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Wes Crawford

Wes Crawford Pastor Wes Crawford oversees our corporate worship gatherings and all that goes on in them: the liturgy, the music, and everyone who serves to make them happen. Wes and his wife and four daughters have lived in Kansas City since 2008.

Introducing the Season of Lent

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Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan; come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

— A Lenten Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer

Since ancient times the church has observed a season of fasting and intentional austerity, consisting of the forty days (plus Sundays) leading up to Easter. This season began as a forty-day period of preparation and instruction for baptismal candidates, but eventually came to be observed by baptized Christians as a way of preparing our hearts to celebrate the wonder of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

To be a Christian necessarily involves a heart posture of contrition and repentance toward God. Though Christians are always called to this heart posture, the season of Lent provides us space to practice that repentance with our bodies as well. A sustained consideration of our creaturely mortality and our moral culpability leads us to repentance, to renewed discipline, and to worship of our crucified and risen Lord.

As a church, we will corporately observe Lent together in various ways. We will begin the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday services on February 10th at 7am, 5:30pm and 7pm at 3921 Baltimore. This service will last under an hour, and we will engage in prayer and song together and receive the imposition of the ashes. Throughout the season of Lent we will focus on themes of humility, simplicity, sobriety, even sorrow—themes we tend to avoid the rest of the year. Finally, during Holy Week (the final week leading up to Easter), we will have a Good Friday service in which we will allow the scriptures take us to the scene of our Lord’s betrayal, arrest, trial, crucifixion and burial, setting us up for a deep celebration Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday.

As individuals and families, I would encourage you to put some thought into how you might practice the observance of Lent through fasting and discipline. The idea behind fasting is to identify something in your life that you tend to use to avoid feeling deeply or facing reality. This might be certain types of food, social media, alcohol, Netflix or anything to which you find yourself turning for distraction or self-medication. Since every Sunday is a resurrection feast for Christians, you might suspend your fast on Sundays. Or, if a 40-day fast is intimidating to you, you might choose only one day each week to abstain. The point is to cultivate a hunger for God by taking away something in our lives that’s not necessarily bad or sinful, but might be satisfying us in a superficial way where God wants to satisfy our souls deeply. For families, this can lead to great conversation as the season progresses about how we are each experiencing the fast and how God is speaking to each of us.

You also might consider engaging in a particular discipline to cultivate affections for and obedience to God. Some decide to engage in some kind of service to others, while others read through all the Psalms, for example, or memorize one of Paul’s shorter epistles. Crossway Publishers has made a 40-day reading guide available on their website, with readings based on The Final Days of Jesus by Andreas Köstenberger and Justin Taylor.

Whatever ways you choose to observe the season of Lent, let’s aim together to cultivate deeper affections for the triune God and to practice our faith in such a way that he gets great glory and our city becomes a better place.

Introducing Advent 2015

Ideas certainly have consequences when it comes to healing our interpretations. But what is needed at the core of our being in order… to shift from mistrust to trust, from reactivity to receptivity, is a great story heard repeatedly—a story of good overcoming evil, of God becoming man, of death and resurrection, of descending and ascending, of surrender and hope—a story personified since we are relational at our core.

— from The Relational Soul by Richard Plass and James Cofield

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For centuries Christians have marked time by observing a yearly cycle of celebrations and seasons based on the story of Jesus—his coming, his living, his dying, and his victory over death. We begin this cycle with Advent, which is a 4-week season of preparation leading up to the 12-day celebration of Jesus’ coming into our world that begins on Christmas Day. On January 6th we begin the season of Epiphany, which focuses on how Jesus reveals the glory of the Father through his life, miracles, and teachings. Then, beginning on Ash Wednesday, we observe the 40-day Lenten season focused on Jesus’ decisive move toward his death on the cross. Good Friday then gives way to Easter Sunday, which kicks off a 50-day celebration of Jesus’ victory over death when he rose from the grave. After those 50 days, we celebrate the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to pour out his Spirit on his disciples on Pentecost Sunday, which ends our observance of the Christian calendar and brings us into Ordinary Time (also known as the Season of Pentecost) until the next Advent begins.

As we mentioned on Sunday, Advent is not just a way of extending our celebration of Christmas earlier. There will be a time to celebrate our Lord’s being made flesh and coming into our world, but this is a season to cultivate longing for our Lord to come, just as the people of God in the Old Testament longed for the coming of their Messiah. It is a season in which we allow ourselves to feel tensions we might normally feel inclined to ignore or gloss over. Things are not the way they are supposed to be, and only One can make all things right and all things new. He is coming again to do just that, and the scriptures call us to wait for and hasten that day.

Fredric Sims composed a poem, entitled “Waiting,” to help us cultivate this longing, and he performed it in Midtown this past Sunday.

You can listen to his poem here:

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So…
When is it going to happen?
That’s my question every time uncertainty
speaks too loudly in my normal.
When mundane’s twang tastes too bitter on my tongue, I mean…
Come on, I had expectations.
Things should be settling in by now.
I’ve mapped out my path of life using friends, family, and my precious assumptions so…
It’s time,
Isn’t it?
Hasn’t my heart craved the next stage of life?
Finally see desires fulfilled.
I feel like a giant cup wanting to be
filled to the point that
I runneth over at last
having the joy of…
Someone holding my hand, a lover.
Or what I hold in my hand, a child.
Or a title, achievement.
A dream job with a financial security blanket that I can curl myself in at night,
Making my worries fly away like they never had a home in my soul.
But all I have is…

Soon.
Not yet.
Perhaps.
Someday.

Honestly…
I’m afraid.
The future feels like a scary movie
I’ve taken the wrong turn onto the back road leading to a place where
Fear will have its way with me,
Making nightmares a reality
And joy just a fairytale,
Something read, but never real.
It, living in my fantasies
But dead, in reality.
A suffocating sadness
Leaving only one whisper.
“This is forever, stagnant”.
There are so many desires
Planted in the field of my heart—
I, standing still,
Hoping to see them blossom in season.
But I never seem to
Leave the season of waiting.

Waiting for these things to bring
Completion.
The coming of the final dawn, breathless.
Beauty so amazing, speechless.
Glory so expansive, greatness.
Joy so consuming, endless.
The ceasing of every pain
The end of wanting
The beginning of gain.

So when is it going to happen?
That’s my question.
When is its arrival?
It must be at the return of the Owner.
The one who can make
The tree limbs bend
And the wind kiss its ruffled brow.
Make mountains bow and
Hurricanes tremble at his voice.
What I’m waiting for…
Is Jesus,
The essence of eternal life,
For he himself is the future.
A future worth waiting for.
Living for. Dying for.
Something better.
He is better.
So let me rest and wait,
For a greater treasure.

Introducing Sanctuary Installation for Lent

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Yesterday our community began the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday. Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter, excluding Sundays.

This season has been observed by many different traditions in the church for hundreds of years. Our goal in observing Lent is not to earn favor with God by fasting and praying, but to allow us a season to reflect on the reality of sin and our need for repentance in anticipation of celebrating the light and hope of Easter morning. We remember our death to prepare for the celebration of the promise of eternal life.
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Week One of Advent

What is Advent about?

This past Sunday we entered into the season of Advent, which is the beginning of the year in the church calendar and the four weeks leading up to Christmas. During this time we re-enact the expectation of the Old Testament people of God as they hoped for the promised Messiah, and we let their expectation train us to orient our lives around the expectation of his second coming.

As Kevin reminded us on Sunday, in the midst of an increasingly commercialized Christmas season, it’s easy to confuse sentiment for adoration, nostalgia for worship. It’s not that Advent is trying to drum up longing and expectation where there isn’t any; rather, Advent seeks, in the midst of a million voices telling us that we will be okay if we could just return to those fond memories or accumulate more stuff, to re-focus our desires on the one who came for us and died for us and will come again to make all things new.
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Ascension

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Today, 40 days after Easter, the church celebrates the Ascension of our Lord into heaven on the 40th day after he rose from the dead (Luke 24:50–53 and Acts 1:9–12). We will take the opportunity this Sunday (May 12) to reflect through our songs and liturgies on the reality of our Lord’s ascension, which holds many precious implications for us. In the words of the Heidelberg Catechism:
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