FORMATION : EASTER 2023
Formation in the image of Jesus for the good of others. This is the goal as we grow and serve at City Church.
Throughout the liturgical year, we have the opportunity to see this formation take place. As we live out the story of Jesus, we invite you to participate in a communal practice and a personal discipline for each season change. A communal practice is a habit that is done in the context of community while a personal discipline is a habit done on your own. We are constantly being [de]formed by the world around us. Step into these intentional rhythms that are designed to form us into the image of Jesus instead.
For Easter, our personal discipline will be Bible Study & Medittion and our communal practice will be Resurrection Stories.
Because one Sunday is not adequate to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. During the week following Easter Sunday, we are inviting our Growth Groups to host potluck meals on their normal meeting night. On Friday evening, April 14, we are planning an all church BBQ!
The details of the weeknight potlucks are coming, but here are the details for the all-church BBQ!
Time: 6pm, April 14th
Where: The theater!
What: The church will provide the smoked meats, we are asking you to bring:
All last names: Non-alcoholic beverage for your family unit
Last name A-M: A side to share
Last name: N-Z: A dessert to share
(If you want to bring something in addition to your "assigned" item, you may bring additional, but please bring at least this)
Please RSVP if you think you might join by next Thursday so we can know how much meat to get.
RSVP here: https://citychurchcle.churchcenter.com/registrations/events/category/63961
PERSONAL DISCIPLINE: BIBLE STUDY & MEDITATION
“If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible. Knowing that it is the Word of God, teaching men to know and love and serve the God of the Word, I should do all I could to surround it with the spiritual equivalent of pits, thorn hedges, and man traps, to frighten people off. . . . At all costs I should want to keep them from using their minds in a disciplined way to get the measure of its message.” - J. I. Packer
“The reason we come away so cold from reading the word is, because we do not warm ourselves at the fire of meditation.” - Thomas Watson
1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:1-3 [ESV]
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:22-25 [ESV]
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 [ESV]
You may recall that we defined spiritual disciplines as practices we perform in order to place ourselves in a position for God’s transforming grace to form us into the image of Jesus. Nothing is more important or foundational in our formation than the word of God. There are many ways that we can take in God's word. For most Christians, participating in the weekly gathering of God’s people as the word of God is read, preached, sung, prayed, and observed in communion and baptism is the primary means by which we receive God’s word. This is why we so heavily emphasize the Sunday gathering at City Church.
Beyond Sundays, the potential practices for taking in God’s word are virtually limitless, but the principle beneath those practices is this: The fundamental means of God’s ongoing grace, through his Spirit, in the life of the Christian and the life of the church is God’s self-expression in his Word, in the gospel, perfectly kept for us and on display in all its textures, riches, and hues in the external written word of the Scriptures.
The personal discipline we chose to focus on during Eastertide is Bible Study and Meditation. Reading the word of God for yourself is one of the most beautiful means of God’s grace you have at your disposal. You might have noticed, but the underlying assumption behind all of the other disciplines we have focused on going back to Advent is that you are also spending time in the word.
Read for Breadth, Study for Depth
The regular, consistent reading of the Bible is like raking and gathering leaves across wide swaths of ground, helping you to see the entire Bible as one big story. This is time well spent and every Christian would benefit from it. You can read the entire Bible in about 70 hours. The average American spends 73.5 hours per month on social media (we know that’s not true of any of you) for comparison’s sake.
Bible Study is when you pause in one particular spot and dig to unearth diamonds. In meditation, we marvel at the jewels we have found. Below, you will find a plan and some tools to help you begin this discipline.
The Challenge: We encourage you to begin studying and meditating on the book of Ephesians during the season of Eastertide. Our Fall sermon series will be in the book of Ephesians, so this will be an excellent way to prepare your heart for that. We have divided Ephesions into 11 sections, provided you with a tool to guide you (HEAR Journal), and included some online resources to assist you. If you aren’t currently in the habit of spending time in the word each day, challenge yourself to begin this habit during Easter. Set a goal to read the short passage at least once each day, and carve out some additional time at least one day a week to use the HEAR Journal method to study and meditate slowly on the passage. Use the online resources to guide you and to help you answer some of the questions. If you already follow a daily Bible reading plan, that’s great! Keep it up. If you tend to do more raking than digging, you might consider trying out the HEAR Journal with your current plan.
After reading the passage of Scripture, highlight 1-2 verses that stand out to you or summarize the passage well. Look for verses that tell you what is happening in this passage—are there any ideas that are emphasized, repeated, or related? Write out the verse with the book, chapter, and verse numbers.
What does it say?
Who wrote it? Who is it written to?
What is happening in the passage?
When and where did it take place?
Why did the author write this?
What words or phrases are repeated?
What Does It Mean?
What was the author trying to get across or get the original audience to hear?
How do these verses fit with the verses before and after it? The chapter? The book?
What is God saying about Himself? About people?
Are there any other parts of scripture that help you understand this passage?
Why does it matter? What does this passage teach you about God’s character?
Does it speak to what God has done, is doing, or will do?
As a believer in Jesus Christ, what does this tell you about who you were, who you are, or who you will be?
Is there a truth to believe? A sin to repent of? A promise to trust? A command to follow?
Is there an attitude or action to embrace or avoid?
If I believe what God has said, how will I live differently or be different?
What is God calling you to do? Write out a response of prayer to God, asking God to change your heart and your life based on the time you've spent in his word. Choose 1-2 applications of this verse and prayerfully consider how you might pursue greater faithfulness in them. Be specific about what you will do (or not do) and who [Growth Group maybe?] you will ask to help you respond in faith.
Meditation: Donald Whitney defines meditation as “deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in Scripture for the purposes of understanding, application, and prayer.” This is where you take those diamonds you have unearthed in your study and slowly ponder and savor them, screwing them down into your heart until they catch fire.
Week 1 (April 9 - 15): Ephesians 1:1-14
Week 2 (April 16 - 22: Ephesians 1:15-23
Week 3 (April 13 - 29) Ephesians 2:1-10
Week 4 (April 30 - May 6) Ephesians 2:11-22
Week 5 (May 7 - 13): Ephesians 3:1-13
Week 6 (May 14 - 20): Ephesians 3:14-21
Week 7 (May 21 - 27): Ephesians 4:1-16
Week 8 (May 28 - June 3): Ephesians 4:17-32
Week 9 (June 4 - 10): Ephesians 5:1-14
Week 10 (June 11 - 17): Ephesians 5:15-6:9
Week 11 (June 18 - 24): Ephesians 6:10-24
Ephesians Overview from The Bible Project
This would be a great place to start before you begin your dive into Ephesians.
Ephesians Bible Study Guide from The Gospel Coalition
Another great resource for digging deeper into Ephesians. It divides Ephesians into the samesections than we did and includes one “introduction” week.
“Let the Word break over your heart and mind again and again as the years go by, and imperceptibly there will come great changes in your attitude and outlook and conduct. You will probably be the last to recognize these. Often you will feel very, very small, because increasingly the God of the Bible will become to you wonderfully great. So go on reading it until you can read no longer, and then you will not need the Bible any more, because when your eyes close for the last time in death, and never again read the Word of God in Scripture you will open them to the Word of God in the flesh, that same Jesus of the Bible whom you have known for so long, standing before you to take you forever to His eternal home.” - Geoffrey Thomas
COMMUNAL PRACTICE: RESURRECTION STORIES
For our communal practice during the eastertide season, we invite you to tell your story of meeting Jesus. “Resurrection Stories” can take place in many contexts, but the idea is that throughout the season, we’re celebrating the resurrection of Jesus by listening to each other's story of resurrection. Consider telling your story like this:
Resurrection Stories Template
Before Jesus, I ......
But Jesus ......
Because of Jesus, I am changed.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES : EASTER 2023
Surprised By Hope - What happens after we die? In his book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, N.T. Wright argues that we do not “go to” heaven; we are resurrected and heaven comes down to earth—a difference that makes all of the difference to how we live on earth. Consider viewing Easter with greater joy, hope, and purpose this year
Resurrection Letters - Andrew Peterson, in this set of albums, tunes our hearts to look to the resurrection. “My dream for Resurrection Letters is that it would be the kind of record people turned up to eleven on Easter Sunday, when Christians all over the world celebrate something that happened—it really happened—two millennia ago,” says Peterson.
3 Circles - Jesus is alive! Tell someone! 3 Circles helps provide a clear and simple way to understand and explain the biblical story through three categories: God’s Design, Brokeness, and the Gospel.
KIDS The Resurrection of Jesus - In this Bible Project video, we see that the death of Jesus is not the end of the story! Watch this video with your kids and think of ways to celebrate the excitement of Jesus rising from the dead and reigning forever.
Sacred Ordinary Days - This integrated planner is built around the church calendar. It helps Christians cultivate the peace, presence, and purpose of our faith every day. It incorporates the simple tools of reflection, spiritual formation, and journaling/list-making. If you need financial assistance for this year-long resource, please let Pastor Jason know.
Daily Prayer App - The Daily Prayer app offers common prayers, confessions, and Scripture readings. Daily rhythms are nurtured each day by structuring these prayers around morning, midday, evening, and late evening guided readings.
The liturgical calendar follows the life of Christ and, in its cyclical rhythm, invites us to enter the movement of his life on a yearly basis. As we observe each season, we can observe Christ. We pray that as you allow the seasons of the church year and anchor your life to the life of Christ, you’ll discover that a fuller joy and vitality marks your days.
Lesslie Newbign writes, “the business of the Church is to tell and to embody a story, the story of God’s mighty acts in creation and redemption and of God’s promises concerning what will be in the end. The Church affirms the truth of this story by celebrating it, interpreting it, and enacting it in the life of the contemporary world.”
Each Sunday we see the arc of God’s story rehearsed and embodied (God is Holy, We are Broken, Jesus Saves Us, Jesus Sends Us)... but how do we “enact it in the contemporary world” of our homes, where we can create culture and habits that form us.
The church calendar, much like Sunday Service, moves us through a story. Specifically the story of Jesus with his incarnation in Advent all the way through the sending of the church in Pentecost.
ADVENT - the future hope of Christ
CHRISTMAS - the joyful birth of Christ
EPIPHANY - the perfect manifestation of Christ
LENT - the temptation and death of Christ
EASTER - the world-changing resurrection of Christ
PENTECOST - the renewing Spirit of Christ