Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. I have written about Lent many times over the years. You can read one iteration starting here. For today - and for the six weeks ahead - I simply want to remind us that the season of Lent is a time of preparation for a full and joyous celebration of Easter. It is 40 days (not counting Sundays), and it is all about Jesus. (That is to say, Lent is not about me, not about my discipline, not a self-improvement-start-good-habits endeavor.)

For years I have, not so covertly, observed Lent among musicians at two evangelical (non-Lent-observing) churches. If you wonder why Good Friday and Easter services were led so effectively by those musicians, that's the secret: they have been prepared by a crypto-liturgist leading stealth Lenten observations. Sue me.

Today I began the season with the Walter Wangerin devotional, Reliving the Passion. Over this season, as often as I can manage, I will drop in here with some scripture and music: my own take on Lenten services.

The symbol of ashes, the sign of the cross on the forehead, is accompanied by the words of Scripture: "You are dust, and to dust you shall return."  (Genesis 3) The ancient liturgy added the word, "Memento" - Remember: you are dust and to dust you shall return. Lent reminds us that we are not immortal. And it reminds us that one who is immortal died for us. During these days, we remember.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations . . . from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You return man to dust and say, "Return, O children of man!" For a thousand ages in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night . . . So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom . . . Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!" (Psalm 90, ESV; read it all here - and you can change to any translation/version at that site. Myself, I'd go with the King James.)

"Abide with Me" is commonly used as an Evening hymn. It really is a perfect Lenten hymn.

I shan't always quote Wangerin, but I'll always be glad I did. This is from today's reading:
[W]hen we genuinely remember the death we deserve to die, we will be moved to remember the death the Lord in fact did die - because his took the place of ours. Ah, children, we will yearn to hear the Gospel story again and again, ever seeing therein our death in his, and rejoicing that we will therefore know a rising like his as well. 
     Remember now that thou are dust. Death now - yes, even in the midst of a bustling life. My death and Jesus' death, by grace conjoined. Memento! - because this death, remembered now, yields life hereafter. And that is life forever.
Walter Wangerin, Reliving the Passion, 22-23

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