If Ash Wednesday and the First Sunday in Lent set us off on our Lenten journey, this week we find out just what this journey will require of us. While Jesus is the one we follow on this path, today’s text(s) ought to make us curious about our traveling companions, especially Peter. It’s certainly not hard to question Peter here. What’s the deal, Peter? What are you doing rebuking Jesus when you just said he’s the Messiah?? And yet, these questions reveal the same lack of curiosity about Peter that Peter showed toward Jesus. So, instead of expecting Peter to know everything that we know, how do we approach Peter with curiosity? For that matter, how do we approach ourselves with curiosity in worship? Because ultimately, being curious about those who travel the Lenten road with us isn’t just about Peter. It’s also about us. How do we cultivate curiosity about those who sit with us in the pew or online for worship? About our pastor(s)? About ourselves?
Perhaps the best place to start is to practice. Perhaps the call to worship or opening prayer might include curious questions. What kind of Messiah is Jesus? Why is Peter so troubled by Jesus’ prediction of his own death? Are we troubled by Jesus’ prediction of his own death? What stories or experiences might Peter—and we—carry that lead us to resist the truth Jesus shares about his own fate? Or maybe you invite the congregation to meditate on a prayer for curiosity before the prelude begins.
However you prepare the gathered body to enter into this stance of curiosity, consider how the rest of worship can guide the congregation toward answers—and more questions. Open up confession as a time to be curious and honest about our personal and communal struggles, followed by a pardon that reasserts our dependence on God’s never-failing grace and love. Intercede with and for one another and the world in a posture of openness, ready to lift up and respond to the struggles of God’s image bearers as God’s image bearers, in turn. Through the prayers that you pray, the hymns you sing, and even the way you pass the peace, consider that it all culminates in Jesus’ answer to our question: What kind of Messiah are you?
Jesus’ answer comes as a surprise, but a surprise that we are ready for once we’ve let down the walls of our expectations and chosen a posture of openness and curiosity. Jesus says, “Take up your cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). To those gathered, his words are a slap in the face. No one wants to take up a cross, because that means they are headed for execution. Today, the cross is so ubiquitous a symbol that we lose a bit of the absurdity of Jesus’ statement. And yet, Lent offers us the opportunity to reorient ourselves toward the cross. So, place the cross front and center in your space if it isn’t already. If you plan on having a barren cross on Good Friday and a flowered cross on Easter Sunday, how might you emphasize the cross differently this week? Do you surround it with reminders of the way the community participates in service and mission throughout the week? Or maybe you have people come forward and place sticky notes on the cross that testify to the ways Jesus has saved their lives. Or perhaps you invite congregants to place a rock at the foot of the cross during worship as an act of surrendering their expectations for who Jesus should be so that they are released to follow Jesus as the true Messiah—even when following leads to the cross.
Dr. Lisa Hancock, Director of Worship Arts Ministries, served as an organist and music minister in United Methodist congregations in the Northwest Texas and North Texas Annual Conferences, as well as the New Day Amani/Upendo house churches in Dallas. After receiving her Master of Sacred Music and Master of Theological Studies from Perkins School of Theology, Lisa earned her PhD in Religious Studies from Southern Methodist University wherein she researched and wrote on the doctrine of Christ, disability, and atonement.