19 February 2010

Lenten Devotions: Punt

I just returned from a very frustrating lecture on campus. Before I comment publicly, I need to take some time and digest what I remembered and how I’d choose to agree/disagree/blow it all to hell and start over. But my thoughts on tonight’s lecture were to be the LD for this evening. So I’m just going to punt and do today’s Friday Five, not that it’s an inferior pursuit, mind you, but it gives my reeling mind something to grasp with a bit more coherence than I could otherwise offer. Ergo, here we go.

From Sophia:

Each year you give us this joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the Paschal Mystery with mind and heart renewed. You give us a spirit of loving reverence for you, our Creator, and of willing service to our neighbor. As we recall the great events that gave us new life in Christ, you bring the image of your Son to perfection within us.... (First Preface for Lent, Roman Missal)

1. Did you celebrate Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday this year? Any memories of memorable celebrations past?

We meant to do a Fat Tuesday celebration at the Lutheran Center, but planning didn’t get done until last minute, and by then, people were already overwhelmed enough considering Ash Wednesday and Lent that we just scrapped the whole thing. So I went home and ate a pizza. That’s right: keepin’ it classy up in HYAH.

2. How about Ash Wednesday, past and/or present?

Every year, without exception, I consider the moment I’m marked with ashes to be the “beginning” of Lent. I can’t imagine not having ashes imposed. One thing I did hear about this year were several folks of various denominations doing ‘public’ impositions, and I’m thinking we might spend a few hours at the Free Speech Zone on the ISU campus offering the imposition of ashes during the day next year. Seems a good way to be distinctively Christian and perhaps do some educating and public witness at the same time. Also, a Christian in the FSZ who isn’t pounding a Bible and yelling about JAYSUS might be a nice change of pace for some folks.

3. Does your denomination or congregation celebrate "this joyful season"? Any special emphases or practices to share?

The old joke is that most Lutherans prefer Lent to Easter because we are much more comfortable in penitence and self-denial. As I wrote the other day, my Lenten experience is formed by the joy my mentor found in the season, and there are indeed many in my denomination who share a love for the journey of Lent, not because we’re big fans of feeling guilty, but because the introspective, penitential nature of the season has a real impact on us spiritually. In the “Invitation to Lent” our liturgy reads, “As disciples of Jesus, we are called to a discipline that contends against evil and resists whatever leads us away from love of God and neighbor. I invite you, therefore, to the discipline of Lent—self-examination and repentance, prayer and fasting, sacrificial giving and works of love—strengthened by the gifts of word and sacrament. Let us continue our journey through these forty days to the great Three Days of Jesus' death and resurrection.” I believe most of us try to live out these disciplines, as do most Christian churches, and this is what makes Lent a special season in the church.

4. Do you have a personal plan of give-ups, take-ons, special ministries, and/or a special focus for your own spiritual growth between now and Easter?

This is the second year I’ve attempted to write a nightly post for Lent. Last year I simply ran out of steam a few weeks in; in retrospect, I may have simply been trying to say too much. Thus tonight’s ‘lighter’ fare. I also give up a few things every year, this year being meat and Sporcle, and I attempt to use the changes that result from that sacrifice for good. So, hopefully giving up meat lessens our grocery bill and my waistline, and wasting less time playing Sporcle gives me more time to sleep, work, play with the kids, etc.

5. What is your dream for the image of Christ coming to perfection in you, the church, the world? How can we support you in prayer?

Humility and grace. I am more and more convinced that as Christendom continues to die (and die it should, for the sake of genuine faith as opposed to institutional idolatry), the church in its panic is asserting ever more loudly its own supposed position of power and dominion. I am by no means ashamed to be a Christian, but I am ashamed by the bleatings of those who will not give up the false dream of America being a “Christian nation.” We are called to be humble servants in this world, not a dominating moral police, and it seems to me that the first duty of every Christian during Lent is to tend to the sin in our own lives. That, in itself, ought to keep us busy for at least 40 days, don’t you think?

Bonus: Song, prayer, picture, etc. that sums up your feelings about this liturgical springtime.

I was hoping to post “Tree of Life And Awesome Mystery” by composer (and Lutheran, though he works for GIA, a Roman Catholic publisher) Marty Haugen, but couldn’t find a video on YouTube. But “Shepherd Me, O God” is another that fits well with the season, so here goes:

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