Quest for Depth

Using family devotions to support Sunday worship during Lent.

Lent is increasingly observed in Reformed circles. In earlier years, before we paid much attention to the liturgical year, some of us tended to associate Lent with hot-cross buns and self-denial—-weeks without meat or sugar. But gradually we're discovering the meaning of the season and the value of its traditions. And as our awareness of this very special season grows, so does our need to observe it more completely, to appropriately rededicate ourselves to our Lord during these weeks before Easter.

For many Christians personal and family devotions play a major role in the process of dedication and renewal. During Advent mothers, fathers, children, single adults, grandparents— people of all ages—light candles in an Advent wreath each night and follow a plan of devotions that involves singing, praying, reading the Bible, and meditating. But during Lent these same families and individuals are sometimes unsure what course to follow.

In response to this need several Lutheran pastors developed a series of Lent devotionals centered around a cross display. I was interested in what they had done. For several years I had been looking for an approach that tied together home devotions and Sunday worship and that provided some unifying songs and themes that would appeal to the whole congregation. Using the model of the Lutheran pastors as a base, I was able to develop a Lenten program for my congregation in Flushing, Michigan.

This Lenten devotional program, "Quest for Depth," centers around a cross—a large one for the sanctuary on Sundays and a smaller one for each participating family to use at home. On each Sunday during Lent the pastor introduces a new object to decorate the cross. A member of the congregation reads an appropriate Scripture passage. And the pastor's sermon, based on that passage, prepares the congregation for home Scripture readings and reflections for the week.

At the end of each service members distribute the day's object and a devotional sheet to each participant. The hymn of the week, which the pastor introduces during the morning service, is printed on the back of each of the eight devotional sheets (pp. 22-23).

Preparing for Depth

I introduced the "Quest for Depth" program to the Good Shepherd congregation through a kick-off letter, in which I briefly explained the program and challenged members to prayerfully consider joining other members of the congregation in this quest. Included with the letter (and inserted in the bulletin) were

  • a description of the cross and an explanation of how it would be used.
  • an explanation of how the cross and the devotional instruction sheet would tie church and home worship together.
  • an estimate of what kind of time the program would demand of each family (no more than 10 minutes a day).
  • an invitation to a special Ash Wednesday service of Dedication and Prayer on Ash Wednesday, during which the minister would introduce the program in detail. (Good Shepherd offered both a morning and evening service to make attending the service a possibility for most participants.)
  • a response sheet for members to tear off and place in the collection plate.

On Ash Wednesday the congregation gathered in the morning and the evening to dedicate themselves to participating in the program and to growing through it. As part of the service I distributed daily prayer cards to each member, inviting participants to use this prayer ("Our Daily Prayer," from The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer) during Lent to begin their daily quiet time with God.

I also provided instructions for using the weekly devotional sheet and the cross. And I distributed a sheet explaining that I would like individuals and families to participate in Sunday morning worship services by

  • bringing forward the "object of the week" for display in the church sanctuary.
  • reading the assigned Scripture.
  • standing in the back of the sanctuary after the service and distributing the object of the week and the instruction sheet of the week to all who would like them.
New Depth

Members of Good Shepherd were enthusiastic about the "Quest for Depth" program, many claiming that they had never understood Lent before and truly appreciated this special opportunity to reflect on Jesus' great work. Families testified to a new regularity and depth in their home and church worship.

Koll invites those who are interested in a more detailed description of this program, in copies of the materials Koll used, and in a photo of his cross display, to contact him at the following address. He requests that $2.00 be sent with each request to cover the costs.

Rev. David Koll
Good Shepherd Christian Reformed Church
8163 W. Coldwater Rd.
Flushing, MI 48433

Devotional Sheets Distributed Each Week

Quest for Depth: PRELUDE
Message: "Seek the Lord!"
Wednesday Worship: Scripture: Isaiah 55:6-13
Object of the Week: A "Daily Prayer" Card
Thoughts for the Week: We're about to begin an exciting six-week journey—a "quest." It's a journey that will draw us deeper into fellowship with Jesus. Along the way we'll make use of personal praver, Bible reading, appropriate thoughts and questions, personal meditation, and a special hymn each week. On each Sunday we'll receive a "cross display object" to help give focus to our quest, and an instruction page to help guide our "quiet time." As you join in thejourney, building your cross display and completing your devotional times, be sure your goal is the proper one: that of seeking for depth in Jesus. May we, each day, as our "daily prayer" suggests, hear our Lord speaking a midst the noise of life. And may God bless us all in our quest.

Bible Readings for the Week: 1, Hebrews 11:1-6 2. Psalm 105:1^4 3. Matthew 5:1-10
Questions to Consider:

  1. Do you have a good place for your cross display? Maybe you want to use a special table, a bedroom dresser, or a kitchen shelf. Just be sure the cross is a frequent sight for all participants in your household.
  2. Consider the barriers you face to faithful and ernest participation prayer and ask for strength to break through these barriers daily.
  3. Have you decided when you will have your daily "quiet time" (as a and reading and reflecting on God's Word?

Hymn of the Week:  "Just a Closer Walk With Thee"

Quest for Depth: WEEK ONE
Message: "The Daily Choice"
Sunday: Scripture: Mark 8:34-38
Object of the Week: A Cross
Thoughts for the Week: We've all heard die expression, "It's the cross I must bear." Being a Christian involves looking to the cross, taking up a cross, and carrying a cross. Yet, instead of being a burden, the cross brings life and meaning to our existence. This week, and during the coming six weeks, you'll see a cross in your home. Let its presence prompt you to examine your commitment and surrender to the cross of Christ. I pray that you'll find yourself closer to him trough such examination.
Bible Readings for the Week:

  1. 1 Corinthians 1:1-25
  2. Galatians 6:14-16
  3. Philippians 3:17-21
  4. Philippians 2:1-8
  5. Colossians 1:15-20
  6. Luke 14:25-33

Questions to Consider:

  1. 1. As you read this week's passages, remember that the "message of the cross" is a message that brings power yeet seems foolish.
  2. 2. Try to list some of the "crosses" you must bear gladly, for Jesus' sake.
  3. 3. Children can draw a picture of a cross and display it in their bedroom or on refrigerator.

Hymn of the Week: "Abide With Me"

Quest for Depth: WEEK TWO
Message:  "Loose Change"
Sunday: Scripture: Matthew 26:14-16
Object of the Week: A Bag of Coins
Thoughts for the Week:
Money does amazing things. It "talks." It also persuades us to do foolish things. Judas certainly found this out—have you? Yet, we must also recognize that the money in our pocket can do wonderful things when it is used for God. The passages selected for this week are meant to help us see both "sides" of our "coins." I pray that you'll experience God's richblessing this week as you consider how to use your money.
Bible Readings for the Week:

  1. 1 Timothy 6:6-10
  2. Mark 10:17-23
  3. Matthew 6:19-24
  4. 2 Corinthians 9:6-11
  5. Proverbs 3:1-14
  6. Matthew 27:1-5

Questions to Consider:

  1. Can you identify any "bad attitudes" about money that you have been having?
  2. What are some of the "good things" God wants you to do with money?Are there any promises you want to make to God as a result?
  3. If you have children, think of a concrete way they can use money for God this week, and then encourage them to do it!

Hymn of the Week: "Be Thou My Vision" (note v. 3)

Quest for Depth: WEEK THREE
Message:  "A Heaven-sent Headpiece"
Sunday: Scripture: Mark 15:16-20
Object of the Week: A Crown of Thorns
Thoughts for the Week:
We expect a king to wear a crown; and we have all heard of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore. Most of us cringe at the thought of the thorny spikes jamming into his skull. Yet, the crown of thorns was so much more than uncomfortable headgear. It actually symbolized the full gore of Jesus'suffering ,as well as his future glory.As we see in this week Scripture reading a crown awaits all faithful Christians.will you accept both the gore and the glory of Christians discipleship?
Bible Readings for the week:

  1. Isaiah 53:3-5
  2. Hebrews 2:9-11
  3. Revelation 2:8-11
  4. 1 Corinthians 9:22-27
  5. Revelation 4:9-11
  6. John 19:1-15

Questions to Consider:

  1. How do you most often think of Jesus' rule: with a crown of glory of glory or a crown of gore?do you have any explanations for your answer?
  2. The Bible tells us that Jesus' suffering enables him to understand us. List some of the suffering you have done, and then thank Jesus for understanding.
  3. Can you list some of the times Jesus suffered in life even before the crown of thorns was placed on his head? (This is agood question for children.)

Hymn of the Week: "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded"

Quest for Depth: WEEK FOUR
Message: "Ouch! That Hurts!"
Sunday: Scripture: John 19:16-19
Object of the Week: Nails (one for each person in your household)
Thoughts for the Week:
Nails can be used in many ways. None of us likes the thought of a nail being driven through human hands and feet; yet many of us enjoy constructing something useful with a hammer and nails. The construction project at Calvary combined the most painful use of nails with the most meaningful product ever: our salvation. The Bible readings this week leave no doubt that Calvary's hammering was for you. Will you respond by building your life with him?
Bible Readings for the Week:

  1. Acts 2:22-24 2. Isaiah 53:6-9
  2. 1 john 1:8-2:2
  3. Colossians 2:13-15
  4. 1 Corinthians 3:10-13
  5. John 20:24-28

Questions to Consider:

  1. Lay the nails you received on .Sunday at the base of your cross. Sometime during the week consider your sins for which Christ was crucified. Confess them in prayer, then take turns hammering the nails into the cross. Now thank God for the forgiveness Christ accomplished for you through the crucifixion.
  2. As you reflect on the passages for this week, think about how Cod expects us to respond to the sight of the nail holes in Jesus. ]s there any way you can express your response this week?

Hymn of the Week: "Were You There?"

Quest for Depth: WEEK FIVE
Message: "Are You Thirsty?"
Sunday: Scripture: John 19:28-30
Object of the Week: A Sponge
Thoughts for the Week:
One of the compassion; itc moments on the cross occurred when jesus was offered a drink with a sponge. If you've ever exerted yourself on a hot day and then fell the relief of a cold drink, you can begin to identity with jesus. Amazingly, Jesus was the one who was showing, not receiving, true compassion on Good Friday. And he tells us today thai he has living water that he wants us to drink freely and share with others. I pray that you'll grow in your apprecition of God's "holy thirst quencher" this week!
Bible Readings for the Week

  1. Isaiah 55:1-2
  2. Psalm 107:1-9
  3. John 4:7-14
  4. Matthew 25:31-40
  5. Romans 12:17-21
  6. Revelation 22:12-17

Questions to Consider:

  1. Describe the "thirsts" that the living water spoken of in the Bible will satisfy.
  2. What are some ways in which you "drink of jesus"? "Share Jesus' drink?" Try this week to do both!
  3. With the children in your household, decide upon a way that you can bring "relief to another person this week,and then do that activity together, in Jesus' name.

Hymn of the Week:  "Springs of Living Water"

Quest for Depth: WEEK SIX
Message: "This Is the King"
Sunday: Scripture: John 12:12-19
Object of the Week: Various Colored Cloths
Thoughts for the Week:
This week we add colorful "drapes" to our cross, and we see the "chameleon-like" character of Jesus' sacrifice. On Sunday we welcome Jesus as King, and we place a royal purple drape on our cross. On Thursday we hear Jesus'call to remember his blood, shed for us, and we add a red drape to the cross. On Friday we ponder the darkness of Jesus' climatic suffering and death, adding the black drape to the cross. Then on Saturday, as we anticipate the victory of life over death which is proclaimed on faster, we add the green drape to the cross. May God bless us all in this special week of worship and reflection.
Bible Readings for the Week:

  1. Psalm 24:1-10
  2. Isaiah 6:1-7
  3. Isaiah 61:10-11
  4. Thurs.: Matthew 26:26-30
  5. Fri: Matthew 27:45-60
  6. Sat.: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Questions to Consider:

  1. The Isaiah 6 passage speaks of meeting God face to face; in fact, eaeh Scripture this week helps us to picture meeting God, through Christ. Describe ynur atiitudes toward the prospect of seeing Jesus.
  2. As you add the colored cloths to the cross this week, discuss with any children in your home what the various colors mean.

Hymn of the Week: "What Wondrous Love Is This"

Quest for Depth: POSTLUDE
Message: "where is Your Victory? "
Sunday: Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:50-58
Object of the Week: An Easter Lily
Thoughts for the Week:
There is a sweet sense of accomplishment at the end of something. Ask anyone who has completed a novel, finished a course, or concluded a household task. Docs today mark the end of your "Quest for Depth"? I hope not! I hope, rather, that these past six weeks have been just a continuation of a lifelong journey, and a catalyst to regular"quiet time" with Jesus. Today's Easter lilies symbolize the continuation of the Christian life; and, even more, Jesus' resurrection demonstrates the vitality and victory that come with walking with him. May we each continue ourjourney with Jesus, on into eternity!
Bible Readings for the Week
How will you fill in this section in the week, and weeks, ahead?
Questions to Consider:

  1. Are you planning to join in our service of sharing and celebration this evening?
  2. How will you continue to seek and serve the risen Lord in the coming weeks?
  3. Do you have any comments or suggestions about the "Quest for Depth in Jesus"? If so, jot them down and share them with Pastor______________________Thank you!

Hymn of the Week: "Good Christian Friends, Rejoice and Sing'"

Response Sheet

Please tear off this portion and place it in the offering plate or give it to Pastor Koll by Sunday, February 14. Your response will be kept confidential.

Yes, I (we) will participate

(name of household)

Service of Dedication and Prayer
_______I (We) hope to attend the Wed. AM service at 10:30 AM, February 17.

_______I (We) hope to attend the Wed. PM service at 7:00 PM, February 17.

_______I (We) cannot attend the special service but would like to receive the introductory materials.

Rev. David Koll is a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church. Ordained in 1981, he served congregations in Flushing, Michigan, and in Anaheim, California. He then served in a denominational role coordinating the ordination process for pastors. He has been retired since 2021, and lives in southern California. He and his wife enjoy close proximity to their six grandchildren.

Reformed Worship 10 © December 1988, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.