Lent is when the ecstasy and the agony of life collide.
Monday, 28 February, was the next-to-last-day of Mardi Gras, celebrated in the US along the Gulf Coast, New Orleans being its epicenter.
As the sun was going down in New Orleans, the eve of “Fat Tuesday,” the party hardying prior to the abstinence of Ash Wednesday, a man in California killed his three daughters and the woman supervising the girls’ visit with her father, part of the terms dictated since his divorce. Then killed himself. In a church sanctuary.
Note: This is a re-post from an ongoing series of Ched’s brief comments on the Markan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year B, 2015.
Jesus’ long march to Jerusalem takes Mark’s story from the margins of Palestinian society (the Jordan wilderness and Capernaum in Mk 1) to its center. Arriving at the suburb of Bethany (11:1), Jesus prepares to enter the Holy City not as a reverent pilgrim demonstrating allegiance to the Temple, but as a subversive prophet challenging the foundations of State power. Mark 11-12 narrates Jesus’ second “campaign of direct action.” In the first campaign in Galilee (1:20-3:35) he confronted the status quo with his powerful actions of exorcism and healing. Now he takes on the Temple system and its stewards: the Jerusalem clerical establishment. This campaign, like the first, will culminate in polarization and rift, and will conclude with Jesus’ withdrawal to further reflect upon his mission in a second sermon about revolutionary patience (13:1ff; see 4:1ff). Continue reading “PALM SUNDAY AS SUBVERSIVE STREET THEATRE: SIXTH SUNDAY IN LENT (MK 11:1-11)”→
It can be fairly said that discipleship is the topic of Lent. The liturgical road from Ash Wednesday leads straight to Passion-week Jerusalem. To enter wholeheartedly into the season costs more than tag along admiration from the margins of a multitude. A call and a choice are put point blank: take up your cross and follow.
Lent was first and still remains a season of baptismal preparation. Before the church year took shape there was only the unitive feast of Easter which went on for fifty days until Pentecost. But for some (those initiates to be baptized into the death and life of Christ on Easter) it was the culmination of a three year period of instruction and discipline. In the underground rigors of pre-Constantinian faith the scrutiny was serious, the preparation prolonged, and the prayer intense. Those demanding final days before baptism were marked with a fast. In part, by a simple act of solidarity and intercession, other members even whole congregations, were drawn instinctively to join the fast and renew their own sacramental vows come Easter sunrise.
This past Sunday one of our members, Stan Wilson, offered the “call to the table” in our congregation’s zoom worship screen-gathering. He led with a suggestion that was equivalent, in my hearing, to a thunderclap.
“How about for Lent this year we give up Donald Trump?”
It was a table invitation (we celebrate the Eucharist every week) and an altar call rolled into one. And it certainly had my name on it.
The last four years in the US have been a national demolition derby, a Three-Stooge-esque comedy of incompetence and disrepute, a racketeer’s paradise and grifter’s playpen—only with real-world torment, particularly for those here and abroad with little shelter from the abuse.
By Ric Hudgens (right), a reflection from the Ash Wednesday service at North Suburban Mennonite(2/17/2021)
It feels as if we’ve been observing Lent all year. Always Lent and never Easter.
Almost a year ago we started wearing masks, separating from family and friends, working from home, moving to remote worship services, learning to sublimate desire on a daily basis. As the poet Anne Sexton wrote: “Your courage was a small coal that you kept swallowing.”
I’m tired of swallowing coal.
Under normal circumstances (remember those?) I anticipate and savor the season of Lent. I savor how it focuses on our finitude, the certainty of our death, and our organic connection to the earth. The imposition of ashes and the declaration “dust thou art, to dust thou returneth” is a clarifying reassurance in the midst of much that is uncertain and confusing.
Although these elements are not the entirety of the Christian message, they have always seemed to me fundamental and necessary.
I love this season for its potential earthiness. Lent’s ability to ground us in the physical realities of our bodies and of our daily lives. I appreciate that recurring discovery that an annual confrontation with death can be a life-giving experience.
“It’s not simply: better jails, better police, better training. It’s no police, it’s no jails, no prisons. It’s creating a new means of justice that’s not based on criminalization but based on affirmation and reparation, and by reparation that is trying to repair relationships that have been damaged and destroyed as a result of five centuries of warfare against Indigenous peoples, Africans, poor white people, Asian-Pacific Americans, and Latinx populations.”—Robin D.G. Kelly
Lent starts next week. A season to take spiritual inventory. To assess crucifying realities. To grieve. To confess our complicity. To rise up into newness of life. This year, the Lenten journey begins on Wednesday, February 17—four weeks into a new Presidential administration committed to “going back to normal.” This year, more than ever, Lent resists “normal.” Lent lifts up what Dr. King called a radical revolution of values. Protecting people over profit motives and property rights. Black people. Brown people. Indigenous people. Immigrant people. Poor people. We want nothing to do with a “normal” world of racism, materialism and militarism. Following Jesus of Nazareth, we are inaugurating a world that brings good news to the poor and proclaims release to the captives. We are rolling away the stone guarded by those who protect and serve empire.
Like each of you, I am spinning and dancing in the flux that is COVID-19.
My city, Philadelphia, is on lockdown, people asked to go out only for necessities or to the doctor. Every day I have gotten news of loved older ones exposed or friends who have COVID-19, schools and colleges closed, information overload. I’ve cancelled retreats and trips I have looked forward to for months, reeled home one college student from across the globe. I’ve been anxious about what the virus will do in Project HOME’s 900-resident community of formally homeless and vulnerable people, concerned and sad about life experiences cancelled, uncertain about how long it may go and how bad everything may get. You probably have a similar list of things falling, failing, the world shifting a bit under fear and responsibility.
A great opportunity for radical disciples as Lent approaches on our calendars. This free webinar starts at 8pmEST on Mon, February 24. Register HERE. It will be led by Rev. Anne Dunlap, Faith Coordinator for Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ).
The Lent 2020 lectionary readings from the Gospel of John are challenging for Christians trying to counter anti-Jewish/anti-Semitic interpretations of these stories. The choices seem stark, and the enemies seem clear. What alternative readings could there be that do not perpetuate dangerous interpretations that have been – and continue to be — the excuse for violence against Jews and others? Continue reading “Rome Will Destroy Us: Resisting Anti-Judaism in John”→
From the conclusion of David Augsburger’s recent piece “Lent: Is God Like Jesus?” originally posted on The Mennonite blog. Read the entire Lenten reflection here.
“Christ is not only God-like, but God is Christ-like,” Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in Strength to Love (1963). The Christian gospel proclaims a God who is very different from “the Almighty,” the historic God among all the gods who is, by trusted definition, an omnipotent paragon of ultimate invincible irresistible power. The God of Jesus Christ, in Leonardo Boff’s phrase, is “weak in power but strong in love” (Cry of the Earth; Cry of the Poor, 1978).
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
By Rev. Dr. Victoria Marie
As I reflected on today’s readings, the theme they seemed to weave together is to begin Lent by reviewing our stories. With the First Reading, in which the writers of Deuteronomy are giving the reader a sort of Last Will and Testament of Moses, God’s people are reminded of their history and God’s presence in it. They are told to recount that history in ritual and celebration. We are also being reminded to reflect on our personal intergenerational stories. Who were our ancestors? How was God with them as they journeyed? How do their stories impact your story? How has God’s presence in all of our stories led us to where we are today: physically, socially, emotionally and spiritually? The First Reading reminds us to ponder these questions as we reflect on our stories. Continue reading “Wild Lectionary: Roots and Stories”→