Preparing for Easter
About the Guest
Are your memories of Easter seasons past mostly a blurry rush of dresses and colored eggs? Or does Easter sneak up on you by surprise? If so, perhaps you're missing the richness of Lent. Barbara Rainey helps us rediscover Lent, the season of preparation for the holiest week in the Church's entire year.
Are your memories of Easter a blur of colored dresses and eggs? If so, perhaps you’re missing the richness of Lent. Barbara Rainey helps us rediscover Lent, the season of preparation for Holy Week.
Preparing for Easter
Bob: I know some of our theologically-astute listeners are saying: “Now, wait a sec! Aren’t there some people for whom this whole idea of giving up something for Lent is them trying to pay penance? They’re trying to—
Dennis: —“earn God’s favor.”
Bob: Yes; “earn God’s favor”—earn merit through the denying of the flesh.
Bob: That’s not what the whole idea of a fast during the Lenten season is all about; is it?
Barbara: It’s not. The whole idea of fasting is to make a sacrifice—to begin to feel a little of what it means to give up and to sacrifice oneself, or to deny oneself, something; because we can’t begin to fathom the sacrifice that Christ made, and we never will. But, when we deny ourselves something, it’s just a tiny touch of what Christ did for us. So, it’s a way to prepare our hearts. It’s a way to prepare our soul and to say, “I want to enter into the sufferings of Christ, at some level, so that I can be more grateful and more appreciative of what He did for me.” The whole idea is preparing your heart and humbling yourself in preparation for Resurrection Sunday.
Bob: Our family has, for the last two-plus decades, given up something for Lent. We don’t go to a liturgical church / this was not a part of our tradition growing up. We just decided that we rarely deny ourselves anything.
Bob: So, during the Lenten season—during that six-and-a-half weeks leading up to Easter—for us to be fasting something, whether it’s media, or a kind of food, or whatever you’re doing—then, when you have the impulse / that craving that says, “I would sure like some ice cream right now,” that’s a trigger for me to stop and think—
Bob: —“There’s a reason I’m not doing this. There’s a reason I’m not going to have ice cream today.”
Bob: And it’s a little bit of suffering for me to not have a scoop of ice cream, but it’s nothing compared to the sufferings of Christ on my behalf.
Bob: So now, all of a sudden, I’m meditating on the suffering of Christ on my behalf and on His resurrection on my behalf as well. So, for six-and-a-half weeks—and I just need to explain, here, the reason it’s six-and-a-half weeks. You know, it’s a 40-day fast—
Bob: —but it starts 46 days before Easter.
Barbara: That’s right.
Bob: And that’s because every Sunday is a non-fast day.
The reason that the ancients said you don’t fast on Sunday is because you’re not going to fast on the day that you commemorate the Lord’s resurrection.
Barbara: Right; because every Sunday was a reminder—
Bob: —it should be a day of celebration.
Barbara: —right; of the resurrection.
Bob: So what happened at our house was that everybody looked forward to Sunday. [Laughter]
Dennis: A big bowl of ice cream!
Bob: I mean, chocolate chip cookies were coming out. We had kids staying up until midnight on Saturday night—
Barbara: Oh, on Saturday night. [Laughter]
Dennis: Break fast. [Laughter]
Bob: —to bake cookies that they could eat at 12:05 in order to celebrate; because, “Now, it’s Sunday!” But you know what? That made everybody—Sunday was the focal point of the week.
Barbara: Yes; exactly.
Bob: We couldn’t wait for Sunday!
Bob: And you might say, “Well, that’s because you were looking forward to cookies, not looking forward to church.”
Bob: But there was something about the whole rhythm.
Dennis: You know what? That’s okay, though. It really is okay, because you start to get the point. You start looking forward to Sunday—when the tomb is empty, when death is defeated, and Christ made good on His promise and is seated at the right hand of the Father and can offer us eternal life.
I’m going to tell you something—obviously, cookies and ice cream, and all that stuff, that’s nothing! That’s nothing when you’re talking about your eternal destiny.
Bob: You have been at work developing a resource for families to use to help draw our attention.
Barbara: That’s right.
Bob: So it’s not just ice cream drawing our attention back to the resurrection. This is a resource called “The Messiah Mystery.”
Bob: Explain what it is and why you decided to go the direction of a mystery, in terms of this resource.
Barbara: Well, there are a couple reasons we decided to call it a mystery. One is because it was, in fact, a mystery. All throughout the Old Testament, there were hints. God gave hints in all kinds of time periods and in different ways. He was leaving these hints to say: “I am going to redeem you. I am going to come, and here’s what to watch for.” But the people living in all those hundreds of years before Christ came had no idea when. They had no idea how it was going to happen. So it was, in fact, a mystery.
The second reason we decided to do it is because a mystery is something that all of us can engage in. My kids loved mystery books / I loved mystery books. One of our favorite games, when I was growing up and that we played all the time with our kids, was the game Clue®. Trying to solve a mystery is always intriguing. It’s fun, and it’s engaging. So I wanted kids to approach the Scripture that way. I wanted them to look at the Bible and think: “This is fun! I’m going to discover something new.”
Dennis: You actually equip adults and kids to become detectives and sleuths.
Bob: I just want to make sure Colonel Mustard has nothing to do with the Messiah.
Dennis: No lead pipe. There’s no lead pipe—[Laughter]
Bob: And they never spend any time in the conservatory?
Dennis: —and there’s no ballroom. [Laughter]
Dennis: None of that; but you say—and this is really cool / I had never thought of this before—but you say there are more than 300 clues in the Old Testament.
Barbara: There are lots of clues in the Old Testament, and we only give you a fraction in “The Messiah Mystery.”
Dennis: Other people have called them prophecies, but you call them clues.
Dennis: I like that, Bob, because it taps into something that is true of all of us. We’re all curious, but children can really get into this. In fact, we both were surprised at the feedback we got back from both adults and children of how they got into the game.
It’s not really a game—it’s coming out of the Bible / it’s a real story—but how they connected with the idea. They’re finding out things that are true about Jesus Christ in Old Testament passages. She does this by taking you through six nights—over a six-week period—family nights that you can spend discovering these clues.
Bob: What’s interesting is—when you begin to see how regularly the Old Testament is pointing toward the coming of the Messiah and identifying the characteristics that will be true of this coming Messiah, you begin to see that all of Scripture points to Jesus.
Barbara: It does.
Bob: Our church did a sermon series. It was a year-long sermon series, where we went through the 66 books of the Bible in 52 weeks. Every Sunday was an overview of a different book of the Bible. The sermon series—each message was called, “Jesus in Genesis,” “Jesus in Exodus,” and “Jesus in Leviticus.”
Dennis: Right; right.
Bob: You don’t tend to think of Jesus in the book of Numbers, but He’s—
Barbara: He’s there.
Bob: —He’s everywhere; isn’t He?
Dennis: He is there. As Barbara says in “The Messiah Mystery”—she has the statement that, “God is in the details.” One of them that she points out is—in the tabernacle, there was a veil that separated the Holy of Holies—you say in “The Messiah Mystery.” You ask kids to discover this—that the veil is a clue. Explain what you mean by that.
Barbara: It is a clue. It’s one of my favorite clues, actually. We printed in “The Messiah Mystery”journal the description of the veil that they were to make and hang in the temple that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. As they read the verse, it describes the way the veil was made. Then there are these other verses that we sprinkle throughout “The Messiah Mystery”journal that are called decoder verses; because we know that a lot of the New Testament explains the Old Testament—so we have a decoder verse for that.
The decoder verse in the New Testament talks about how the veil—when Christ died on the cross, the veil—was ripped in two. There’s this connection between what happened to the veil in the temple when Christ died and how the veil was made initially. There’s this learning that goes on: “Why was there a veil? Why did God put a veil between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place? Why was it so thick? Why was it so big? Why weren’t you supposed to go in there? What happened if you went in there?”
So all of those things / all of those clues point to the relationship that God has with us because of our sin and the kind that He wants to have with us in the future after Christ dies and is resurrected. So that’s just one little tiny piece of the clues that are in “The Messiah Mystery.”
Dennis: And the ripping of the veil?
Dennis: What does that symbolize?
Barbara: Well, that God is the One who breached the sin / He’s the One who conquered it. And the coolest thing is that the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom—so God Himself ripped that veil and got rid of it, signifying that we can now enter into His presence because of Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, they couldn’t go in there. If they went into the Holy of Holies, they would die. The priest had a rope tied around their ankle so that, if they went in and did something wrong and died, somebody could pull them out.
As we understand, as adults, and as we help our children understand the magnitude of our brokenness and how we were not able to approach God without Christ. We don’t understand that because we live after the resurrection. We enter His presence freely, in prayer, all the time and don’t think anything about it. But, in the Old Testament, they couldn’t go near God. The veil was what separated them. So, the veil is a very important clue it’s a very important piece of the whole “Messiah Mystery.”
Bob: The book that you’ve printed is an 80-page guidebook / a journal.
Bob: And along with the narrative, you have clues, as you said, sprinkled throughout. But the clues are in a tiny typeface; right?
Barbara: They are—tee-nine-sy typeface, Bob. [Laughter]
Bob: And what’s the reason for making it so tee-nine-sy? Is it two point five?
Barbara: I don’t know what it is.
Dennis: It’s tiny!
Barbara: It is tiny.
Dennis: But is it the clue, or is it the answer?
Barbara: The answer to the clue—
Dennis: It’s the answer to the clue.
Barbara: —the answer to the question.
So, you read a verse, as a family. Then, there are questions about that verse. As we were talking about the veil, just now, there will be questions. We’ll say, “Why was the veil so thick?” or “What does this signify?” It is a clue to the Messiah / the coming Messiah—then the answer to that clue will be printed in real tiny font in the shape of a magnifying glass. You literally have to use your magnifying glass to read the answer on the page.
Bob: You said there’s a poster that comes along with this?
Barbara: There is a poster.
Bob: Explain what that’s all about.
Barbara: Well, we were thinking that it would be fun, especially for younger kids, to have a way to count down 40 days—and it’s really 46, as we said earlier—but that’s a long time to anticipate.
Bob: It is. It’s a long time to give up ice cream—Brussels sprouts, not so much—but ice cream, that’s tough! [Laughter]
Barbara: But ice cream; yes. So we created a poster and a paper chain. You make the paper chain and hang the paper chain up. You take off one strip every day. They are numbered, and the poster has corresponding numbers on the poster. You put that strip on the poster. At the end of the 40 days, it will reveal a part of the answer, anyway, to “The Messiah Mystery.”
There is also one last clue—that requires the magnifying glass—that’s on the poster itself.
Bob: So it makes the whole process interactive.
Bob: This is not just: “Sit down. I’m going to read you a story, and we’ll say a prayer,” and you’ll be done.
Bob: Kids have to be engaged, in all kinds of levels—with magnifying glasses, and their clue journal that they’re writing clues in, and then this poster.
Bob: When you have that kind of engagement, learning goes deeper; doesn’t it?
Dennis: I know that one of the things that is on parents’ hearts is the eternal destiny / the spiritual condition of their children, whether they are young children or teenagers. I want you to just comment on this, Barbara; because this is a practical explanation for why we need a Savior and why the Savior came to redeem us from our sins. All these stories of the Passover and the veil—and it being ripped—
—they carry a message for us that God is pursuing us and wants a relationship with us. Our children need to hear that. I think this resource will be used with a lot of kids.
Barbara: In the resource, there are a couple of places where we make reference to the fact that, “If you don’t know Christ, now is a great time to know Him.” There is a sample prayer at the end of the journal that you can use with your child or with someone else, for that matter, to help them begin a relationship with Jesus.
Bob: I’m imagining, Barbara, that if you were going to do this with your eight-year-old, your eight-year-old would go, “Okay; that’s cool.” Your six-year-old would say, “That’s really cool!” Your eight-year-old would say, “That’s cool.” Your ten-year-old would kind of say, “Do we have to?” Your twelve-year-old would just roll the eyes and say, “Oh, Mom; really?!” [Laughter] What do you do with the twelve-year-old when you say, “Hey, I got this cool new thing we got from FamilyLife—‘The Messiah Mystery.’ We’re going to go through it at Lent, and you’re giving up your iPod® for the month.” How do you make that cool?
Barbara: Well, you don’t make them give up their iPod. [Laughter]
That’s a start; because when you force them to give it up, that’s a sure recipe for failure. But, you know, there will be kids who are going to roll their eyes—it’s just part of the parenting process. You’re going to have teenagers, who just think: “Oh, gosh! Here we go again!” But, you know, what we always felt like, with our kids—when we had teenagers, and they were not real eager—we just thought, “You know, we’re going to do this.” We trusted that there was truth that was sinking in, even when they were rolling their eyes.
And, again, I’ve tried to make this engaging enough that there are some pretty cool things in there that are just for teenagers; because there is a section in every one of the six sessions that is for adults and teens that’s much deeper / it’s much more involved. I’m hoping that kids will kind of get into it in spite of themselves.
Dennis: I want to take you out to Session Six—it’s called “Clues in the Vineyard.” I just want to read you the beginning of this session:
Detectives use the words “hot” and “cold” to describe their cases, saying the trail of evidence has gone cold when their search comes to a dead end—the clues and tips seem to stop. Exactly the same thing happened in the Bible. For thousands of years, the clues about the Messiah continued to be given, like bread crumbs sprinkled along the path. Those who believed and were waiting felt they were getting warmer and warmer.
Then, suddenly, inexplicably, the clues stopped. For four hundred years, there was not a single word from God; not even a whisper of a clue was given. Then, on the darkest of days, an angel broke the silence and announced, “This will be a sign for you…” in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2, verse 12.
For the few who were there, the clues began to connect like pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle. But Bethlehem was so obscure; no one was looking there of all places. For the next 30 years, the answer to the Messiah mystery was in plain sight; but no one knew.
That pulls kids into the story. Christmas will have new meaning because of this. Easter is going to have a great meaning because of this; because Resurrection Sunday is a day of hope, new life, of death being defeated, and of the promise of a relationship with Almighty God. I can’t think of a better way to move toward the Easter season than spending some family time, over the next six weeks, to do just that.
Bob: I’m just curious, Barbara, what you would say to a mom or a dad who said: “You know—we’ve never done this Lent thing.
“Honestly, it feels weird. I like the idea, but I just don’t know about the whole Lent thing.” What would you say?
Barbara: I think I would just say, “Give it a try,” because you don’t have to give up dessert. You don’t have to do the things that perhaps you’re a little uncomfortable with. I think that is perhaps what people might feel is odd or uncomfortable to them. I think so often, as moms and dads, we don’t try because we are afraid of failing; or we don’t try because we know we can’t finish—so “Why bother?”
I think we need to remember that something is better than nothing. It’s like the teenager rolling his eyes—okay; so he’s rolling his eyes / or so she’s rolling her eyes—and doesn’t want to be there. But something is better than nothing. The few words that they do listen might resonate next week or next year—you just don’t know. So, don’t quit before you start. Give it a try; and trust that what you do accomplish, God is going to use for great good.
Dennis: I have two thoughts. Number one, just because their eyes are rolling or they close their eyes, doesn’t mean they aren’t listening. I’m telling you—you never know how the Spirit of God will take something you’re teaching as you go through “The Messiah Mystery” with your kids.
The second thing—back to your question, Bob—the thing of Lent kind of sounds kind of weird or “I’m not sure I want to get into that,”—I’ve got a simple solution. Don’t call it Lent—just take the next six weeks and just go through “The Messiah Mystery”as though it were a series of family times leading up to Easter.
Bob: You could call it Easter Advent—I guess you could do that.
Dennis: There you go! [Laughter]
Barbara: You can do that.
Dennis: You could do that.
Bob: We should let our listeners know that we do have a limited supply available of “The Messiah Mystery” resource. So if you’re interested in having this to use during the Lenten season with your kids, now is the time to get in touch with us.
You can find out more about the resource or order, online, when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com. You can also call, toll-free, to order if that’s easier—1-800-FL-TODAY. That’s 1-800-358-6329; 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Again, ask about “The Messiah Mystery” when you get in touch with us.
Now, tonight, in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Ashville, North Carolina; Cincinnati, Ohio; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Overland Park, Kansas, just outside of Kansas City; and in Minneapolis, Minnesota, we’ve got Weekend to Remember® getaways happening in those seven cities this weekend. Be praying for the couples who’ll be attending one of these getaways this weekend. Pray that it’s a great, refreshing time for their marriage. Of course, next weekend, we’ve got getaways happening in Rochester, New York; in Nashville, Tennessee; and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
And there are three getaways, where we’ve got a team that is heading out on the road next weekend. They’re going to be going to three getaways in three states over a three-day period. They’re going to Cleveland, then Chicago, then Minneapolis. They’re going to be visiting these getaway sites and hearing from couples about why they came to the getaway / what they think about the Weekend to Remember. We’re going to be sharing all of this on Facebook®. The reason I’m telling you is—if you’ve always wondered what a Weekend to Remember is like, all you have to do is follow us on Facebook next weekend. You’ll get a picture of what happens at one of these getaways without having to leave your own home; okay? So follow us on Facebook next weekend for the Weekend to Remember road trip. The hashtag for the event is #WTRoadtrip. So keep your eyes open for that next weekend.
And I hope you have a great weekend this weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship in your local church this Sunday. And I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to begin a discussion of how we, as parents, relate to our children once they’re grown-ups / once they’re paying their own bills. We still have a responsibility to be moms and dads, but our role shifts when our kids are out on their own. We’ll talk more about that next week. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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