First Sunday in Lent 2018 — Planning Notes



Reading Notes

NRSV texts, artwork and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers for this service are available at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé

Calendar Notes

The primary color for Lent is purple.    

February 19   Presidents Day

March 2         World Day of Prayer
March 11       UMCOR Sunday
                       Daylight Saving Time Change Song (Spring) (USA)
March 25      Passion/Palm Sunday
                      Holy Week Series Begins
March 29      Maundy/Holy Thursday
March 30      Good Friday
March 31      Holy Saturday (until Sundown)
                      Easter Eve/Easter Vigil (after Sundown)

April 1           
Easter Day
                      Easter Series Begins
April 15        
Native American Ministries Sunday
April 22         Festival of God’s Creation
April 25         World Malaria Day

All Month       Christian Home Month (2018 Theme: Families Called to Peace, forthcoming)
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
May 3              National Day of Prayer
May 4              May Friendship Day (UMW/CWU)
May 7-13        
Christian Family Week (2018 resources forthcoming)
May 10            
Ascension Day
May 13            Ascension Sunday
                        Festival of the Christian Home/Mother’s Day (USA)
May 19-20      
Change the World Weekend
May 20           Day of Pentecost
                       Heritage Sunday (forthcoming)
May 24           
Aldersgate Day
May 27           Trinity Sunday
                       Peace with Justice Sunday
May 28           Memorial Day (USA)

Pray for annual conferences convening throughout the month, for all receiving new appointments or assignments, for those leaving existing appointments or assignments, and for congregations and other ministries receiving new leadership. 

For Your Planning Team: LENT 1: REHAB: WILDERNESS

Series Outline

Week 1: February 18         Wilderness
Mark 1:9-15

Week 2: February 25         Intervention
Mark 8:31-38

Week 3: March 4                Program
Exodus 20:1-17

Week 4: March 11              Recovery
John 3:14-18

Week 5: March 18              Promise
Jeremiah 31:31-34

Planning for This Service

Last week, we were on the mountain with Jesus, transfigured before us.

This week, we are driven into a wilderness with Jesus just after his baptism.

And we’ll stay in this wilderness, figuratively speaking, through the season that lies ahead, this season we call Lent in English. Lent, in English, is more of a reference to the time of year this season falls in the Northern Hemisphere, a time when the days are “lengthening.” But in most other languages, the term for this season is derived from the earlier Latin name for it, Quadragesima, or forty. The Latin name points not to the lengthening of daylight, but the length of the season we began last Wednesday with Ash Wednesday. It’s forty days of intensive focus on learning the way of Christ and helping others learn it for the first time, or perhaps anew.

Every year of the three-year cycle, Lent begins with Jesus in the wilderness for forty days. Last year, we focused explicitly on the baptismal vows and learning to live them. This year, we focus more broadly on the kind of bodily and relational learning we need to undertake to prepare for baptism or renewal of our relationship with God after a time apart from the life of the church. “Rehab” is the core metaphor we’re using to suggest what that process looks and feels like across these forty days. And today, we focus explicitly on the nature of the environment all of us who enter some form of rehab find ourselves in as we enter it.

It’s like a wilderness, like someplace where there are no cell towers, no wireless, and no GPS signals-- it’s a data dead zone. Worse, it’s uncharted, and ultimately unchartable. If you tried to map it at one time, the map would likely not be helpful just a few months or even weeks later. That’s just part of what makes it feel–and even be–a bit dangerous. The wildlife there isn’t like the wildlife where you normally live. It’s in charge in this territory, and it lets you know that. Water sources are scarce. Mirages happen.

Almost nothing we have known as normal or taken for granted is normal or can be taken for granted out here.

We’re novices.

And the wilderness isn’t.

Out here, in this wilderness, we have to rely on God and others who may accompany us.

We’ll learn more about what it means to survive and thrive along the way.

But for now, for today, at series and season launch, the point is to become deeply aware of just how disoriented we really are as we begin this journey together.

Do not print the cues or even the text of the Scripture in the bulletin or place it on screen. Simply cue everyone to turn around and face the back. Before worship, gather your readers for rehearsal, and work through this whole opening movement so they are all ready to follow one another smoothly. Figure out where folks need to be placed to create the sense the Scripture is coming at people from all directions and in unpredictable ways. The opening moments of this service, with the reading dispersed among various people of various ages scattered across the congregation, and the congregation at least initially facing opposite where it may normally face at the beginning of worship, is an attempt to create a sense of the disorientation involved in this wilderness journey called Lent we are entering.

Then consider preaching the sermon, or at least beginning it, from an odd location as well. If you can move the pulpit to an unexpected place, consider doing so.

Each week of this series, we include an invitation to respond in a particular way. It’s really the beginning of a larger process of response we hope you will continue through midweek formation gatherings and groups each week, using our companion resource The Wednesday Project: Rehab — A Study Guide developed by our colleagues Scott Hughes, Jacqui King, and Craig Miller.

And each week of the series, we’ll include a full service of Holy Communion connected to the theme of each service. We strongly encourage weekly Communion throughout Lent as part of making use of all the means of grace.

Additional Resources for this Service

2015 Planning Helps for these readings

Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: (Click link to find countries for this week when they are posted)