Tag Archives: Lent

AN EXPERIENCE – FOUR OAKS – MAUNDY THURSDAY COMMUNION AND FOOT WASHING By Anna L. Dykeman, Final Year MA Diaconal Ministry

UCC Pastor Jean, Janet, and I all wanted to connect with the girls at Four Oaks at least one time out of the usual during Holy Week. We all felt a strong call to accompany the girls through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as remembered during this time because we knew that they have had similar experiences. The call of the Holy Spirit guides us to walk with others through their times of trial, because we have been freed from sin on account of Christ.  We wanted to live out that freedom by serving these young who have experienced such pain and change in their lives through some of the practices of Holy Week.

So, Jean and I created a worship service for Maundy Thursday. I was completely giddy at the way a Diaconal Minister and a Pastor would be working side by side in leadership and in worship. She would lead the communion portion and I would lead the foot washing. Perfect. And, by the end of the evening, it indeed was a perfect moving of the Holy Spirit, a clear example of how the Trinity dances and invites all who are gathered to join in.

When Maundy Thursday rolled around, the three of us met prior to the girls’ arrival to go over last minute details, to set up the space, and to pray. I was incredibly nervous. When we were ready to begin, it came about that we needed to totally rearrange our order of service because we were going to eat dinner with the girls – the dinner they eat (liken it to a school hot lunch), in their space – and we had to eat right then. So, we gathered, said a prayer, then went down to the cafeteria and received our tray of food with the girls who were joining us for worship; we went back into our room and ate together. It was here that I learned one can eat the whole entire kiwi, skin and all. Because the girls are not allowed to have knives to peel off the skin they have to eat the whole thing and honestly it is delicious! After we had eaten, Jean moved us into Holy Communion.

Communion, for me, is a fundamental understanding of who the Triune God is. It is God, in Christ Jesus, pouring God’s self out for the healing, redemption, and salvation of all people. This is a gift simply because it is a tangible way of understanding the goodness of God. Communion goes beyond mere words and engages our many senses and humanity is invited to dance in and with the Trinity. It is mystical and common all at once and this particular communion experience changed my understanding and belief of God profoundly.

After dinner the dishes were cleared and Jean led us in Confession and Assurance of Pardon and we prepared to give one another communion in the round. However, the most blessed thing happened prior to this moment that shaped the whole experience into something much deeper – Jean’s husband had purchased a bread mix but what was not realized until later was that the mix was a savory Italian bread. So, as Jean explained (with a chuckle and grin on her face) what had happened, the smell of the bread hit me. I can still smell it when I remember this experience, the freshness of the bread with basil and oregano mingling together causing my mouth to water. It was so intoxicating – I wanted that bread! Jean had also brought juice, Welches purple grape juice whose smell combined with the bread sent me into a whole other way of being present. The elements were inviting and I was begging to come. But, I focus on me and really it was the reaction that the girls had that will forever impact my understanding of God and God’s gift of communion.

“Oh [mouth full of bread] this is soooooooo good,” one said. And yet another, “I have never tasted anything so delicious.” And still another girl urgently asks, “Can we have more?” My eyes fill with tears as I think back on this experience because this means of grace which I encounter so much in my churched life actually breaks all human barriers and in this instance the Kingdom of God is there in our midst nearly as tangible as the bread and juice we are consuming. All I hear in my heart and mind in this moment is gift from the Holy Spirit “taste and see that the Lord is Good!” And I do, and we all do, and it is good. We all sit in those moments experiencing the goodness of bread and juice made Christ through the Holy Spirit and scripture. We are freed from our burdens, past, present, and future, and we are together in worship encountering the Trinity and meeting Christ in each other.

Now, you must understand that this is my communion experience; this is what I saw and lived in those moments of time. It has occurred to me since then what a travesty it is that the church does not often serve fresh, tasty bread to remember the broken body of Christ. It is also a problematic that more often than not the cheapest wine is purchased and shared to represent the blood of Christ poured out for all of creation. We, like the disciples, have forgotten that the poor will always be with us and that to anoint the feet of God with costly perfume is blessing God and honoring the Divine. Perhaps we should bring out the best bread and wine we have so people will crave more Christ! That those gathered may taste and see that the Lord is good not cheap, the delicious recognition of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection as God’s love for all of creation.

Now, let us go back to Maundy Thursday. After communion we moved away from the desks that were fashioned into a long table, and sat in a circle on the floor. Prior to our gathering we set up three chairs (covering them with a beautiful cloth) and three basins. We based our foot washing on John 13:1-17 and Jean, Janet, and I did a readers theater of the text so the girls could connect why we were foot washing at all. As an offering to the girls, Jean, Janet and I would provide the foot washing because we wanted to show them what servant leadership was all about, to use this tangible means to illustrate Christ’s love for them. We are clear leaders for these girls but as far as we can tell, the other leaders in their lives have never been as servants to them.

Pouring warm water and tangerine smelling oil into the basins, Jean, Janet, and I invited the girls to come and sit when they felt ready. Again, I was unprepared for the experience that was about to happen. A young lady sits at my chair and hovers her feet over the basin and I pour the warm, fragrant water over her tired feet and she lets out a sigh. Then, I wash her feet with my bare hands, gently rubbing them and she groans with a sigh of relief and exclaims, “Girls, you have got to do this, this is amazing.” It was then that it hit me that these girls lack the vital necessity of positive touch, of being allowed to relax and be taken care of by another, of not being hurt or hit or abused by another. It was then that I vowed to wash each of the girls’ feet with attention, intention and love, to safely touch them where their stress and tiredness hides.

That evening, all of the girls who were with us had their feet washed. Then, they demanded to return the love by washing our feet! Three or four girls at a basin washing our feet, talking about how good the water smelled and how warm it felt on their hands. They knelt above our feet, studying them and caring for us. When that humbling moment of submitting to Christ’s love for me via the hands and hearts of the girls was finished the Holy Spirit blew the girls into a wind of excitement and love and they left the room to invite the staff to come in so the girls could wash their feet! The staff! The ones who are charged with caring for the girls and all that means, the staff who are exhausted, who yell, who hug, who are bitten by the girls, who restrain them when things get out of hand, who have to remove the privileges of the girls all the time. Those staff. The people who, in my life, I would never run to and invite them over so I could wash their feet. This was indeed an out pouring of Divine Love for the other! A few staff took up the invitation, and Jean, Janet, and I watched the girls lovingly wash the feet of the staff at Four Oaks. It will forever baffle me but will always, always exemplify Christ’s call to love our neighbors as ourselves.

The breaking in of the Kingdom of God through community, communion, and foot washing. Perceiving the flight of the Holy Spirit and the hands of Christ at work and the feet of Christ having the dust removed from them. Understanding that this experience, the whole entire thing, is God’s intention for how life is to be lived, in humble service to each other. This was my Maundy Thursday experience, given by the Triune God through girls who have been hurt and abused and removed from society because they are the “bad” ones. They were the proclaimers of God’s grace and love, servants to the people in their midst, testifying to the abundance of God.

MY “DO SOMETHING” JOURNEY by Ivy Adams, WTS spouse

Several weeks before Lent began, I started forming a plan in my mind that I would give up something for Lent. Every year I chat with my husband about this as I brainstorm and pray about what it is that I really want to sacrifice for these 40 days. His response is always the same, “You don’t have to give up anything.” That answer always surprises me because all my life growing up Catholic, in my home, and in our church, we all participated in this Lenten practice. To not think about what to give up and not to participate was unheard of. However, it always seemed that I could never withstand the entire 40 days, meaning I never made it to the “finish line,” so to speak. I always wondered why that was, and as an adult who is more confident in my faith and married to a seminarian, I am reminded that Christ’s love never ends, I am a sinner, and I am forgiven.

Rather than be miserable without the comforts of what I had given up, why not set out on a journey that would be enjoyable? This would be a journey that inspired me, along with family and friends, and members of my community. I decided that I would challenge myself and inspire others to live out a 40 day journey called “Do Something.”

“Do Something” became a blog that I write for everyday of Lent. Each blog post inspires the reader, believer, or non-believer to engage in activities that promote well-being, healthy eating and exercise, acts of service, caring for others, helping the needy, and encouraging them to become involved in their community or organization of their choice.

When I first began, I had no idea how I would encourage people for 40 days. Sure, for a week or two, but 40 days? How was I ever going to do this? We live in such a connected world through social networking, online blogs, video chatting, texting, twitter; the list goes on and on. I knew that I would have an audience, but could I really inspire people to think and do acts of kindness outside their comfort zone? Maybe.

I do know that I am held accountable for blogging every day during Lent, whether people are reading it or not. This is the Lenten journey that I chose, and while I don’t always have the opportunity to post the blog first thing in the morning, I do post it during that day sometime and who knows, maybe someone is up late, not able to sleep, and they stumble across my blog. They may become moved and inspired, ready to try something new, even if it’s one person out of so many in the online world.

If you wish to see the blog of my Lenten journey, and participate in “Doing Something,” visit punkrock2preacher.blogspot.com.

SACRED SPACE by Rita Augsburger, M.Div. senior

The Lord speaks to us in many and varied ways. At times this voice may be a thought or a quiet, persistent pulse that continues to oscillate in intensity until it is addressed in some concrete way. Sometimes the persistent voice calls to engage with others and something new is created. Barb Otten is a member of St John’s Lutheran Church in Sterling, IL., and a junior at WTS. She had completed a two year program of Spiritual Formation and was feeling the persistent pulse to share, with her congregation, what she had learned about spiritual practices.

When I came on internship at St. John’s in the late summer of 2010, Barb mentioned this desire to me. Within moments we had a plan and a schedule to run by the pastor. Sacred Spaces, a five week Lenten series on Spiritual practices —Mandella, Stretch-N-Pray, Praying in Color, Lutheran Prayer Beads, and the Labyrinth—became the concrete way of addressing the persistent pulse.

Evolving out of this series, and another community event, a group of congregation members felt the need to create a place for people to go to pray, read scripture, contemplate, and meditate. The East Room of St John’s, formerly just a pass through, was a perfect choice. This room has now become a Sacred Space for spiritual refreshment.

From one pulse to another to others, the work of the Spirit carries on.