Edging Toward Lent

Men with blades!

There were men with blades.

Sound dangerous? Well, I suppose so, in the same way a shortstop courts danger while planting his feet by second base when a runner from first goes airborne, hurtling toward the shortstop’s vulnerable legs. Or like a basketball player leaping for a rebound, fighting a rival player for the ball, sharp elbows punching face and chest, as she inevitably plummets, intertwined with the other, onto a hardwood floor.

I recall my first—and still only—professional hockey game. As with any sport, there was danger. Those blades on the skates were sharp. The hockey puck, bagel-sized and stone-hard, traveled at breakneck speeds.

So, yes, dangerous. Controlled and chaotic. But, truth be told, I had no idea what was going on. I was there because my wife and I were invited to attend a fundraiser. The hockey team, bless their community outreach efforts, was sponsoring a local non-profit’s work.

Did I have fun? Continue reading →

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From Dust You Came

ash_wednesdayWill you be going to an Ash Wednesday service today?

I will. I don’t attend worship too regularly, but the season of Lent is important to me, for my relationship with the Holy. But in many churches, folks will stay home today. Groundhog Day probably has more fans than the first official day of Lent. I know some reasons that truckloads of folks don’t break down the doors for an Ash Wednesday service . . .

  • Too early! The first Ash Wednesday worshippers have to drive through darkness to get to a church. Dark! Cold! Or it’s mid-day . . . a bad time, gotta be to work. Or in the evening . . . hey, I have dinner plans!
  • Ash Wednesday’s a Catholic thang. And I’m Protestant! Get it, I “protest” all those strange rituals and saints and the Pope’s infallibility. Just give me a sermon (though not too long, pretty please) and let me know when the next pot-luck is and I’m a happy camper.
  • What’s Ash Wednesday? Never heard of it!

For over a thousand years the Christian church has trod this human-concocted path, this Ash Wednesday to Easter morning 40-day journey. There’s no Biblical mandate to streak ashes on our forehead. Jesus was never quoted as saying, “Get thee to an Ash Wednesday service (which by the way is on a Wednesday) and, verily, verily, I declare . . . make sure you also don’t forget to attend Good Friday worship and definitely play J.S. Bach quite loud on Easter, please!”

Nope, we’ve made it all up to help us remember, to help us reflect on our relationship with God and neighbor. Continue reading →

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Ash Wednesday: Strangeness Abounds

(My lectionary-based reflections are typically posted about two weeks before the Sunday scheduled for the Bible lessons. But with Ash Wednesday this week, I’ve tossed in an essay to honor Lent’s official beginnings.)

ash-wednesday+(from+stanthonyfresno.org)Nobody cares.

Which is not true, since statements with “nobody” or “everybody” (therefore meaning absolutely no one or including every single person) are rarely accurate.

But it’s true enough!

Ah, what does “nobody” care about?

Ash Wednesday and Lent.

Lent?

With Ash Wednesday on February 13, Easter’s official preparations begin. Lent is an artificial creation of the Christian church to help believers “cleanse” themselves before arriving at the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. Traditionally this cleansing, this getting “right with God,” has emphasized personal sacrifice.

But it is an artificial creation. For Christians, there are no Biblical mandates to set aside the 40 non-Sunday calendar days before Easter for personal sacrifice. In fact, there’s no real “date” for Easter in the Bible either. And further, note how that second sentence in this paragraph was so confusing? Go ahead, say it out loud:  40 non-Sunday calendar days before Easter. Huh?

Who cares! Who can understand all this add-on junk for Jesus? Continue reading →

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