Giving up something for Lent

There is a great piece on Lent in the Federalist by my friend Todd Peperkorn. He makes an excellent case for the helpfulness of giving stuff up during Lent, especially in this day and age.  He does more than that, though, so read it all, linked and excerpted after the jump. [Read more…]

The most romantic things you can do

Go to church together.  Pray together.   According to a new study, couples who do those things have stronger and more satisfying relationships.

Read the whole article by Rachel Lu in The Federalist, linked to an excerpted after the jump.  She also ties this research into that Swiss study that found that when the father goes to church, the children will go to church when they are adults (and vice versa).

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The imposition of ashes and God’s gift of repentance

What an Ash Wednesday service we had:  the Litany AND the imposition of ashes AND the sacrament of Holy Communion.  The grandkids thought it was cool to have ashes put on their heads, but it was hard to see them with the mark of death upon them, but that’s the way it is.  I think Pastor Cwirla’s objection to the imposition of ashes that I blogged about yesterday–that a pastor is to convey forgiveness, not another reminder of sin and death–is answered when the service includes the sacrament, so that the pastor is giving both the law followed by the gospel.

But I want to share with you another take on the imposition of ashes.  Sandra Ostapowich, in a movingly honest and well-written post, writes about her struggles to apply Lenten disciplines, to conquer her sins, and even to repent of them.  But then the imposition of ashes reminds her of how God does everything for her salvation, including giving her the gift of repentance. [Read more…]

“Why We Don’t Do Ashes on Ash Wednesday”

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  I love the rite of the imposition of ashes, when the pastor marks our foreheads with the sign of the cross made in ashes, with the words “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  We need to remember that fact.

But what I want to post for the occasion is a classic piece by Rev. William Cwirla from a few years ago, on “Why We Don’t Do Ashes on Ash Wednesday.”  It’s not what you might expect.  It’s a different kind of remembrance of death, and a reflection on the pastor’s vocation.  He even goes deeper into the symbolism in a way that will help those who do “do ashes on Ash Wednesday.”

UPDATE:  Don’t get me wrong.  Most of us Lutherans do impose ashes.  See this rejoinder to Rev. Cwirla’s piece from Rev. David Petersen, via Trent David.
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Epiphany and epiphanies

Today is Epiphany!  Have a merry and happy Epiphany!  It isn’t just about the wise men.  It’s the beginning of a whole season in which the scheduled Bible readings on Sunday deal with “epiphanies” of who Christ is:  His baptism, in which the voice from Heaven says, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mathew 3:17); His first miracle; then other Gospel stories, culminating in the Transfiguration, in which the voice from Heaven again says, ““This is my beloved Son,with whom I am well pleased”  (Matthew 17: 5), bracketing Jesus’s ministry with the Father’s identification and favor.

I’m interested in the word “epiphany,” which is also a literary term (meaning a character’s or the reader’s moment of realization in a story) and a term referring to experiences of ordinary life, in which we suddenly see the significance of something.

After the jump, I post an excerpt from a dictionary on the various meanings and uses of “epiphany.”  Read them and reflect on how even the seemingly non-religious uses of the term can apply to Jesus.

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Happy 2016!

Happy New Year!  This is the day we look forward and contemplate the year ahead, making resolutions about the changes we’d like to make and planning for the future.

Along with the custom of making New Year’s resolutions is the custom of saying that they are futile, what with the bondage of the will and everything.  But we don’t have to invest them with big moral significance, nor turn them into grandiose self-improvement exercises with little chance of lasting.  Changes happen over the course of the year, and we might as well direct a few of them. [Read more…]