Lent begins

To contemplate Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, those sobering words accompanying the imposition of ashes are a good place to start.  (More personally, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return”!)

This is called a memento mori, a reminder that you are going to die.  How can it be helpful to meditate on that unpleasant fact?  How can that change your perspective on things?   What does that have to do with Lent?

Lenten observances

I love the Lenten season and it always does me good.  I try to discipline myself more–which usually in my case means not eating so much and exercising more–and I usually work through some heavy-duty theological text for my edification.  (I have a couple in mind that I’m anxious to take on.  I’ll probably report on them here in the days ahead.)  I sometimes ramp up my Bible reading.

President Harrison (below) urges us to join him in praying the Litany.

Of course there is no merit in ascetic self-flagellations, but most of us could use some practice in denying ourselves, if only in small ways, and Lent is a good time to do that.  And it intensifies the experience of Easter when I can cast off my self-imposed little laws and enjoy the rush of freedom, an image of the Gospel, which is what Easter is all about.

What do you do, or not do for Lent?

Rev. Harrison on Lent

I am appreciating more and more the ability of Matt Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, to witness to our faith in the public square.  Here are his Lenten greetings:

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?


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