Lent for Baptists

As I keep saying, I don’t intend this to be just a Lutheran blog, so please bear with me, those of you who don’t make a big deal about the church year, in today’s Ash Wednesday theme.  I offer you this, though, an article by Jim Denison on why his fellow Baptists could find celebrating Lent helpful and meaningful.

Read the whole article, linked below, which includes some interesting historical background:

“Lent” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon or Teutonic word “lencten,” which means “spring.” As strange as it is to Baptist ears, it’s easier than quadragesima, the Latin term for the period (meaning “40 days” or more literally, “the 40th day”). Greeks called this season tessarakoste (“40th”).

As its names imply, Lent is a 40-day observance that occurs each spring. (The 40-day period excludes Sundays, which are to be weekly celebrations of the Resurrection.) Why 40 days?

Jesus fasted in the wilderness and was tempted for “40 days and 40 nights” (Matthew 4:2). As he used these days to prepare for his public ministry, so we use them to prepare for his resurrection and to minister in his name through the rest of the year.

In addition, the Hebrews wandered in the wilderness for 40 years of purification before entering their Promised Land. The world was flooded for 40 days during the time of Noah, washing away the evil that had infested it. According to tradition, Jesus’ body lay 40 hours in the tomb before the Easter miracle. All these facts led early Christians to set aside 40 days before Easter for spiritual preparation and purification. . . .

Lenten observance began very early, as both Irenaeus (died A.D. 202) and Tertullian (died A.D. 225) refer to it. It was originally very brief, a 40-hour fast, growing eventually to a week. By A.D. 325, the Council of Nicaea recognized 40 days of Lent.

The author gives several reasons why Lent is relevant for Baptists.  Some of them I question, but I appreciate his last one:

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.

via Associated Baptist Press – Opinion: Lent for Baptists.

A Spring Break for the soul!  I like that.   Not to be confused, of course, with Mardi Gras!

Happy Presidents’ Day

Today is Presidents’ Day, which began as an amalgamation of George Washington’s birthday and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, but now is nobody’s birthday but just honors our chief executives.  So let’s take a pause from the current presidential campaign to discuss the institution itself.

Is it wise to have the same person be head of state and the  head of the executive branch?

Most democracies today have a Prime Minister as chief executive, who is the head of the party that has the majority in the legislature.  Is that better than our elected Presidents?  If not, why are Prime Ministers more common in modern governments?

Do our presidents have too much power or not enough?

What does it mean to be “presidential”?

Who do you think was our greatest president? The top five?

 

Epiphanies

“Epiphany.  3  a (1) : a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3) : an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure b : a revealing scene or moment”

via Epiphany – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

And the essential nature and meaning, the grasp of reality through something simple and striking, the illuminating discovery, realization, and disclosure is Jesus:  God in the flesh for you.

And thus the time of Epiphany in the church year, which begins today, marking when the Wise Men had their epiphany, and continues to celebrate the other epiphanies of Jesus described in the Bible (when His identity was revealed at His baptism, His first miracle, and on and on through His transfiguration).

May you have your own epiphanies of Jesus in this season–in conversion, in hearing a sermon, in receiving the Lord’s Supper–and may your other kinds of epiphanies be taken up in Him.

UPDATE:   Kenneth in the comments asks counsel for how to battle the spiritual blues.  I gave him some advice, but what do I know?  What could you say to encourage him?

Happy New Year!

January is named after the Roman deity Janus, the god of thresholds.   He had two faces, one that looked back and one that looked forward.  So that’s what we do on New Year’s.  We look back on the year that has passed and we look forward to the year ahead.

Whether your 2011 was a year of trials or thanksgivings or both and whatever 2012 will hold for you, I hope that you will know the promise of Psalm 31:15:  “My times are in your hand.”

Last year’s predictions & contest results

A New Year’s custom on this blog is to have readers predict what will happen in the year ahead.  That’s not particularly unique.  But what is unique is our other custom:  To review those predictions at the end of the year and actually check how everyone did.  Whoever has the most impressive prediction wins universal acclaim and bragging rights for the whole year.

I urge you all to read Your predictions for 2011 | Cranach: The Blog of Veith.  You will get a kick out of it, and you will be encouraged that the year was not quite as bad as many of us thought it was going to be.

Most notable is that Webmonk and Kerner actually made a bet over the number of troops that would be in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Kerner said that we would have fewer than 155,000 troops still fighting in those wars, and Webmonk said that we would have more than that.  Webmonk said that if Kerner is right he would write on this blog an ode “to the greatness of Kerner and all things Lutheran (LCMS).”  Kerner called the bet, agreeing to write an ode to Webmonk and to the religion of his choice.   Well, combat troops have withdrawn from Iraq, though 91,000 remain in Afghanistan.  So Kerner wins!

Webmonk, we await your ode. Not a limerick or a sonnet.  An actual ode.

Special Loser Awards for the predictions that most spectacularly did NOT come to pass go to:

 (1) The Jones, for predicting that Mitch Daniels would be the Republican presidential front-runner, with Tim Pawlenty “right at his heels.”  (We wish!)

(2) WeCanKnow, a follower of Harold Camping, who insisted that the world would end on May 21.

Honorable mention goes to someone who has placed in this contest I believe each year that we’ve done this:  Cindy Ramos.  She predicted that the Green Bay Packers would win their division this year with a record of 13-3.  She didn’t nail the record exactly–it will be either 15-1 or 14-2 (if, as if likely, the Packers rest their starters against Detroit, the perfect season being gone and the team already with a bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs).  Still, few people expected the Packers to have the kind of season that they did.  Cindy’s prediction I still consider remarkable, and more remarkable still is her record of at least three years making remarkable predictions in this contest.  (She is one of my former students.  I taught her all about how to do effective analysis and interpretation.  Wait a minute.  The Jones is also one of my former students.)

This year’s winner started off making some generalized predictions, then realizing that no one could agree on whether they happened or not, he took a different tactic:

The only way to surefire Prediction Glory is to make a rather unforeseen, falsifiable claim and manage to get it right. So I’ll shoot for the moon and say that some event (death or general incapacity) will cause Kim Jong-Un to succeed his father as leader of North Korea.

Kim Jong-Un!  Who even knew who Kim Jong-Un was this time last year?  But sure enough, with just a couple of weeks left in 2011, he became North Korea’s new dictator.  So all Prediction Glory goes to:  tODD!

 

Your predictions for 2012

Now it’s time for you to predict what will happen in 2012!  See the accompanying post that looks back on last year’s predictions for how the contest works.

Don’t worry.  We are not enforcing the Deuteronomy 18:22 rule.  Anyway, we aren’t asking for prophecy, just predictions.

The more specific the prediction the more remarkable it will be if it comes true, and the more likely you will be a winner.  (Highly generalized prediction:  “Politics will continue to be polarizing as the country goes through a bitter presidential campaign.”  Highly specific prediction:  “The deadlocked Republican convention will finally nominate a candidate who could defeat Barack Obama:  Hillary Clinton.”)

So what are your predictions for 2012?


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