past tense of shrive, Old English – to hear confession, assure of God’s forgiveness, and give appropriate spiritual guidance)

Because Shrove Tuesday was the last day before the fasting Lenten Season, it was necessary to use up perishable food items on this day which were not to be consumed during Lent, including milk, eggs, butter, sugar, and meat. This led to the tradition of Pancake Tuesday, a last feast before the beginning of the Lenten fast.

Feeling cooped up??

Why don’t you reach out to some folks and host a pancake supper on Tuesday, February 16th? This is a great excuse to have a simple meal and get to know more people in our church or in your neighborhood.  We are not doing anything formal as a church, but I’d love to hear stories of mountains of Restoration pancakes being eaten around the DC area.  Use our FB page to give a shout if you’re open to anybody dropping by or if you are looking for a place to drop in!

Epiphany

Picture 19
Epiphany
The season of Epiphany always begins on the 12th day of Christmas: January 6. It is difficult to capture all the nuance and meaning of the Greek root in Epiphany, but generally it means ‘revelation’ or ‘manifestation of that which has been hidden.’ Our Anglican morning prayer service, (p. 76, BCP) has three verses that capture how the historic church has viewed the days between the celebration of our Lord’s nativity (December 25) and the beginning of Lent (Feb 17 in 2010):

Isaiah 60:3 And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.

Isaiah 49.6b I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Malachi 1:11 For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts.

During this 5-9 week season (length depends on the date of Easter), the church remembers that ‘the people who have been walking in darkness have seen a great light.’ Through Gospel readings that highlight the visit of the wise men, the baptism of Jesus (this is my beloved Son), and the miracle at Cana where water is turned into wine, we embrace the exhortation to bring this Good News, this revelation of God to all the corners of the earth. We are reminded that God is not a village idol, that Christianity is not a parochial tradition, and that Jesus was not just a good teacher. We have a message to proclaim and the labor of the church until He returns is to make Him known.

Lent Remix

A few more thoughts on what in the world we are doing during these 40 days…

From the Anglo-Saxon lencten:  spring, the time of lengthening days.  Lent is the forty-day penitential season beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Eve.

Until quite recent years Lent was observed by enough people and with enough seriousness that the pace of our common life was manifestly slowed down during these 40 days.  Now the small recognition it receives is scarcely more than a token.

Lent began to disappear from the American scene when self-denial began to disappear.  Devotional exercises are considered pointless calisthenics because their relevance to social issues is not immediately discernible.  The idea that a single, serious, self-disciplined Christian is a leaven in society is passe…

It was Gregory the Great, late in the 6th century, who established the 40 day period.  He had to leave out Sundays, of course, because every Sunday is a feast day in commemoration of Easter.  This is why Lent begins on a Wednesday:  to make up the 40 days without counting the Sundays.

It has been pointed out that 40 days make up roughly one-tenth of the year, which means that Lent can be regarded as a tithe of one’s time!

It is a season of saying no, of asking for God’s grace and mercy over the wrongs we have chosen to do, and for being intentionally generous towards those who are most marginalized and vulnerable.  May God grant you a holy and intentional Lent.

A Penitential… what?

Erin Coleman is on staff at Restoration.  She oversees all of our Sunday morning worship life.  Here are some of her thoughts on how things will ‘feel’ different during Lent:

We’re coming up on six weeks in to the worship life of Restoration, and I feel like we’re starting to hit our stride.  There’s a flow to our worship service.  We know who is supposed to do what and when (at least most of the time). Things seem to just move along.  We’re finally getting comfortable.

Must be time to change a few things!

Starting this Sunday, you’ll notice some changes to our liturgy, the pattern of our worship service.  We’re making these changes because it’s Lent, the season of prayer, fasting, self-examination, and penitence that leads up to Easter.  Our service will reflect those emphases.  We’ll begin by saying together the ten commandments, and then we’ll move right into the prayer of confession. (There’s nothing like the ten commandments to make me aware of my sin and the need to confess!)  And we don’t get to say “alleluia” again until Easter.

There will be other changes, too.  We’ll say the Apostles Creed instead of the Nicene Creed.  We’ll use a different version of the Eucharistic prayer in the Great Thanksgiving.  We do these things mostly as a reminder that Lent is a unique season in the church year.  We’re used to our lives being shaped by the differences in the physical seasons.  The changes to our liturgy can serve as a reminder of how our lives can also be shaped by the different seasons of the church year.

It will probably feel a little bit weird at first.  Inevitably, we’ll mess up.  Someone will forget which version of the prayer of confession we’re supposed to say.  Someone will start off the Nicene Creed.  Undoubtedly, I’ll add an “alleluia” after the service’s final “Thanks be to God!”  It will all be a little discombobulating.

But I think this is a good thing.  Feeling a little off-balance in our worship can be a powerful reminder of our dependence on God, and of how our worship is about God and not about us and how well we do it.  It’s also a reminder of how big God is—of how no worship container that we make can ever encompass His glory.  Above all, I hope it will lead us all back to God’s grace, to the renewed knowledge that all that we have and all that we are—even our worship—comes from Him.

I’m looking forward to journeying through this season of Lent with you.

Pray With Us: Lent40

Lent starts with our Ash Wednesday service on Feb 25th:  7:30pm at the church.

From Feb 26 until April 3, we will have opportunities for corporate prayer each day of the week, Monday-Friday.  The times will vary by day, but will be the same every week (for example:  every Monday at 8:30pm, every Tuesday at noon, etc).

Check our calendar!

One of the great traditions of the church is a schedule of fixed prayer.  Although there have been as many as 9 ‘offices’ each day, we use 4 daily offices:  morning, noon, evening, and compline (prayers before bed).  During this season of Lent, we are inviting folks in our community to add the spiritual discipline of corporate prayer at fixed times.  Imagine adding a regular 30 minutes of quiet, meditative prayer to your week for 40 days.  How would this choice slow you down?  How would it bring calm?  How would it facilitate a sense of solidarity with others who are seeking to draw near to God in this season?  Speaking from my experience, I know we are rushed, frantic, and often lonely.  Here is a chance to deliberately swing the other way to relaxed, peaceful, and accompanied by friends.

Prayers will be facilitated by a leader and last 30 minutes.  I invite (even challenge!) you to choose at least one day of the week and commit to that corporate prayer time at the church for the season of Lent.  See you there.

What are you giving up?

Lent is one of those beautiful, funky, makes you go hmmm, reflective times of the year.  Next Wednesday, millions of people will go to work and school with ash crosses on their head.  They will have the words–  for you are dust and to dust you shall return–  echoing in their ears.  People outside the church are curious, maybe confused, possibly judgmental.

In this worship service, why do we intentionally think about our shortcomings?

It treats them with integrity–  we all have them, best not to ignore them.  It also gives us hope that there is One who came to offer forgiveness and whole-hearted change.  We will have an Ash Wednesday service at Restoration on Feb 25 at 7:30pm. We’d love for you to join us.

From Feb 26 until April 11, millions of people will also give up something (chocolate, dessert, TV, alcohol) or add something (prayer, meditation on Scripture, community service) as a spiritual discipline to remind themselves that they are dust, to remind themselves of their longings and hunger, to prepare for Easter.  What have you given up?  Or added?  Do you like it?  Think it’s wierd?  Do you like this time of year?   Tell us your story.

Saints for sinners

Nov 1 is historically the day the church remembers those whom have died in the previous calendar year:  All Saints Day.  ‘Saint’ is quite a loaded term in our culture.  It is used throughout the New Testament to refer to those who have been ‘set apart’ or made holy by their relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  All who follow Jesus are biblically known as ‘saints’.

But there are some common saint-beliefs that we need to de-bunk.  We don’t pray TO the saints.

1Timothy 2:5 (ESV) For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

We have do not need extra mediators, extra saints to go between us and God.  Our relationship with God is based exclusively on the finished work of Jesus on the cross.  He is our only ‘go-between’.  We don’t need help from saint so-and-so to get ahead.

Secondly, we don’t pray FOR the saints.

Hebrews 9:27 (ESV) And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,

We all get one shot, one life, to decide who we will follow.  Once that life is over, our decision is made.  We cannot pray people into heaven once they have died.  We cannot wish them out of some purgatory-esque after-life.  One shot.  So, decide who you will follow while you walk this earth.  Will you be a saint?

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