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Living the Liturgy

Sunday Reflections June 12, 2016: Blessing & Sending

By | Living the Liturgy, Sunday Reflections | One Comment

Last night at The Practice was such a wonderful end to our Living the Liturgy series., an exploration of the sacred rituals we practice each and every Sunday that shape our daily lives.

In this series we wanted to pull back the curtain and look at why practicing sacred rituals in our liturgy on Sundays is so formative for our daily lives. In the past three weeks we’ve been on quite a journey through scripture, confession & assurance, and the Eucharist – last night we ended our journey with an exploration of blessing and sending, the heart of our weekly passing of the peace and the benediction.

The night began on a more serious and somber note as our community took space in the liturgy to pray for Orlando as a community. The Book of Common Prayer has a heartbreaking and profound prayer that is to be used in times of crisis and heartache – so it was apt that we prayed that prayer along with a lament for gun violence and support for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters who have felt vulnerable and targeted since the event.

After holding up Orlando in this holy space, we continued through our opening liturgy with communal readings from scripture, immersing ourselves in the shared story of God’s people, the confession and assurance, and the passing of the peace.

Last night was also our final “Neuroscience with Jenna” experience – a look at the brain science behind how liturgy literally shapes our brain through ancient understanding of how our minds are formed. (I will say here that it has been such a blast sharing these insights with you all and seeing your enthusiasm for the connections between psychology and liturgy, thank you all for your encouragement!)

Before we turned to the message and practice for the evening, we updated our community on a last minute change of plan. As many of you know, our dear friend and faithful pastor to the Practice community, Kellye Fabian was scheduled to teach last night, but a last minute family emergency meant that our whole team agreed she needed to be present with her family rather than with all of us.

So to keep you all in the loop – Kellye will still record her beautiful message that she prepared for us this week and we will post it online and on the Practice Podcast as soon as it’s ready.

In the meantime – I got to step in and fill our teaching time with a little vision behind where the passing of the peace and the benediction come from, and how they shape us in our daily lives. Most importantly for last night’s practice – was the connection that in order to be a blessing to others, we must first be connected to how deeply blessed we ourselves are. You can listen to last night’s message here below, or through the Practice Podcast:

By exploring the passage of Jesus’ baptism – we got a picture of how even Jesus sought to be blessed and affirmed by the Father before beginning his ministry.

The most beautiful thing that stood out to me as I was preparing yesterday is this – that before God asks us to bless others – He first wants to bless us. That before God asks us to be sent out into the world to be a blessing – he first sent his son Jesus Christ to bless us. God is the great and grand initiator in our lives, and the passing of the peace and the benediction are ultimately deepened and will ultimately shape you to your core, only when you first grasp what it means to be blessed. The greatest motivator in this life is not fear, terror or pain – but love, joy and belonging in God.

Out of the message, John led us in a time of imaginative prayer (also included in the podcast!) in which we were invited to imagine ourselves in the place of Jesus as he received a blessing from God in the river Jordan that day. John masterfully and pastorally guided us into a space in which we were able to ask, what words of blessing do I desire to hear God speak to me?

After our time of prayer, we were invited to write down the words we desired to hear from God on a provided card and then approach a station around the room in which we could speak aloud our desire for blessing to a server and have them as a representative of the Church and of God, read a blessing over each of us, speaking truth to us about how God feels toward each of us.

There are no other words to say other than it truly was such a blessing to be blessed. To have the words of blessing spoken over us individually in a way that brought it home.

Curtis then led us to the table and we ended our service with communion with one another, partaking of the bread and cup that are at the center of why we gather.

The Kingdom Practices for this week are as follows:

  1. Keep those words of blessing that you wrote down with you, and allow God to speak them to you over and over again this week. Let the blessing be massaged deeper into your being, that you would serve out of your deep beloved-ness.
  2. Consider the ways in which you might be able to offer words of blessing to another this week – how can the blessing you’ve received overflow into the lives of others?
  3. Please remember that we are not meeting on June 19 (Father’s Day). Instead our resident liturgist and theologian John Perrine has created a Father’s Day home table liturgy that you can use at home with your family to meaningfully celebrate the day together.
  4. Finally – we have a lot of updates to share with you about our summer schedule, so please keep an eye on the e-mail and the blog for more information about shaping a summer experiment and other ways to engage this July.

Phew, what a night. What a gift to have friends like you all who are along for the journey.

May the peace of Christ be with you friends,

Blessings,
Jenna & The Practice Team

Sunday Reflections, June 5, 2016: The Eucharist

By | Living the Liturgy, Sunday Reflections | One Comment

We’ve had profound nights at The Practice, beautiful, deep, meaningful, and last night was several of those things. But most of all, last night was FUN. Of course, I spent a decent chunk of the evening over at the Practice Kids space, so that probably contributed to it.

The through-line of the night was the Good News that Jesus is there for us to cling to no matter our circumstances. We sang what is rapidly becoming my favorite Spiritual about how we want Jesus to walk with us through our sorrows, our trials, our journeys. We heard Scripture read about a God who lifts us up and doesn’t let our enemies gloat over us, and a Messiah who heals even the dead. We put that faith radically into action by praying a blessing not just for our friends, but for our enemies.

And then we got ministered to. It’s always a pleasure to have the mellifluous Southern Pentecostal tones of Jonathan Martin with us, but to have Nichole Nordeman too was a true joy. It was, of course, a privilege to have such a wonderfully gifted musician in the Chapel with us last night, but her lyrics punched just as hard as her voice. She brought to life in powerful ways the truth of Jonathan’s message, that in the darkest times and stormiest seas Jesus is a raft we can cling to. What a wonderful truth.

Jonathan continued our deep-dive into the elements of the weekly liturgy by bringing the Eucharist to life. The Table is the place that each week we get reminded that no matter what else is going on in our lives, Jesus died for us and offers us life. The Bread and the Cup are tangible proof that we haven’t been forgotten or forsaken. We can hold on for one more week. Or, more accurately, Jesus will continue to hold on to us just as he promised. Take a listen to the podcast here:

And then, of course, the fun continued when we were treated to a fantastic after-party. We gathered to celebrate the publication of Jonathan’s book How to Survive a Shipwreck with cupcakes, cheese, cookies, and soda bottles with colorful straws. The room was so full of life and warmth, and I for one hope that celebrations like that become deeply embedded in The Practice’s DNA.

And, let’s be honest, I want Rhianna and Lori to plan my next party!

Grace and Peace to you all this week, friends.

Curtis & The Practice Team

Sunday Reflections, May 22, 2016: Confession & Assurance

By | Living the Liturgy, Sunday Messages, The Practice Podcast | 4 Comments

 

Jenna teaching

Last night marked the second week of our Living the Liturgy series a four-week exploration of the sacred rituals we practice each and every Sunday that shape our daily lives. Every Sunday at The Practice, and in churches all around the world and across history, Christians have worshipped God through a series of sacred rituals more commonly referred to as a liturgy – an order of worship that includes key elements such as the communal reading of scripture, a confession and assurance, the passing of the peace, communion, and a benediction.

In this series we want to pull back the curtain and look at why practicing these sacred rituals on Sundays is so formative for our daily lives. Last week, Curtis helped us understand the importance of why we read scripture passages out loud from the Bible each week– how in the hearing and in the sharing of God’s great story, we are shaped into God’s people who have a shared language and history. And last night, John Perrine led us into a deeper exploration of Confession & Assurance.

Our opening liturgy began with some of my favorite words that center my heart and prepare me for worship,

We come as those hungry…
hungry for God’s word.
We come as those thirsty…
thirsty for God’s spirit.
We come as those broken…
seeking the healing that God provides.
We come as those in need…
needing reminders of God’s love.
We come as those longing…
longing for God’s kingdom to come.

Our opening liturgy also included a double reading of Psalm 8, one version which was rewritten by Deirdre JVR, and a beautiful time of prayer for the world, written for our gathering by the brilliant Sam Ogles.

It was then my joy and privilege to welcome everyone to the evening and give everyone another installment of what we’ve decided to call “Brain Science with Jenna” – a brief insight each week into why liturgy works with our brains to shape us into Christ likeness. This week we looked at the Enactment Benefit – most simply summarized by Confucius in 500 BC:

I hear and I forget.
I see and I remember.
I do and I understand.

When we participate and learn by doing, or by assigning a gesture or posture to information, it is better encoded into our memory and easier to recall than information simply learned by listening or watching. I love how participatory our liturgies are, placing you in a position of doing that enacts the liturgy to help you learn deeper! (ok nerd moment over).

John then stepped forward to share his message on confession and assurance with the room.

You can listen to John’s message and the practice time from the evening through our Practice Podcast or here below:

Perhaps my favorite part of John’s message was his weaving of confession and assurance into the picture of the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Like the pharisees, are you a person that throws stones, disconnected from the weight of your own sin or like the woman caught, are you a person who has become buried under the stones of others, or stones you yourself have thrown?

Are you disconnected from the weight of your own sin in need of a deeper confession? Or are you disconnected from the depth of your forgiveness and in need of a deeper assurance?

As John drew attention to the fact that it was Jesus himself who alone could have thrown the only stone in that narrative – but who instead chose to say, “Neither do I condemn you, now go and sin no more” – it struck me that this is exactly what Christ says to each of us every day of every week. Against God and God alone have I sinned, and from God and God alone can we receive the forgiveness and righteousness that is his alone to give.

Our time of practice was a deepening experience of confession and assurance, to let everyone in the room connect both to the weight of their sin and repentance, and then be ushered into the deep beauty of assurance.

During confession, Sharon sang the incredible song “We confess” by Glenn Packiam. Everyone in the room was invited to cover their face and hold in a closed fist a stone they had received as they arrived, as a symbol of their confession of guilt. Each time we sang “have mercy” the room was instructed to squeeze the rock tighter, and each time we left space for confession, the room was instructed to lean into the discomfort of holding the rock outstretched, deepening the weight of repentance for us all.

For our assurance, as Sharon sang the beautiful words of Christ, “As far as the East is from the West…” from Glenn’s song, we invited each person in the room who wanted to participate to come forward to a server, their stone held in an outstretched hand, and their other hand covering their face, a posture of repentance. Then, each server gently took the stone from their outstretched hand, gently guided the hand covering their face down so that both hands were now open and outstretched, and finally they placed a hand on their head and reminded them, “In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.”

I reminded everyone that our servers had no special ability to forgive sins, rather they were just here as representatives of the church to remind and symbolize to each of us what is already true – we are forgiven. It was a privilege to say this blessing over people as they came forward, and as I took stones from people, moved their hands away from their faces and prayed the blessing, I saw many tears – both of sorrow and then joy. It was profound and beautiful.

We ended our time together as we always do, with communion – the sign and symbol of God’s great love for us. It was a night of deep repentance and assurance of God’s love and forgiveness.

Our Kingdom Practices this week are simple:

  1. Keep your liturgy from Sunday and use the words of confession and assurance, to make space in your week to lean into what you know you need most. Perhaps you are in need of a deeper confession, you’ve become complacent and disconnected from your need of Christ – or perhaps you are in need of a deeper assurance, you’ve wallowed in shame long enough and need to be reminded you are forgiven.
  2. We recommend you listen to Glenn’s song – ‘We confess.’ It is a beautiful song that transports you into a sacred place of confession and assurance no matter where you are.
  3. Next week, we are not meeting in the chapel – but we have provided a Memorial Day Weekend Picnic Liturgy you can use at your weekend picnics and BBQs, find out more and print the liturgy HERE.

Thank you for being on the journey with us friends, we’ll see you back in the Chapel on June 5 with Jonathan Martin and Nichole Nordeman to talk about Eucharist,

Grace and Peace,

Jenna & The Practice Team

 

Memorial Day Picnic Peace Liturgy

By | Living the Liturgy | No Comments

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Hey friends,

As you all have heard The Practice will not be meeting in the Chapel on May 29 over Memorial Day weekend. Our next gathering together will be on Sunday June 5 with Jonathan Martin and Nichole Nordeman to explore the Eucharist together as part of our Living the Liturgy series. Until then, we wanted to create a ‘picnic liturgy’ that you and your friends and family could use over Memorial Day weekend to turn a BBQ or a meal into a sacred space focused on peace for the world.

You can download and print at home the pdf. by clicking below:

Download the Memorial Day Picnic Peace Liturgy

(Printing instructions are simple, letter sized paper, one sided!)

We hope you all have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend, wherever you are.

Grace and peace,
The Practice Team

Picnic Peace Liturgy

Sunday Reflections, May 15, 2016: Engaging Scripture

By | Living the Liturgy | No Comments

It was a blustery Sunday in May, as only our unexpected Chicago weather could bring, that found the Practice starting our new series, “Living the Liturgy.” However, we still had much to celebrate as this Sunday was Pentecost, the historic “birthday” of the Church where the Spirit was given to the first disciples. Our hope was to join with the church all around the world in a liturgy that reflected this celebration.

The worship and readings tried to walk what we were talking, as we followed the Pentecost readings of the Lectionary interspersed with powerful refrains of worship. Perhaps my favorite moment was the assurance, where Sarah sang the words of Roman 8 promising our adoption through the Spirit while the whole room responded, “Venti Sancte Spiritus” (Come Holy Spirit). It was beautiful, haunting, as if the room was joining with the voices of the Church around the world. I think what perhaps excites me most about this series, is the unique chance to draw our attention to those very “sacred rituals” called liturgy that church has been doing over and over again through space and time.

Though I am of course biased (as her husband), Jenna’s introduction to the series was simply spectacular. In the briefest of time, Jenna invited us in to what the brain teaches us about why liturgy matters. The more we repeat actions, the deeper those actions go in our brains and more creative capacity we have to engage and encounter God.

The real journey of the night however, began when Curtis turned our attention to what “Living the Liturgy” means for engaging Scripture. Scripture gives us a shared story and a shared language by which we are formed in the deepest parts of our being. Sharing and hearing these stories, such as Israel being retold the story of the Exodus over and over again, helps to shape the kind of people we become.

What better way to practice being shaped by a shared story than the practice of Lectio Divina, (or in this case, Oratio Divina!) an intentional divine listening to scripture that Kellye led us in. As Kellye reminded us, this practice of slowly and intentionally listening to a passage (for a word,  its meaning, and for its application in our lives), is one that we can take into our lives; reading with families, listening with friends, or even more intentionally engaging the lectionary that’s being read on Sunday.

Hearing the word then led to receiving the Eucharist, after which we concluded with worship, a doxology and a closing benediction. A few thoughts from kingdom practices for this week:

  • Keep reading and listening to the word. It is only in our setting aside time to engage Scripture that we can be shaped by the shared story and language of God’s people.
  • One way to do this is to follow the lectionary; Aaron mentioned an app call “iMissal” he uses to pull up the lectionary every morning. Another great website that contains the lectionary readings is HERE. Whatever way you can get into the Scriptures, we’re excited to engage them with you.
  • Practice Kids was a wonderful success as we have begun the experiment of caring for your children during the Practice, an experiment we’ll be continuing next Sunday May 22nd when we meet. We’d love to see you, your children, and any friends with children who might be interested in joining us!
  • Finally, the next couple of weeks have lots of exciting Sundays ahead. Next week (May 22nd), Jenna and I will be engaging Confession and Assurance. The following week, May 29th, we’ll be off for memorial day though we’ll be sharing with you a peace picnic liturgy for any interested, while June 5th will have Jonathan Martin and Nichole Nordeman engaging Eucharist, and June 12th will conclude our series with Kellye engaging Blessing through passing the peace and benediction. We can’t wait for you to join us on this journey!

Wherever you find yourself, may you find ways to live the liturgy this week!
Grace and Peace,
John and the Practice Team

Living the Liturgy

By | Living the Liturgy | One Comment

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“You know… you are what you eat,” a friend recently remarked to me as I took yet another bite into my cheeseburger. Now on the one hand of course, this preferred idiom of my health conscious companion was quite silly. I am (hopefully) very clearly not a cheeseburger, nor does one especially gluttonous meal a “cheeseburger” make. But, as I tried to shake my friend’s phrase out of my mind to enjoy my healthy dose of fries, I started to ponder that he actually had a point. You see, one cheeseburger certainly won’t change you. But eating one every day probably will (as that classic documentary “Supersize Me” terrifyingly demonstrated). With this observation, the reverse of course is also true. An apple a day might just keep the doctor away. Now I’m certainly not stumbling into any new truth here. In fact it was the ancient Christian church that began to observe that while one interesting conversation might stoke your curiosity, it was the weekly and daily actions of our worship that actually shape who we are. For this reason, the church began to intentionally ask, “How should our worship reflect the ways we are being invited to be shaped by God?”

Now I will be the first to admit, growing up taking part in a “liturgy” was about the farthest thing from a “good time” that I could have possibly imagined. I’m certain that some, if not all of us have had a few experiences in the name of “liturgy” that, to follow my earlier analogy with my friend, I may have responded, “if this is eating healthy, I’d rather risk it with the cheeseburger.” However, to dismiss liturgy on behalf of a rather dusty experience is to throw the “baby” of liturgy out with the “bath water” of high-nosed religion. Formation takes place, whether we like it or not, through the slow steady stream of repetitive motions, slowly smoothing away the rough edges of our jagged stone hearts. We deeply need the same motions, again and again and again, to help shape us into the very image of Christ, the people of God. However, where most have gotten lost in the church woods is that we’ve never been given the chance to explore, “Why is it that the church chooses to worship the way that it worships and how is that supposed to matter for my every day life?”

For this reason, we’re thrilled that over the next six weeks, we’ll be going on a journey together to explore what “Living the Liturgy” might actually look like.

On June 15th, Curtis Miller will be taking us deep into the practice of reading Scripture communally, asking how the shared word matters for our own weekly time in the word.

On June 22nd, Jenna and I will explore the  confession and assurance that we practice each week, and how the full story of repentance can become a necessary journey to daily encounter God’s grace.

On June 5th, the one and only Jonathan Martin will be returning with Nicole Nordeman to explore with us the formative practice of weekly Eucharist as the launching point into our own daily tables.

Finally on June 12th, Kellye Fabian will talk about our deep need for blessing, and how the passing of the peace and the benediction we practice each week both speak to and send us out with the very blessing of Christ.

Perhaps what has been most exciting to us about this upcoming series is it invites any and all who are new to liturgy or are perhaps returning to liturgy again, to explore with us why it is that we worship the way that we do, and how that worship shapes our day to day lives. We can’t wait to see where this time takes us, what questions come up and how we might be launched from Sunday evening into “Living the Liturgy” in our lives.

Join us at 6pm on Sunday May 8, as we dive into the sacred rituals that shape our daily lives,

Blessings,

John Perrine & The Practice Team