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“Good Fruit” by Shauna Niequist

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Last year, Shauna Niequist shared an essay called “Good Fruit” with our Practice community–first on a Sunday night in September, and then at our Pastors Retreat in January. Both times, her opening line brought a hush over the room…

“You don’t have to sacrifice your spirit, your joy, your soul, your family, your marriage on the altar of ministry.”

For the next ten minutes, Shauna shared a very personal story of exhausting herself in the name of God, only to discover that God didn’t need her exhaustion. In her masterful language: “…our family and our very selves are included in the kingdom we wish to serve, and if they are not thriving, the whole of our ministry is not thriving.”

And more than just name the problem, she humbly and poetically invited us into a better way. Into unforced rhythms of Grace. Into the Way of Christ.

51OYWbe4vNLShauna included this essay in her new book Present Over Perfect.  And even though it doesn’t come out until tomorrow, she was glad to share “Good Fruit” with the Practice community today…

Good Fruit by Shauna Niequist

“You don’t have to sacrifice your spirit, your joy, your soul, your family, your marriage on the altar of ministry.

Just because you have the capacity to do something doesn’t mean you have to do it. Management, organization, speaking and traveling: you must ask not only what fruit they bring to the world, but what fruit they yield on the inside of your life and your heart.

I didn’t want to admit it, but I was surprised to find a holdout of that old, terrible doctrine: if it hurts just awful, it must be God’s will for you. And the other side of the same coin: if it produces fruit, it must be God’s will for you.

As I laid out those ideas, peered at them and through them, held them up to the light of God’s Word, I saw that they were half true at best, possibly less.

First, we focus so often on the fruit for other people—it worked, people liked it, people gave me great feedback, and on and on.

I’ve spent all my life surrounded by pastors and their families, and I have seen…”

DOWNLOAD FULL EXCERPT

 

A Prayer Liturgy for the World

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On Sunday morning, I got to share this powerful “Prayers of the People”–written by a member of the Practice, Samuel Ogles–with the Mars Hill Bible Church community. We had a few requests for the text, so here is a free download…

Prayers of the People Liturgy (Samuel Ogles)

The whole story: Last winter, we felt led to spend the season of Lent learning how to Lament as a Practice community. It was a difficult but profoundly transforming experience to engage a practice that, frankly, most of us had never explored. In preparation for the first Sunday, we asked one of our core members, Sam Ogles, to help us lift up the needs of the world to God.  After much prayer, reflection, and hard work, he created this beautiful “Prayers of the People”.

If you’re curious, here is the whole liturgy: 02.14.16 Practice Liturgy

Finally, these two songs carried the experience…

(1) Prayers of the People by The Brilliance:

 

(2) “I Want Jesus to Walk With Me”:

Live recording by Mars Hill Music here…

Resources: A Theology of Vocation

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Happy Wednesday Tribe!

As promised here is a list of recommended resources to continue our conversation from last Sunday with Steven Garber about the Theology of Vocation. Here are our top picks for books, blogs and organizations to take you deeper into how our vocations are integral, not incidental to the Kingdom of God.

May you have eyes to see sacramentally this week,

Blessings,

Jenna Perrine & The Practice Team

Here Are My Hands | A New Liturgy by Aaron Niequist

This two-part liturgy is all about recapturing the holy possibility of our commutes. On the way to work, Part ONE helps you to pray “God, here are my hands. What do You want to do through me today in my job? May my hands, voice, and heart help to bring Your Kingdom here on earth.”

And on the way home from work, Part TWO helps us reflect on the day, confess our sins, forgive those who have wronged us, and let it all go.

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Recommended Blogs further reading

Recommended Organizations to connect to

  • The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation and Culture.
    Founded by Dr. Steven Garber, the Washington Institute believes that “vocation is integral, not incidental, to the mission of God in the world.”  Through teaching, writing and speaking, TWI sets for the vision that faith shapes vocation, and that shapes culture. They carry out their vision through partnerships with various foundations, businesses, retreat centers, congregations, seminaries and ministries around the world. Through their work, TWI seeks a “renewed vision of vocation and the common good.”
  • Laity Lodge
    An ecumenical Christian retreat center, Laity Lodge is dedicated to “enabling Christians to know Jesus deeply and to serve him in the everyday places of their lives.” Laity runs numerous retreats every year, some of which focus specifically on vocation, hosting gatherings for church, business and artistic leaders.
  • The High Calling
    This online magazine runs by the motto: “Every day conversations about work, life, and God.”  THC pays special focus to helping readers find God in their work, family, and broader culture.
  • WorkLife
    As their website says, WorkLife has “pioneered simple, yet impactful curriculum and tools to fuel your personal success.” The organization exists to provide individuals, churches and organizations with the tools to “find Life in work.” Visit their site to learn more and to discover the helpful tools they offer.
  • Redeemer’s  Center for Faith and Work 
    A ministry of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, CFW is the “cultural renewal arm” of the Redeemer movement, founded to help individuals apply the gospel to their lives, connect to professionals within their field that can challenge and inspire their work, and mobilize leaders to become agents of change for the common good, through existing institutions and by creating new ones.

A Thanksgiving Table Liturgy

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Table Liturgy

Table Liturgy

We all want Thanksgiving dinner to be a meaningful experience with family and friends, but many of us don’t exactly know what to do. And so we’re thrilled that Kellye and the team have created a simple and yet beautiful Table liturgy to help create holy space in our homes this Thanksgiving.

Download the Table Liturgy

After you download the file, print it front/back and fold in half. That’s it! The goal is to create an intentional space to turn our gratitude for life toward the Giver of life. Feel free to use this liturgy in any way that could help. Happy Thanksgiving.

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us–and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.
“Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”

(Thomas Merton)

Sabbath as preparation for eternity

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As we continue to explore the invitation of Sabbath-keeping as a community, take some time to really sit with these words from the great Abraham Joshua Heschel.  If you’re like me, you may need to read it multiple times…slowly and prayerfully.  So powerful…

“Shabbat comes with its own holiness; we enter not simply a day, but an atmosphere. My father cites the Zohar: the Sabbath is the name of God. We are within the Sabbath rather than the Sabbath being within us. For my father, the question is how to perceive that holiness: not how much to observe, but how to observe. Strict adherence to the laws regulating Sabbath observance doesn’t suffice; the goal is creating the Sabbath as a foretaste of paradise. The Sabbath is a metaphor for paradise and a testimony to God’s presence; in our prayers, we anticipate a messianic era that will be a Sabbath, and each Shabbat prepares us for that experience: “Unless one learns how to relish the taste of Sabbath … one will be unable to enjoy the taste of eternity in the world to come.” It was on the seventh day that God gave the world a soul, and “[the world’s] survival depends upon the holiness of the seventh day.” The task, he writes, becomes how to convert time into eternity, how to fill our time with spirit: “Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else.”

(Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath)

Practice Resources

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A Theology of The Eucharist: Recommended Resources

What Every Christian Needs To Know About Passover: What It Means And Why It Matters
By Rabbi Moffic

This Past Sunday, Scot McKnight challenged us to understand the deep connections between our practice of the Eucharist and the Jewish practice of Passover. Who better to unpack these connections more for you than our dear friend Rabbi Moffic. You may remember him from his last visit to The Practice teaching on Sabbath – such a helpful and enriching perspective. His new book literally just came out this past February, and is written in a helpful and clear manner to Christians to help them better understand Passover. What a gift in light of Scot’s message this past Sunday! May this bless you in your learning of the Eucharist.

 

The King Jesus Gospel: The Good News Revisited
By Scot McKnight

If you really enjoyed Scot’s teaching and are wondering which of his books would be worth starting with, we have to recommend his pivotal work The King Jesus Gospel. It’s a wonderful vision of community, culture and the gospel, that will give you new eyes for gospel theology and its impact on evangelism.

Contemporary evangelicals have built a “salvation culture” but not a “gospel culture.” Evangelicals have reduced the gospel to the message of personal salvation. This book makes a plea for us to recover the old gospel as that which is still new and still fresh. The book stands on four arguments: that the gospel is defined by the apostles in 1 Corinthians 15 as the completion of the Story of Israel in the saving Story of Jesus; that the gospel is found in the Four Gospels; that the gospel was preached by Jesus; and that the sermons in the Book of Acts are the best example of gospeling in the New Testament. The King Jesus Gospel ends with practical suggestions about evangelism and about building a gospel culture.

The Story of the Lamb
Sermon By Tim Keller

In light of Scot McKnight’s exploration of Passover, we are excited to recommend this helpful sermon by Tim Keller drawing connections between the Passover Lamb and Jesus as the Lamb of God.

One of the major narrative plot lines of the Bible is the story of the lamb. It runs all through the Bible, beginning with the story of Abraham being asked to kill Isaac, continuing with the Passover in Egypt, and running through the Passover supper with Jesus and his disciples. In all of these cases a lamb is offered as a sacrifice for a debt. In John 1, John the Baptist tells us to “behold the lamb of God,” meaning to soak in and understand who Jesus is and the debt he paid for us with his death.

If you didn’t already know, our good friends The Brilliance have a wonderful song that is worth playing on repeat as we dive into our Eucharist and Mission series…

 

Introducing Scot McKnight

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As most of you have seen and heard through the foray of social media, prolific New Testament scholar and theologian Scot McKnight will be joining us at the Practice this Sunday to share the first step of our journey into Eucharist and Mission-a theology of the Eucharist.
Scot first came into my life while I was attempting my undergrad in biblical studies and “required” to read his book The Blue Parakeet for a course on studying the bible. In the book, Scot encourages Christians to embrace the full bible, not just what’s comfortable or easy to read but to be challenged and convicted by the complexity, the ambiguity, the beauty and the mystery of God’s Word. Being a sophomore at the time with a multitude of questions, I remember with every page I read having this feeling of utter relief- here finally was a respected scholar of the bible acknowledging the difficult questions that can arise and yet still pushing further up and further in to the depths. wonders and joys of our Christian faith. Since my first encounter with Scot’s work, he has been a trusted guide on a host of other issues- from his examination of what the Gospel truly is in his book The King Jesus Gospel, to his powerfully clear explanation of Jesus’ call to discipleship in The Jesus Creed, to his most recent books about the church and the kingdom entitled Kingdom Conspiracy and A Fellowship of Differents.
If you too have longed for someone who understands some of those great looming questions, and yet hoped that there might still be a way forward for faith, hope, and love then I would love to encourage to check out some of Scot’s work (we’ve tagged a few resources below to help get you accquainted). Even more, if you’ve ever wanted to dive deeper into the Eucharist, to take a Sunday to swim in the stream of this magnificent and vitally important practice of both our community and the entire Christian faith, then please come this Sunday night to hear and practice the Lord’s Table with Scot McKnight as our guide.
We can’t wait to see you there!

Grace and Peace,

John and the Practice team
Communion Table

What do you make of Truth? – Good Friday Reflection & Resources

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Welcome tribe! I asked our resident theologian John Perrine to share a reflection on Good Friday. John explores the weight of Good Friday and invites us to ponder Pilate’s often forgotten question, “What is truth?”


 

 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

Today is the day that the world stopped, where things went bad before they could become good. The skies darkened, the veil was torn, his body was pierced, the divide between heaven and earth collided in the death of the king who was the Son of God, who was in fact God himself, come to offer up himself, in forgiveness, mercy and love for even us who knew not what we did as we scorned and mocked him. This is that dark and mysterious day that we call good, and that we both mourn and celebrate as our Lord Jesus, the savior of the world, was put into the ground.

A few mere hours before the great euchatastrophe of the world was to take place, the man who represented the kingdom of the world had an exchange with the man who represented the kingdom of heaven concerning the question we long to answer; “What is truth?” Now in order to understand the significance of this exchange, let’s talk for a moment about kings and kingdoms. In the days of Jesus, the great powers ruled the world; Rome and Caesar, the senate and the coin, the Pilate’s and the priests. We really aren’t much different in this day and age. Be it Washington or Hollywood, the corporate office or the political party, the latest diet or the newest phone, the powers that be have a way of sticking around, consuming and controlling the swells and tides of our lives. And the powers that be, both today and in Pilate’s time leave us wondering, along with Pilate, “What is truth?”

So when Pilate enters the room, he brings with him all of those powers and politics to confront a small, seemingly insignificant man, a mere countryside teacher who has been causing the slightest of stirs. His first question wants to know if this Jesus is in fact a threat, a challenge to his rulers by claiming to be a “king of the Jews”.

Of course, as most learned who asked a question of Jesus, he received a question in reply, “Where did you learn this? Who told you who I was?”

Pilate waves this away, “Don’t expect me to understand you particular Jews, you must have done something wrong or you wouldn’t be here.”

Jesus’ answer in reply is both revealing and deeply incriminating. His kingdom doesn’t come from this world. In the book of John, the “world” is associated with evil and rebellion against God. The kingdom of Jesus however does not originate in this world, it has a different quality, a different source. In fact, Jesus points out his kingdom has been one of truth, a truth which he has brought, a truth which his followers have heard.

Pilate, of course, can only see things from a this-worldly perspective. As far as he knows, the only place you get truth is out of the sheath of a sword (or, as we would say, out of the barrel of a gun). Political ‘truth’ can so often be my truth against your truth, my sword against your sword, with those two meaning much the same thing. And ultimately, for a Roman governor, my truth against your truth, my power against your weakness, my cross to hang your naked body on. Ah, but that’s the truth. The truth that belongs with Passover. The truth that says one man dies and the others go free. Barabbas, the brigand, perhaps himself either a would-be king or a supporter of someone else’s failed messianic movement, faces the gallows as well. Somehow, through the cynicism, the casual local custom, the misunderstandings, the distortions, the plots and schemes and betrayals and denials, the Truth stands there in person, taking the death that would otherwise have fallen on the brigand.

Pilate didn’t see it at the time, the irony that his kingdom left him still unable to discern truth when it stood before him. But John wants us to see it today, in the midst of the clamoring powers of day that demand our attention and offer us no reply. This is what the cross will mean. This is what truth is and does. Truth is what Jesus is; and Jesus is dying for Barabbas, and for Israel, and for the world.

And for you and me.

Grace and Peace to you on this Good Friday,

John and the Practice team

 

Recommended Resources

Don’t forget to check out our reflections and introduction to the Stations of the Cross this Good Friday here on the blog. Here are a few other resources for you to pour through and enjoy!

Stations of the Cross

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What is this practice? 

The Stations of the Cross, are typically 14 stations that prayerfully mark the path of the various scenes and sites of Jesus on Good Friday. Many Churches celebrate by setting up physical crosses in different locations and walking from one cross to another to mark the journey of Christ, whilst reading key biblical texts and prayers.

Where did it come from? 

You might be interested to know that back in AD 313 emperor Constantine made Christianity legal, causing many Christians to flock back to the Holy Land to visit the historic sites and homeland of Jesus – in particular to find solidarity with Christ by walking the journey of Christ through Holy Week.

Over the years, this practice became more and more prominent in the Church, with pilgrims desiring to stop prayerfully at all the sites associated with Good Friday. The practice of visiting the historic sites in the Holy Land became restricted around the twelfth century, when the land fell under Muslim rule. Saint Francis and followers then encouraged believers to walk through the same journey by creating replicas of the stations of the cross with your own church. This is the way in which many churches practice this today.

How can you practice?

Whether or not you are able to attend a stations of the cross service today, it is still helpful and meaningful to walk the path of Christ wherever you happen to be today. Below we have provided the 14 different stations along with key passages from scripture to help you trace the journey of Christ to His crucifixion.

This is a powerful practice that allows us to deeply contemplate the great mystery of Jesus’ sacrifice of himself for us. By moving through these texts we invite you to embrace the gift of Christ’s sacrifice in both your mind and heart. By walking from location to location to read, you may involve your body in the worship as well.

Good Friday is a sober, sorrowful day, but I am also overcome by the magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice in a way that brings me to my knees in both grief and awe.

May you be moved and ministered to by the footsteps of Christ,

Jenna and The Practice Team

 

The Stations Of The Cross

Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Matthew 26:36-41

Jesus, Betrayed by Judas, Is Arrested

And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. And they laid hands on him and seized him.

Mark 14:43-46

Jesus Is Condemned by the Sanhedrin

When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”

Luke 22:66-71

Jesus Is Denied by Peter

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Matthew 26:69-75

Jesus Is Judged by Pilate

And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.

 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

Mark 15:1-5, 15

Jesus Is Scourged and Crowned with Thorns

Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.

John 19: 1-3

Jesus Bears the Cross

When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.”

They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.

John 19: 6, 15-17

Jesus Is Helped by Simon the Cyrenian to Carry the Cross

And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.

Mark 15:21

Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem

And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

Luke 23:27-31

Jesus Is Crucified

 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” 

Luke 23:33-34

Jesus Promises His Kingdom to the Good Thief

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Luke 23:39-43

Jesus Speaks to His Mother and the Disciple

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

John 19:25-27

Jesus Dies on the Cross

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

Luke 23:44-46

Jesus Is Placed in the Tomb

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away.

Matthew 27:57-60

Holy Week Resources

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We’re continuing to share resources throughout the beautiful journey of Holy Week. Enjoy and explore today’s recommended article, sermon and visual liturgy to aid you in your worship this Holy Week.

I was speaking with a friend today who encouraged me to make this extraordinary week of preparation for Easter extraordinary in my own life through my worship and practices. How amazing to realize just how extraordinary and momentous this week has always been in the life of the church – and what a privilege to celebrate it freely and joyfully! However you feel led this Holy week, may you find ways to make this extraordinary week extraordinary in your life.

Grace and Peace to you!

Jenna and The Practice Team

 

 

Recommended Resources

The King We Needed, But Never Wanted  by Marshall Segal on Desiring God

Check out this challenging article that explores the call to Calvary – to follow Jesus so that we may die, and rise again!

“To truly live, we must surrender to the King we really needed, not the one we might have imagined for ourselves.” – Marshall Segal

The Crucifixion by Tim Keller

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus howled this agonized cry ast his execution. How could any good come from such a seemingly horrible end? Check out this sermon in which Tim Keller ponders the depths of what is surely most horrible, yet most wonderful question ever asked.

Leaving Ourselves at the Altar by The Work of The People

Over the past months we’ve recommended a variety of visual liturgies created by our talented friends over at TWOTP – check out this beautiful visual liturgy of “An Easter Benediction” by Kelly Ann Hall