“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…]

Make your predictions for 2016

Yesterday we looked at our predictions for 2015.  Today we give our predictions for 2016.  What do you think will happen in the year ahead?

To win our annual blog contest for best prediction, make your prediction as specific as possible.  For example, our recent winner, Joe, didn’t just say that we’d have an oversupply of oil or that the price of oil would come down.  He said that the price of oil would drop to $35 per barrel.  Also, the predictions that stand out the most are those that seemed at the time to be unlikely, and yet, they come to pass.  When Joe made his prediction exactly a year ago, oil was going for $60.

This can be a salutary exercise in any event, whether you win or even enter our contest.  This is an election year, which promises extra drama.  (Who will be the nominees?  Can the Republican party prevent Donald Trump from being its standard bearer?  Can any of these candidates beat Hillary Clinton?  If so, who?)  I’ll make a few predictions of my own after the jump. [Read more…]

My New Year’s Eve ritual

Every New Year’s Eve, I look back on the events of the past year.  I do so by reading Dave Barry’s Year in Review.  The month by month retrospective has the virtue of being very funny, which makes the survey of the year’s madness much easier to take.

Start it and follow the link after the jump. [Read more…]

Reinventing New Year’s Eve with college football playoffs

I’ve got to say, I’m excited that the Sooners of the University of Oklahoma, one of my alma maters, is in the college football playoffs tonight.  I had given up on them after they lost to Texas, but here they are, playing the undefeated Clemson for a shot at the national championship.  For everything you want to know about the playoffs and much more than you  want to know, go here.  (Give your picks in the comments.)

The bigger story, though, is ESPN’s attempt to take over the way Americans celebrate New Year’s Eve.  Instead of going to parties, staying up until midnight, and watching the ball drop at Times Square, watch college football! [Read more…]


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