The Bowman Devised Substandard Version of Ecclesiastes 3:1-11
Everything has its time,
an appointed season for every event on earth
A time for giving birth, and a time for dying
a time of sowing and a time of reaping what was sown
A time of violence and a time of healing
a time of breaking down and a time of building up
A time of weeping and a time for laughing
a time for mourning and a time of dancing
A time of scattering stones and a time of gathering stones
a time for embracing and a time to refrain from embracing
A time of seeking and a time of surrender
a time for saving and a time for discarding
A time of ripping and a time of sewing
a time of silence and a time of speech
A time of love and a time of hate
a time of war and a time of peace
So what’s the point in working so hard?
I have seen the toil that God has appointed for humanity to be busied about.
He has made everything happen at its appointed time. He has also put questions of eternity in the human heart,
yet we can never understand God’s purposes from beginning to end.
From the Pastors’ Study:
Thursdays I look forward to breakfast with a group of old men from our congregation I have affectionately called the Elders’ Circle. It’s a small group, and shrinking. When four of them are with me, we represent a combined history of 333 years of residency in Manassas. I learn a lot.
I remember Psalm 90 which reads: “The days of our lives add up to seventy years, or eighty, if one is especially strong. But even one’s best years are marred by trouble. They pass quickly and we fly away.”
If you had the choice, which decade would you choose to recreate in your resurrected body in heaven? Would it be as a baby? A teenager? How about young-adulthood, middle-aged, or old? Wouldn’t it be great if we got to pick and choose — the very best of each age without the troubles?
Truth be told, we find holy space and precious goodness in each phase of life. If we open our eyes to the creator, redeemer, and breath of life right where we are, amazing things can happen. Even more, if we meet other people wherever they are in life, we are often able to share that blessing of God’s active, incarnate love uniquely fitted to each and every phase of life.
“Teach us to count (treasure) our days,” says the psalmist. Whether we are the parents of young children, often exhausted and easily amused, or, as the hymn says, “the old, who yearn for God’s face,” we are being sung throughout all of history.
Join us this summer at Manassas Church of the Brethren for Breakfast Jam (9:00) and Sunday Worship (10:30) around the theme “It’s just a phase: so don’t miss it!” <><
July 10: It’s Just a Phase! Don’t Miss It!
Theme: Every stage of life is a gift. It holds unique invitations to draw close to God.
Worship Leader: Mandy North
Speaker: Chris Bowman
Scripture: Ecclesiastes 3:1-9
July 17: Un-Phased—Parenting
Theme: Learning to see through two sets of eyes.
Worship Leader: Christian Saunders
Speaker: Chris Bowman
Scripture: Luke 11:11-13 (consider how often Jesus uses the example of parenthood to describe the kind of love God has for us)
Quip: “How to parent: Find out what the kids are doing and tell them to stop.”
July 24: Un-Phased — Childhood (VBS Sunday)
Theme: Learning to learn
Worship Leader: VBS Participants
Speaker: Chris Bowman
Scripture: Matthew 18:2-6; Mark 10:13-16
Quip: “We can learn a lot from children; how much patience we have, for example.”
Quip: “A neo-conservative is a progressive with teen-aged children” (Michael Novak).
August 7: Un-Phased — Older Adulthood
Theme: “The first 40 years is text; the next 30 years is commentary.”
Worship Leader: Jenn Flora
Speaker: Chris Bowman
Text: 1 Samuel 12, especially verse 23
Quip: “The first forty years furnish the text of life, while the remaining thirty supply the commentary. Without the commentary we are unable to understand the true sense and coherence of the text together with the moral it contains and all the subtleties which it admits.”
August 14: Un-Phased: Middle Adulthood
Theme: “What’s it all about, Alfie?”
Worship Leader: Elise and Jess Gage
Speaker: Mandy North
Quip: “In middle age we are apt to reach the horrifying conclusion that all sorrow, all pain, all passionate regret and loss and bitter disillusionment are self-made” – Kathleen Norris
August 21: Un-Phased—Young Adulthood
Theme: Choosing a Path
Worship Leader: Pending
Speaker: Jacob Pilipski
August 28: Un-Phased — Growing Old and Dying Well
Theme: The art of growing old is learning to let go until, at the end, we can even let go of life with trust and peace.
Worship Leader: Kathie Kurtz
Speaker: Chris Bowman
Text: 2 Corinthians 4:10-18
Quip: “And now brothers, I will ask you a terrible question, and God knows I ask it also of myself. Is the truth beyond all truths, beyond the stars, just this: that to live without him is the real death, that to die with him the only life?” -Frederick Buechner,
In our fast-paced, modern world we are often unable to participate in traditional, three-hour Good Friday services at noon. Unfortunately, that often means that we simply ignore the spiritual importance of the day. We do not build the time into our schedule to pause in a prayer vigil.
This year we have a virtual vigil. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, prayer can be made. And even if we are removed from our church family, we are buoyed up by knowing that we are in this together. Good Friday joins our individual world with our broader, human community.
We find ourselves reflecting deeply and personally on the cost of sin and our personal relationship with a redeeming God. This is personal. Yet we also recognize that “God so loved the world…” and we are part of a larger community of graced people. We remember to pray “forgive my sin as I forgive those who sin against me.” This is inter-personal. This prayer vigil also ties the two together: we will pray alone during Good Friday at the time(s) we signed up for. Still, our prayers join a worldwide community of Christians who will also lift their prayers today.
Below find readings for each of the prayer stations of our Good Friday prayer virtual vigil. If you have not already done so, please sign up to participate by following this link.
The Manassas Church of the Brethren Virtual Vigil is segmented into thirteen “stations.” Six move toward the cross and seven are heard from the cross. Below is a summary for our meditations as suggestions (not assignments). Participants are encouraged to pray freely and use the meditations below only as needed.
9:00a – Prayed and Betrayed (Luke 22:39-51)
Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.”
From the beginning of this journey, Jesus has been modeling what it means to be obedient to the call of God. When the fellow-disciples went “all in” saying “let us also go, that we may die with him,” little did they know what awaited them. They simply were willing to place their lives into the hands of God, just as their Master taught.
9:30a – Denied, Condemned, Judged (Luke 22:54 – 23:25)
Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!”
The disciple Peter denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed the next morning. And when Pilate judged Jesus not guilty it was the people who demanded condemnation. Watching them, we pray for forgiveness when we too are found among those who deny Christ, condemn the innocent, or abandon the call for justice.
10:00a – Whipped and Mocked (John 19: 1-3)
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face.
Mocking and whipping attempt to break the inner strength of the condemned. This two-pronged attack on body and mind did not break the will of Jesus. Instead, it fulfilled scripture and bolstered the claim that this, indeed, was the Son of God, the Messiah of God’s people.
10:30a – Carrying His Cross (John 19: 6, 15-17)
So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha.
To add insult to injury, the horror of Roman executions through crucifixion required the condemned to carry his own instrument of pain and death. The symbolism does not escape us: he carried his cross to free us from ours.
11:00a – Helping the Condemned (Mark 15: 21)
They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene.
This single line of scripture is stunning. Out of the blue, Simon of Cyrene is commanded by the Roman soldiers to help the condemned shoulder his load. One wonders what ever happened to Simon. Did this act of enforced compassion change the innocent bystander?
11:30a – Crying with Him (Luke 23: 27-31)
Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”
This traditional “station of the cross” reminds us that Jesus’ suffering and death are part of a larger picture. The individual suffering of our Lord is a mirror of the cost of the sin in us. Prayers on Good Friday, therefore, are cries of confession more than they are cries of pity.
12:00 noon – Crucified Forgiveness (Luke 23: 33-34)
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
The first words out of Jesus’ mouth as he is nailed to the cross and hoisted above the crowd, are words of forgiveness. Seeing this, we who would follow Jesus must ask of the forgiveness we are to offer others even in the midst of our pain.
12:30p – Crucified Promise (Luke 23: 39-43)
Then [the thief] said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” [Jesus] replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
We hear of deathbed conversions where the dying person quickly finds religion in the hope of cashing in on God’s saving grace. This word from the cross reminds us not to poo-poo such a promise. God’s sacrificial love does not have a “use by” date.
1:00p – Crucified Care (John 19: 25-27)
…he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”
Even as Jesus is dying, he recognizes the needs of a mother who is losing her oldest son. He also sees his beloved disciple standing near. And he makes sure the two of them would have each other. This act of compassion is a reminder of our need to recognize and satisfy the practical needs around us even as God is doing something extraordinary for us. It sponsors a prayer of relationship and compassion.
1:30p – Crucified Abandonment (Matthew 27:46)
And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
It is reassuring to know that Jesus himself was able to understand the feelings of abandonment. Many of us experience times when we feel a sense of utter isolation, suffering, and depression. This word from the cross is a quotation from Psalm 22 which lends authority and recognition to feelings which many of us try to deny. Pray God’s resurrecting power in those lives too.
2:00p – Crucified Thirst (John 19:28)
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.”
The personal depletion and physical suffering of crucifixion challenges Jesus’ words that he is the Living Water and that “those who drink of me will never thirst.” Just as the prior prayer focused on the emotional emptying of Jesus’ death, this one brings into focus the physical depletion. Jesus was not “playing possum” on the cross. His suffering and his death were real and relevant.
2:30p – Crucified Accomplishment (John 19:29-30)
When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is accomplished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
This death on the cross seems at odds with the very concept of accomplishment. But in God’s upside-down kingdom, Jesus is being raised to glory, not failure, when he is lifted up on the cross. In this act of ultimate obedience Jesus places everything into his Father’s hands. And in so doing, Jesus is “finished” and ultimate failure is the eternal accomplishment.
3:00p – Commendable Death (Luke 23:46)
Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.
Is there such a thing as a good death? Something for which we might pray? Is there a loving, eternal, source-of-all-being into whose hands we commend and commit ourselves and our loved ones in faith?
“Yes,” says the cross. “Indeed,” says the empty tomb.