Ash Wednesday Oddness

Ash Wednesday Oddness

Maybe it was the red-eye flight from Phoenix last night. Maybe it was going from 80 degree sunshine to 20 degree spitting snow. Or maybe it was a 1:00 am bedtime after the late flight, or the lack of enough caffeine to jump start the day. Or maybe it was the outcome in New Hampshire as the drama of the year moves south to the Carolinas. Or maybe it was reading Psalm 51 and having ashes smeared on my forehead in chapel this morning on this Ash Wednesday.

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Is The Indiana Law About Discrimination?

Is The Indiana Law About Discrimination?

Before heading to Palm Sunday service this past Sunday, I was listening to George Stephanopoulos interview the Governor of Indiana on “This Week” on ABC. Their discussion was centered on the heated reaction to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  A pin-the-tail-on-the-governor game was underway. The goal of the game was to affix to the State of Indiana the culturally detestable label “DISCRIMINATION.” Of all the sins out there, this seems to be the unpardonable one.

So let’s look it up in the online dictionary.

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A Bloody Weekend Awaits Us

A Bloody Weekend Awaits Us

The beheading of Egyptian Christians is still bothering me. And the idea that their drained blood flows in a river toward those who are next is even more troubling.

I find myself on this weekend as I anticipate the events of the Holy Week to come, trying to place the bloody beheading tactics of radical Muslims alongside the crucifixion tactics of the early Romans. Both sent a message – we are in charge and you must submit to our ways, or pay a price. Both made it public – one by virtue of crosses lining well-traveled roads, the other by use of media. Both extracted blood – from necks and backs and heads and sides.

And neither has made the world new. Only more fearful, more angry, more sad.

As you experience the Maundy Thursday betrayal, the Good Friday crucifixion, the quiet Saturday Sabbath in the tomb, and the glorious Easter Sunday celebration, pause to ask a simple question – whose use of power makes the world new?

Easter Sunday and Our Fear

Easter Sunday and Our Fear

“Do not be afraid.”

Why does the resurrected Jesus need to keep saying this to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary and all the disciples? Is fear the human response to resurrection?

Admittedly, to see a dead person walking and talking would give me the shivers for sure. Is this momentary fear that turns into courage? Or is it the human response to the reality that life as we once knew it has been turned on its head and something has happened that changes everything? Probably both.

This realization should help us understand why people resist Christianity. If they are seriously considering what we are saying, it is a leap of frightening proportions. They (and we) have no capacity for integrating this resurrection faith with everything else they believe.

It is like a crashed computer, a totaled automobile, a bankruptcy – the end of what we once had. Fear may be a good sign of serious discipleship. I suppose that is why the first words of Jesus to folk like us are, “Do not be afraid.”

What a life is to be had on the other side of fear.

Happy Easter!

Maundy Thursday: Biting the Hand That Feeds You

Maundy Thursday: Biting the Hand That Feeds You

We say it several ways:

  • “No good deed goes unpunished.”
  • “Those with capacity to hurt you deepest are those who are closest to you.”
  • “Biting the hand that feeds you.”

It’s about the pain of betrayal. And lest we think our God is without experience here, Jesus broke bread with Judas on the fateful Maundy Thursday. The same man who dipped bread with Jesus walked out of the room to betray his feeder.

I often talk with people who have experienced the pain of betrayal in a way that drove them from their faith. Why God seems distant when we are betrayed may have something to do with our desire for a God more swift to judge and execute justice. That certainly is how the Psalmists of the Lament Prayers felt—and may be what was behind Jesus’ prayer from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Read Psalm 22 for the true depth of all that was being prayed by the crucified Jesus. It is a Psalm about being betrayed by enemies and needing help.

Yes, we will be betrayed in painful ways. People very close to us will hurt us. Some of us will even be the betrayers—biting the very hand that feds us.

Maundy Thursday may be saying that when betrayal happens, Jesus is very near.

Photo Credit: atimetoremember7 via Compfight cc

First Day of Spring

First Day of Spring

Our tradition is that I get Denise flowers on the first day of spring. Now that we have two furry creatures in our home who love to eat flowers and knock over glass vases, the tradition has warped into plant-able yard flowers, usually daffodils. We have a growing spread of them in our flower beds.

Which begs the theological question, is Easter like spring? It certainly shows up on the calendar that way.

Spring arrives and Easter is not far behind. I’ve heard adults explain the Easter resurrection of Jesus like spring flowers: what was brown and dead springs back to life again every year.

Well, yes—but no.

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Branded for Death: Reflections on Ash Wednesday and Lent

Branded for Death: Reflections on Ash Wednesday and Lent

I did not observe Ash Wednesday and Lent until later in life. There was only one Catholic Church in my hometown, and I actually do not recall knowing a Roman Catholic my age. Giving up something for Lent was more like the run-up to a punch line, or a silly comment made regarding a new diet. I was in my 30s before I saw a human with ashes smudged on their forehead.

My introduction to Lent started with the task of preaching. I’ve always preached series of sermons, mostly through a book of the Bible. And leading up to Easter, I normally selected one of the gospels to take us toward the resurrection. It began to be a pattern. The more I came to grasp what Lent meant, the more I understood the rhythm of the Christian calendar and the need for us to live into the Christian story.

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