I was asked on facebook “With Ash Wednesday on Valentines Day and Easter on April Fools, what creative ideas do you have for connecting these events?”
Since just this week I concluded an interim, I don’t have worship responsibilities for either feast! That means I haven’t developed anything connecting Valentine’s to April Fool’s … but here’s a few thoughts!
Since Valentine’s is also our wedding anniversary, and since I prefer to celebrate Shrove Tuesday, I think I would plan a Shrove Tuesday Sweetheart Pancake Supper. From there I would set a Lenten theme of At every wedding I have officiated someone makes jokes about “this being the end of your life,” sometimes to the groom, sometimes to the bride. I always think, “Is that a bad thing?” Love asks us to willfully give up many things for the good of the relationship. Covenantal love shapes our lives: yes, it can come with restrictions, but it also come with unexpected surprises.
And that’s true of the life & ministry – and death and resurrection – of Jesus: there were restrictions (God in human form; Jesus never gets to dismiss or ignore anyone) but there was also great freedom. That might take me into basic play theory: the first task of a game designer / referee is to set the boundaries of the game. Can you imagine playing Capture the Flag (or soccer) without any boundaries? Playing “in bounds” gives focus to the goal – and to the activity of play.
There’s a lot to explore around that idea of play: Gods activity as play (unrequired activity); religion (or faith) as the opposite of industriousness; how we have distorted our response to God’s spirit as required (and prescribed) action instead of freely, joyfully, unrestricted reply (re:play). Our most loving and healthiest relationships are characterized by play: lovemaking, caring for infants, teaching young children, playing as families, gatherings with friends, holidays and parties …
(I’m actually about to reread 2 books by Harvey Cox and 2 books by Jurgen Moltmann that were written in dialogue: Secular City, Theology of Hope, Feast of Fools, and Theology of Play. Many of the ideas I just named are in those four works. I’m also aware I am blending play theories, especially that play is unrestricted and without form versus play is agreed upon activity for shared play activity.)
In a similar vein, I might focus Shrove Tuesday with activities around covenant-making. Most Protestants don’t make covenantal vows other than marriage, so as an entry into Lent I might play with baptismal vows (especially the sense of baptism being a love story).
That could then set up lots of possibilities about covenant.
– tracing biblical stories exemplifying covenant
– it’s a chance to introduce Protestants to a Catholic sense of sacraments, thereby provoking declaration of what we (collectively) claim as holy vessels of grace.
– similarly, it could be a chance to explore ritual: Protestants have few rites, so let’s look at rites in other religions and consider what ritual acts are essential to this particular congregation
– the congregation I just left shares a bible study with another congregation; they were in the middle of Revelation. I think reading Revelation through the theme of covenant reveals a lot.
– since I’ve been in interim settings, I think covenant as the foundation for congregational life cannot get enough attention. How do we promise to share the work of the church – and hold one another accountable to faithfulness?
Following covenant to Easter on April Fool’s – well, while Christ is steadfast covenant with Christ is always taking us to the unexpected! The resurrection narratives are full of surprises. I’d love to do an Easter morning based on the absence of resurrection in Mark (surprise!). The lectionary goes to John: just what kind of covenant do the disciples have with the women whose news they dismiss (surprise)? But the women are correct, and Jesus hangs out with angels and Mary, first disguised then revealed (surprise!).