Saturday, June 22, 2013

Holy Week at Oaks 2013, Part 1: Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday

Note: We have a backlog of stories from Oaks of Righteousness that we wanted to share with you. This story is from a couple of months ago.

The Lord met our people during Holy Week this year. On each day, we watched him reach out to different people in different ways. Here are the highlights:

Palm Sunday: For those of you not accustomed to liturgical worship, this service can give you whiplash. It goes from joyful singing and palm branch waving to the bloody horror of the cross.

We began our worship with the blessing of palm fronds and a rowdy rendition of "Blessed is He who Comes in the Name of the Lord" that included ukulele, an African drum, an Peruvian drum box, and miniature tamborines, wood blocks and a triangle. And frantic palm-waving.

Then, we flipped our white stoles to red, and the story of Jesus' suffering began. One of the most wonderful things about ministering at Oaks is seeing many of our people hear the great story of the Bible for the first time. The kids sat, remarkably silent, and heard details of our Lord's sacrifice. It was, simply put, holy.

Maundy Thursday: Our plan -- which seemed a bit ambitious -- was to do a Christian Seder Dinner, followed by Eucharist with foot washing and stripping of the altar.

To be honest, we didn't have high hopes that anyone would come to either dinner or worship. We had commitments from no one, though we mentioned it to several folks. So we baked chicken and bought grape juice and matzo and asked God to send who He pleased.

The time came, and our little Passover table suddenly filled to capacity. Out of nowhere, a dozen kids showed up and crowded around the table -- kids who don't normally get along. We solemnly warned them that dinner would be long, and they had to stay for the whole thing. They stayed.

And? They LOVED it. The four cups. The hand washing. The different foods and symbols associated with each. Especially memorable was the stampede of grossed-out kids who bolted for the bathroom to spit out horseradish.

"Why would you make us eat that?" one of the boys asked, his face contorting in disgust.

"Because slavery tastes bad." It was obvious he agreed.

I'm also guessing most Christian Haggadahs don't include the afikomen being hidden in a foosball table. It wasn't traditional or even dignified. But we watched the Lord bring a group of kids who curse and punch one another on the playground to one table. And they tasted his story of liberation from slavery -- the slavery of Egypt, and the slavery of sin.

When the meal ended, there was another stampede out the door. Suddenly, Hannah and I were sitting there at an empty and catastrophically messy table. After a moment of savoring the silence, we stood up. It was time for worship.

No one returned for the Maundy Thursday service. And both of us commented afterward, that seemed to be the Lord's doing. It was a gift of himself, to us. A time of holy intimacy. And we felt him in the foot washing. Heard him in the Word. Took his name upon our lips in the Taize music. Tasted him in the bread and cup. And felt our hearts ache and burn as we stripped the glory and beauty of the altar away.

It was all love. And, a great preparation for the days to come.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Doing Life Together

Today, I taught a 7-year-old that Mary is Jesus' mom and that God is Jesus' dad.

We sat on tall stools in the Cafe on either side of the long counter, doodling stick figures of all the characters in the story. We drew an impressive winged Gabriel and a smiling, bearded Joseph. We drew a family tree with lots of arrows pointed from "God the Father" to "God the Holy Spirit," across to "Mary" and down to "Jesus, Son of God."

And the bottom of the page were the words, "Jesus is God. Jesus is Human." By the end of the doodling session, this 7-year-old could explain why both statements about Jesus were true.

On the other side of the room, another adult discipler, Joe, was telling an age-appropriate version of the story of King David's affair with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah. He was using a Manga comic rendering of the story. The kid he was mentoring agreed the murder was "messed up."

Afterward? We went to the mall, ate soft pretzels, looked at video games and talked to the mannequins inside Old Navy. Then we took the kids home, dropping them off with a simple prayer for their protection and blessing.

We usually call this "mentoring" at Oaks. Two adults, two kids. Christian teaching along with doing life together -- going to the mall, planting flowers, playing Frisbee, baking cupcakes, looking at a waterfall, doing a Dunkin Donuts run.

We have seven kids in mentoring partnerships now, and 17 are on our waiting list for mentors. And although the kids don't understand this, we're not mentoring. We're discipling.

Of all the things our Risen Lord is working through at Oaks -- wonderfully and invisibly -- I often wonder how he's using these times of doing life together to establish eternity in the lives of these children.

One day, we'll know.