Walter Brueggemann – Ash Wednesday. An Old Identity Made New

Walter Brueggemann

Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way,
and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the LORD, that he may have
mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

—Isaiah 55:6–7

These verses are a familiar call to worship or a call to repentance, not a bad accent for Lent. The face of God shown here is of a Lord near at hand, ready to forgive, a God of grace. But this is a God to whom a turn must be made, a God of demand, a God of demand ready to be a God of grace . . . not just hard demand, not just easy grace, but grace and demand, the way all serious relationships work.

The imperative is around four verbs, “seek, call, forsake, return,” good Lenten verbs. But this is not about generic repentance for generic sin. I believe, rather, the sin addressed concerns for Jews too eager to become Babylonians, too easy to compromise Jewish identity, Jewish faith, Jewish discipline—in order to get along in a Babylonian empire that had faith in other gods with other disciplines. The imperatives are summons to come back to an original identity, an elemental discipline, a primal faith.

I suggest, moreover, that these are just about the right imperatives for Lent among us Christians. For I believe the crisis in the U.S. church has almost nothing to do with being liberal or conservative; it has everything to do with giving up on the faith and discipline of our Christian baptism and settling for a common, generic U.S. identity that is part patriotism, part consumerism, part violence, and part affluence.

The good news for the church is that nobody, liberal or conservative, has high ground. The hard news is that the Lenten prerequisite for mercy and pardon is to ponder again the initial identity of baptism . . . “child of the promise,” . . . “to live a life worthy of our calling,” worthy of our calling in the face of false patriotism; overheated consumerism; easy, conventional violence; and limitless acquisitiveness. Since these forces and seductions are all around us, we have much to ponder in Lent about our baptismal identity.

Lent is a time to consider again our easy, conventional compromises and see again about discipline, obedience, and glad identity. And the climax of these verses:

that he may have mercy . . .
for he will abundantly pardon.

Isa. 55:7
The word to the compromised deportees is that God’s face of pardon and mercy is turned exactly to the ones who reengage an identity of faith.

God of grace and demand, you challenge us to reclaim our baptismal identity as those whose lives are built on your call and your promises—not on the easy, seductive forces around us. Stir our hearts that we may engage your transforming word anew and rediscover its power to save. Amen.

(Brueggemann, Walter – A Way Other Than Our Own. Devotions for Lent, 2017)

The Season of Lent 2018

This is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the 40 days Lent season of 2018 in Western Christianity, which will end on April 1, the Easter Sunday.

May you have an enlightening time of reflection, askesis, repentance and reorientation.

(Source, HERE.)

Walter Brueggemann – Holy Saturday: Expecting to be Interrupted

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark . . . —John 20:1a

Nobody knew how long Saturday would last. Nobody knew if Saturday would ever end. So it is now as well. Nobody knows how long Saturday will last or if it will ever end. Saturday is that in-between day of stillness and doubt and despair when time stands still in lethal flatness. The old Saturday was about abandonment and disappointment at the far edge of the crucifixion. And then came all the Saturdays of fear and abusiveness, of the Crusades and the ovens and genocides in too many places. And then came our particular Saturdays of Katrina and 9/11 and economic collapse, Saturdays of overwhelming failure with no adequate resources. Continue reading “Walter Brueggemann – Holy Saturday: Expecting to be Interrupted”

Archbishop Justin Welby – What Makes A Good Lent? Making Space for the Hope of Christ

Friday 20th February 2015

In this talk given at St Paul’s Cathedral last night, the Archbishop of Canterbury reflected on what makes a good Lent for individuals, communities and society as a whole.

Some things stick in the memory. In 2004, when I wasworking at Coventry Cathedral, I was in a part of Africa which was in the midst of some very serious fighting. A group of black-clad militias was moving across the area, killing, looting, burning.

With a colleague I drove into the area where the fighting was going on to a small town that was under siege, or had been. On the way there, after a long period in the car on very bad roads, we stopped for a few moment break. There was a series of burnt huts to our right, and I walked a few metres towards them.

Around me rose ash. It was this time of year; in fact it was the Monday before Ash Wednesday. The ash rose in clouds, settling on me, from the burnt houses and, as I walked, I realised the ash from those who had been burned.

That was ash without hope, ash without change, ash rising in clouds to call all who saw it to acknowledge human evil but not to promise anything better. Continue reading “Archbishop Justin Welby – What Makes A Good Lent? Making Space for the Hope of Christ”

40 Ideas for Lent 2015

40 Ideas for Lent 2015.

Here is, again, Rachel’s yearly collection of ideas for Lent. Enjoy!

Ash Wednesday 2015

Ash Wednesday marks the first day of the 40-day Lenten fast for Western Christians. The Christian holy day, this year falling on Feb. 18, is observed by prayer, repentance and fasting ahead of Easter.

The day follows Fat Tuesday, also known as Mardi Gras, where revelers partake in their last bout of merrymaking before Lent begins. While many see the observance as a Catholic one, most liturgical churches include Lent in their practices. This includes Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and Anglican denominations.

For those unfamiliar with Ash Wednesday, below are three answers to common questions surrounding the holy day. Continue reading “Ash Wednesday 2015”

Taking a Break from Social Media

I have decided to take a break from Facebook and my blog for the time until Easter.

A few more posts are already planned to appear on my blog until 31 March and then there will be a bit of silence, which is good for the soul.

Warning: I am not planning to approve or respond to comments on this blog during this period. Thanks for your understanding.

I wish you all a blessed Lent time.

Rachel Held Evans – 40 Ideas for Lent

Rachel Held Evans – blog.

Here is Rachel’s usual post on 40 creative ideas for Lent.

Bill Leonard on Dangerous Lent

Bill Leonard

Bill Leonard is James and Marilyn Dunn Professor of Church History and Baptist Studies at the School of Divinity, Wake Forest University. I had the privilege of meeting him once in Bucharest, during a research conference, and I was impressed with his humility and his academic competence.

In the latest column he published on the ABP website, he deals with the topic of Lent, one that is usual for people belonging to the Baptist tradition, be that a non-fundamentalist one.

Bill writes:

In my Baptist upbringing we didn’t pay much attention to Lent. Ash Wednesday, for example, was just another prayer meeting night. Yet, we did not disregard the classic Christian struggles — repentance, confession, humility, mortality — that bubble up during the Lenten season.

Rather, they overtook us at seasonal revivals, when sinners saved and unsaved were called to conversion, repentance and renewal. People got saved “hard” at those revivals — “testifying” to all sorts of sins, omitted and committed, that had weighed them down and held grace at bay far too long.

It was not until I attended Texas Wesleyan University that Lent entered my liturgical radar, carrying me along that paradoxical path that winds through Golgotha to Good Friday. Continue reading “Bill Leonard on Dangerous Lent”

32nd Day of Lent 2012

Day 32:

29.03.2012

“As (Jesus) approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.”  Luke 19:41 (NIV Bible)

Make yourself a small “holding cross” (use wood, nails, twigs, card, or wire etc). Hold it in your hand as you read or watch today’s news. Carry it in your bag or pocket, or leave it on your desk or table until Easter Saturday.
What do you see happening in your city that Jesus would weep over?

How might he want you to respond?

29th Day of Lent 2011

Day 29:
26.03.2012

All seeing God, you know the ugliness smuggled in my heart which my mind often fails to detect; ugliness which puts my heart off balance, which wearies and confuses me, which tips me in false directions and inclines me to destruction.

Lead me into the darkness, that I may find what is concealed, bring it to your light, carry my cross wisely, and bring harmony into my life and world.

(Adapted from a prayer by Nathan Nettleton. http://www.laughingbird.net)

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Try to go for a day without water.

22nd Day of Lent 2012 – St Patrick’s Feast

Day 22:
17.03.2012
Fasting (going without) is about coming to understand that there is nothing we can do to make ourselves more acceptable to God. We are accepted as we are. It also helps us focus on our journey with Jesus in difficult times.

“Water is ubiquitous in our land, so cheap that its almost magical attributes are easily forgotten. But fresh water, worldwide, is running out, and the consequences … will dominate global politics for at least the next generation.”  Dave Withrow, 30/04/11

Place a cup of clean water on your desk or table to remind you of what you usually take for granted.

18th Day of Lent 2012

Day 18:

13.03.2012

Contemplations on Important Stuff

Don’t fill your shelves with stuff from ads,
fill yourself with stuff that adds.

(from “Give A Man A Fish: making a difference and being the difference”, Cameron Semmens, published by World Vision Australia, 2010.)

(Source, World Vision New Zealand)

2nd Sunday of Lent

(Source, World Vision New Zealand)

8th Day of Lent 2012 – On Hope

Day 8:

01.03.2012

“We can live about 40 days without food,
about three days without water,
about eight minutes without air,
but only for one second without hope.”

(Today is also St Davids Day)

* * *

You may follow HERE the Anglican readings, hymns, and prayers for this day.

6th Day of Lent 2012

Day 6:

28.02.2012

What do you consider essential to your living?

How do you feel about this situation?

Thank God for these essentials throughout the day, or ask God to help you become less dependent on them.

(Source, WV New Zealand)

5th Day of Lent – Denying some of the essentials

Day 5:

27.02.2012

“In the end, Lent is about denying ourselves some of the essentials of everyday life in order to focus on the reality that we depend upon God for life itself.” (Dawn, p23)

In what ways does this understanding differ from the commonly held view of Lent?

(From WV New Zealand)

1st Sunday of Lent – Think About Water

Water for bathing, washing clothes, and drinking….

How often do we thank God for clean water?

Giving Up Self-Discipline for Lent | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Giving Up Self-Discipline for Lent | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

AS some of you know already, I really like Mark Galli. He always has a unique angle in what he writes. This is also true about this text on Lent. Here is a short quote:

Lent is supposed to have more spiritual overtones than the mere self-improvement mantras of New Year’s. But I suspect that for many of us, Lenten disciplines are more about us than about God. More about getting our act together in some area that continually discourages us and repeatedly sabotages our self-respect. The advantage of Lent over New Year’s resolutions is that we can bring God to our side, and the whole church is there to cheer us on. But for many of us, I suspect, it’s one big self-improvement regimen, with God as mere personal coach. But who am I to judge others? I have enough self-centeredness of my own to deal with.’

4th Day of Lent 2011

Day 4:

25.02.2012

Fasting (going without) is about coming to understand that there is nothing we can do to make ourselves more acceptable to God. We are accepted as we are. It also reminds us that we depend on God for everything.

Only 1% of the world’s water is drinkable. Fresh water is a closed system. There is the same amount in the world now as there was in Jesus’ time, or in prehistoric times.

Fast from coffee and tea (or your regular drink) today. Every time you think about having a cup, be reminded of your dependence on God for what you need, and what that means for Christians in Africa or Oceania without access to safe water.

Place an empty glass on your dark-blue place.

2nd Day of Lent 2012

Day 2:

23.02.2012

Make this your regular prayer through Lent.

Thanks be to you, my Lord Jesus Christ,
For all the benefits you have won for me,
For all the pain and insults you have borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother,

May I know you more clearly,
Love you more dearly,
And follow you more nearly,
Day by day.

(St Richard of Chichester, 1197-1253)

Fr. Richard Rohr – A Meditation for Ash Wednesday

The sacred texts of the Bible are filled with absolute breakthroughs, epiphanies, and manifestations of the highest level of encounter, conversion, transformation, and Spirit. The Bible also contains texts which are punitive, petty, tribal, and idiotic. A person can prove anything he or she wants from a single line of the Bible. To tell you the truth, the Bible says just about everything you might want to hear—somewhere! Maybe this sad and humiliating recognition can be your ashes today. Like a phoenix you can rise and rebuild your knowledge of Scripture in a prayerful, calm, skillful, and mature way. Then you can read with head and heart and Spirit working as one, and not just a search for quick answers. Continue reading “Fr. Richard Rohr – A Meditation for Ash Wednesday”

Associated Baptist Press – Opinion: Lent for Baptists

Associated Baptist Press – Opinion: Lent for Baptists.

I am glad to see that there are some Baptists who are actually interested in this centuries, if not millenia old Christian tradition.

Here are the three arguments the author brings for the importance of observing Lent by Baptists:

Why is Lent relevant for Baptists?

Three reasons for observing some form of Lenten practice suggest themselves, in ascending importance.

One: we need to live in community with the larger body of Christ. Since the vast majority of Christians practice some form of Lenten observance, joining them in some way is a good step toward solidarity of faith and ministry. This is also an important witness to others, answering Jesus’ prayer, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me” (John 17:23).

Two: we cannot fully appreciate Jesus’ resurrection unless we have experienced something of his sufferings. A fast of some sort is an appropriate means of spiritual identification with our Lord’s suffering for us.

Three: we need a period each year for intentional spiritual introspection and contemplation. John R. W. Stott said that he required an hour a day, a day a week, and a week a year to be alone with his Lord. We need a time every year for spiritual renewal. Just as students need a Spring Break, so do souls. Lent is a wonderful season for such renewal: as the physical world is renewing itself, so should the spiritual.

Can a spiritual discipline practiced for more than 17 centuries by the vast majority of Christians be irrelevant for Baptist souls today?

Last Day of Lent

[Lent ends at sunset today (Black is the colour)]

“By now it was noon. The whole earth became dark, the darkness lasting three hours – a total blackout. The Temple curtain split right down the middle.

Jesus called loudly, ‘Father, I place my life in your hands!’ Then he breathed his last.” Luke 23:43-46 (The Message Bible)

[Easter Vigil starts at sunset (White)]

An (in)famous Australian tourism campaign involved a young woman asking potential tourists, “Where the bloody hell are you?” Jesus could well have asked that of God on this day.

Take time to think about a time when you, or someone you know, felt like that.

Let your stone remind you of this question through today and into tomorrow. Does Easter answer the question in any way for you?

36th Day of Lent

Lord of Life!
Lord of Death!
Do not bring me to the time of trial –
But if you should,

Help me to come to you
not moved by imaginations of heaven
nor of the fires of hell
But satisfied that you love me
And I you.
Amen

(Diocese of Auckland Lenten Meditation 2003.)

Whenever you feel your stone today thank God for loving you. Be reminded of who needs you to love them.

35th Day of Lent

“Jesus, when you rode into Jerusalem
The people waved palms
With shouts of acclamation.
Grant that when the shouting dies
We may still walk beside you
Even to a cross.”

(NZ Prayer Book)

How much are you influenced by the opinions and actions of those around you? Let your stone remind you that doing what is right can be tough. Pray for courage and wisdom.

Palm Sunday

“When it came close to the time… Jesus gathered up his courage and steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem.” Luke 9:51 (The Message Bible)

Carry a stone in your pocket or purse this week. Let it remind you that the journey of life, and the following of Jesus on that journey, are not easy. They require courage and commitment and the making of hard choices.

34th Day of Lent

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, the day we remember Jesus entering Jerusalem on his way to being crucified. You can read this story in Mark 11 in the Bible.
“The people gave (Jesus) a wonderful welcome, some throwing their coats on the street, others spreading out branches they had cut in the fields. Running ahead and following after, they were calling out, Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in God’s name! Blessed the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in highest heaven!” Mark 11 (The Message Bible)

27th Day of Lent

Think about this:

If you have food in your refrigerator, a change of clothes in your wardrobe, a house and bed to sleep in, you are better off than 75% of the people in this world.

If you have money in the bank, and cash in your pocket you are better off than 90% of people in our world.