Five things I learned writing daily Lent devotions

A week before Ash Wednesday (February 14 this year), I cast a line via my weekly email into the congregation announcing that I would be writing daily devotions on Mark’s version of the passion of our Lord during the forty-six days of Lent (I included the Sundays). About twenty replied and received a daily early-morning email devotion. This was a new project for me, and here’s what I learned from the experience. Continue reading

Ashes to go

24hy432Early this morning I took Ash Wednesday on the road. Two things prompted me to do this. One was this article. The other happened last year after our noon service. I joined one of our small groups for lunch, and the cashier at the restaurant saw me in my collar with ashes on my forehead and asked, “Do you have any more ashes?” Because of her job, she didn’t get to go to her church and get ashes. It made me wonder who else was like her?

So this year I got myself and my ashes together and I went to a Starbucks near us about 6 am. I had told the congregation I would be there, and it put it out on social media, too. I got myself a grande dark, found a nice corner and sat down to work and wait for the next two hours.

As I worked on sermons and devotions, a few church members wandered in to see me. Some on their way to work, some up before their caregiver duties began, one on the way to Mahjong, a few others on the way to school. All would not be able to attend worship today, so all appreciated the chance to talk for a moment, remembering with ashes both out mortality and the eternal life we have in Christ. Several hung out for a little, asking about me and how I was doing. Eight folks in all this time around.

The coffeeshop wasn’t as busy as I expected. About half of those who came in had placed online orders, grabbed their cup and were quickly out the door. A couple of folks who were there when I arrived were still there working on their computers when I left at 8 am.

I enjoyed the coffee and the conversation. I may try it again next year. Perhaps I’ll make a little sign (though it was pretty obvious what I was doing.) Or go a little bit later in the morning. It takes a few cycles for people to get used to something new. I like Starbucks better, but maybe I’ll give Dunkin Donuts a try.

Repost: I’m not giving up anything for Lent

(Originally posted February 20, 2010)

That’s right. I”m not giving up anything for Lent. Zip. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Over the last few years I’ve heard much more about giving something up for Lent than ever. For some reason it has seen a resurgence not only among Christians, but in the secular world as well. On one popular afternoon talk show in Orlando, an avowed atheist and an individual from a Jewish background were discussing what they would give up for Lent. It seems that the practice has gone viral.

I have a problem with the practice on several levels. First of all, if you are going fast, even if just from one particular food or activity, you aren’t supposed to advertise it on social media or talk about it among your friends. Jesus said that if you were going to fast, it was something between you and God. You were to go about your day as if everything were normal. If you’re going to give up something for Lent and then whine about it for the next 38 days on Facebook, I’m going to block you until after Easter.

Next, God’s not impressed when people fast but then turn around and treat each other like dirt. Read Isaiah 58. The kind of fasting God’s interested in is one that helps other people, especially those who are hurting and going without some of the basics of life. When people who have little interest in church or ministry decide to fast, it means nothing. Why bother?

What do you think of this Lenten prayer by Christian Sine?

We have chosen to fast

Not with ashes but with actions

Not with sackcloth but in sharing

Not in thoughts but in deeds

We will give up our abundance

To share our food with the hungry

We will give up our comfort

To provide homes for the destitute

We will give up our fashions

To see the naked clothed

We will share where others hoard

We will free where others oppress

We will heal where others harm

Then God’s light will break out on us

God’s healing will quickly appear

God will guide us always

God’s righteousness will go before us

We will find our joy in the Lord

We will be like a well watered garden

We will be called repairers of broken walls

Together we will feast at God’s banquet table

Rather than giving something up, maybe we could start doing something new for Lent, something that makes God’s love real. Who knows? After forty days, it might become a habit.

 

I’m not giving up anything for Lent

That’s right. I”m not giving up anything for Lent. Zip. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Over the last few years I’ve heard much more about giving something up for Lent than ever. For some reason it has seen a resurgence not only among Christians, but in the secular world as well. On one popular afternoon talk show in Orlando, an avowed atheist and an individual from a Jewish background were discussing what they would give up for Lent. It seems that the practice has gone viral.

I have a problem with the practice on several levels. First of all, if you are going fast, even if just from one particular food or activity, you aren’t supposed to advertise it on social media or talk about it among your friends. Jesus said that if you were going to fast, it was something between you and God. You were to go about your day as if everything were normal. If you’re going to give up something for Lent and then whine about it for the next 38 days on Facebook, I’m going to block you until after Easter.

Next, God’s not impressed when people fast but then turn around and treat each other like dirt. Read Isaiah 58. The kind of fasting God’s interested in is one that helps other people, especially those who are hurting and going without some of the basics of life. When people who have little interest in church or ministry decide to fast, it means nothing. Why bother?

What do you think of this Lenten prayer by Christian Sine?

We have chosen to fast

Not with ashes but with actions

Not with sackcloth but in sharing

Not in thoughts but in deeds

We will give up our abundance

To share our food with the hungry

We will give up our comfort

To provide homes for the destitute

We will give up our fashions

To see the naked clothed

We will share where others hoard

We will free where others oppress

We will heal where others harm

Then God’s light will break out on us

God’s healing will quickly appear

God will guide us always

God’s righteousness will go before us

We will find our joy in the Lord

We will be like a well watered garden

We will be called repairers of broken walls

Together we will feast at God’s banquet table

Rather than giving something up, maybe we could start doing something new for Lent, something that makes God’s love real. Who knows? After forty days, it might become a habit.

Lenten series thoughts

I am working on my midweek Lenten worship series this week. Good thing — Lent is just a little over a week away. I looked at a lot of published stuff for ideas, but wasn’t thrilled by any of them. I find it very hard to use someone else’s stuff. So I took out a harmony of the passion of our Lord and just read through it to see what catch my interest or imagination. I jotted down these images:

  • a kiss
  • hands tied
  • a slap in the face
  • spit in the face
  • hands washed
  • the tears of denial

Each led me to something we all deal with:

  • when you receive affection from someone who then turns on you,
  • when you feel like your “hands are tied and can’t do anything,”
  • when someone’s comment is a “slap in the face”
  • when you’re treated like dirt,
  • when you just want to be out of a situation, and
  • when the tears of failure come.

We find in Christ so many opposites, such as a God who wipes away our tears, who uses spit to heal, who washes feet, and binds up our wounds. I don’t have all the dots connected, but it’s coming together. I am thinking about tying it together with the theme Deal With It, but I want to let it simmer a little, and then I’ll taste it again.