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Lent 2014 // Ash Wednesday


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Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness and resorted to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.

This is the from our Ash Wednesday liturgy. I love the invitation to observe a holy Lent. I hope you will accept that invitation.

Over at www.LentWebGuide.com there will be more regular posts for the Lenten season. These posts are a companion to the Lent book I wrote but can really be read and enjoyed by anyway. So take advantage.

And if you are looking for a free resource for Lenten devotional reading check out…

Youversion (an app for your phone or table, also a website) has N.T. Wright’s Lent For Everyone available for free!
There is also a short eBook by Alexander Schmemann for free over on Amazon :: Great Lent: A School of Repentance Its Meaning for Orthodox Christians

Grace and peace as you observe a holy Lent!

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Factoring In Failure


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Just to be honest last week was a failure. I got busy, I got distracted and totally got out of my Lenten rhythms. I FAILED!
We are also at about the half-way point in our Lenten journey.
For both of these reasons it’s the perfect time to post this little ditty. This is the appendix in our Lenten devotional guide and a great reminder that doing things perfectly isn’t really the point anyway. I hope it encourages you and i hope you will join me in getting back on track with your Lenten disciplines.

.:: Factoring In Failure

Maybe you’re not like me. Maybe you are extremely self-disciplined and whenever you set your mind to do something, you do it flawlessly!  AWESOME! You probably have some other things you need to work out with the Lord, but definitely not the same things I do. You see, me—I’m a failure! I regularly fail at things I say I’m going to do… waking up in the morning to pray, reading my Bible every day, not doing this or that… FAIL, FAIL and #FAIL once again! (hash tag for public emphasis—only Twitter peeps will understand!)
Lent is a time of self-denial, of extra spiritual focus and discipline… BUT if you do it all perfectly and fail to be engaged in your humanity and this journey toward the cross, well, you have failed! It’s not about failing on purpose, but it’s about realizing that if you do mess up, slip up or eat up one day because you just didn’t think about it, or because you just HAD to see that show, or because you couldn’t go one more moment without a smoke or a drink (coffee or otherwise)… IT’S LENT! Maybe in your failure, you can “get it” even more, in an even deeper kind of way.

So, I don’t plan for failure; I don’t put an X on my Lent calendar to mark the day I will fail, but I pretty much factor in the fact that I will fail—there will be a day I utterly fall on my face, whether it is with my Lenten discipline or in some other area of my life. And in that moment, I stop, pray and remember that I am nothing but DUST! I know that I journey in the desert of temptation with the only person who has ever done it perfectly. Jesus is my only hope! I continue to follow Him through the desert to the cross and ultimately participate with Him in the resurrection!

Factor in some failure this Lent! Be ready for it so that when it happens, you’re ready to pray, think and continue on!

“THE GOAL OF LENT is not to make a plan for change and follow it to the letter. Rather, the goal is to make a change that sinks deeply into life, drawing us closer to self, others, and God. Lent is about intentionally opening ourselves, preparing to receive God’s goodness.”
— From A Clearing Season: Reflections for Lent by Sarah Parsons

Make sure to check out www.LentWebGuide.com for more Lenten reading and reflection.

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Lenten Reading…


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Thought i would share what i’m reading this Lent. And i would love to know what your into!

So every year i pick one book during Lent that will help me reflect on the season as well as the things i’ve given up and taken on. Last year i dove into N.T. Wright’s book Reflecting The Glory. And it was great! This year i’ve picked up Alexander Schmemann’s book entitled Great Lent: Journey to Pascha. I read bits of this last year but i decided to make it on as my Lenten book this year… and so far it’s amazing!

Also on amazing is a free kindle version of a Lent devotional by Alexander Schmemann entitled Great Lent (with a lengthly subtitle). This looks like it’s a shorter devotional version of the book i’m reading but i’m sure it’s awesome and it’s FREE! So get it!

I’m also reading a couple little devotional guides this Lent.

The 1st is my book LENT: A Journey of Discovery by Addition, Subtraction and Introspection. My youth group as well a some friends of mine that are pastors are using this book as a resource to lead their students through this time of Lent. Excited to see what God does with these words i’ve put to paper. My hope is that it’s a helpful guide on this Lenten journey.

My Church also put together a little Lenten devotional guide that uses Psalm 119 as a lighted path for the Lenten journey. You can check that out  (free PDF) if you’d like.

I hope your Lent has started off well and that you are pondering your mortality and your need for a savior, hoping and looking forward to a resurrection but willing to take the hard, long joinery to get there.

Grace, peace and mercy
Erik

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A Franciscan blessing for your Lenten journey


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I really love the prayer that’s in the video below, i think you will too.  And as we start our Lenten journey i think it’s especially fitting.

The book i put together this Lent has a little web guide, you can find it here— www.LentWebGuide.com
I will be posting things on that site that are connected to the Lent Book you can get but even if you don’t have the book i think they might be helpful and thought provoking during this Lenten season.

Enjoy this prayer and may God disrupt your life this Lenten season!

Grace and peace

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Ashes


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“Where do they get all those ashes?”

I always wondered where they got all those ashes on Ash Wednesday. A couple of years ago, someone finally told me that they burn the palm branches from the previous year’s Palm Sunday service.

Maybe I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I didn’t know that. The palm branches from the previous year’s Palm Sunday service are burned, made into ashes and smeared on the foreheads of those needing to remember “from dust you have come and to dust you will return.”

A pastor friend of mine posted a YouTube video of his church burning the palm branches.

I guess now the question is, “Where do all those Midwesterners get palm tree branches?”

I pray that this Ash Wednesday is deep and meaningful start to your Lenten experience.

Grace and peace

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Shrove Tuesday
 // Celebrate!


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The day before Ash Wednesday is known as Fat Tuesday or, if you grew up across the pond, Shrove Tuesday—and it’s a day to INDULGE!

Most people know about Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras, but what you may not know is that historically there has been a purpose behind this party, despite the lack of purpose that this day seems to currently possess.

The purpose of this day is to indulge a bit in all the things you are planning on giving up. Eat some extra candy, drink all the coffee you can, watch all the TV your mind can handle and most importantly, party with your friends! (I might add, in a way that doesn’t break any commandments! We are Christians, after all!)

IT’S FAT TUESDAY!

Until a couple of years ago, I had never heard of Shrove Tuesday or its traditions. While I lived in Nashville, however, I was fortunate to be in a community group with a great family from across the pond, and they introduced me to Shrove Tuesday and some of these crazy traditions.

The deal is that traditionally all the families would bring their flour, sweets and other goodies that might not keep over Lent and eat it all! During Lent, they wanted to refrain from foods they enjoyed and that gave them the most pleasure as a way to embrace the season of Lent. It’s my understanding that because the typical things they brought to purge themselves of—butter, flour, sugar, etc.—were mostly the goods to make pancakes, that’s what they made … and that’s what they played!

As you can see in the video above, we practiced some pancake games ourselves. It was such an amazing time of fun and fellowship. I miss my Nashville community group and will be looking to have some fun tonight in Texas!

Here’s is what i ate for lunch… Let the Pancake festivas begin!

 

I would encourage you to start a tradition with your community. Flip some cakes, have a party, do something fun because Lent is coming.

So yea, INDULGE!

What are you giving up this year?

Eat up, drink up, make it count!

Grace and peace

Erik

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I wrote a book // LENT


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So it’s true, I wrote and self-published a little book. The book is a little devotional piece on Lent, which if your not familiar is the 40 days leading up to Easter. So essentially it’s a devotional book that leads and prepares the reader for Easter Sunday, the resurrection of Jesus.

Here’s what the back of the book says;

This isn’t just another devotional book. This is a guide to a 40-day journey to resurrection.

Maybe you don’t even know what Lent is. Maybe you’re thinking it’s that stuff you pick out of the depths of your pants pockets. Maybe when you hear Lent, you think it’s something only Catholics do.

Even if you’re not familiar with Lent or have a negative association with it, I think we would all agree that Easter is essential to the life of the Church. It’s the time of year when we are intentional about retelling and rehearing the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

And because Christ invites His followers to not just hear about resurrection but to participate in it, we have historically taken the 40 days leading up to Easter to prepare our hearts and minds to enter into the story of Christ.

This little book is a guide, a help, a companion on that 40-day journey of prayer and Christian practice known as Lent. On this journey, we will practice the disciplines of addition, subtraction and introspection so that we may more fully participate in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We call this journey Lent.

And we take this journey because we all need a resurrection.

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I would love to offer this little devotional book to you as you as you make your way to Easter Sunday.

If you order the book by this Friday at noon i can guarantee it’s arrival by Wednesday the 22nd, which is when this Lenten journey will start for most of us.

At my church we are using this book to guide our middle school and senior high students on a Lenten journey. There are a handful of other churches that are using this resource to help their students as well.

There are themes for every week of the journey which we will all be using as preaching topics during this next 7 weeks. And if you interested, some of us are going to join a conversation to help each other as we craft messages and services for our students during this time. That conversation will mostly happen via email and i would love to include in that as well.

You can get the book here and checkout the Web Guide (an online resource to supplement the book) here.

My prayer is that this resource would help you and your ministry as you make your way through the desert of Lent to the brilliance of resurrection!

Would love to have you on this journey with us!

Grace and peace
erik

And here is the book cover if you want to see / read it all!
(thanks to Aaron VanStrien for his skills, which he donated to this project!)

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APPROACH // LENT D::46 — Holy / Black Saturday


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[ READING :: MARK 15:33-47 ]

Meditation ::.

John 19:30 records Jesus saying, “It is finished.” And our creed says that Jesus “was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended into hell.”

Today is Holy Saturday or Black Saturday and we meditate on these things.

Here are a few images to help you.

Screen shot 2011-04-23 at 9.18.38 AM

Screen shot 2011-04-23 at 9.18.20 AM

? What has the Lord done in your Life this Lent ?
? What has died and is looking forward to resurrection ?

Discuss

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APPROACH // LENT D::45 — Good Friday


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[ READING :: Matthew 27:32-53 ]

“My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me?”

Complexity and mysterious seems to be at their peek in this moment where God is crucified, fully present and hanging on a tree but at the same time, absent, turning His face from the sin being assumed by Jesus. We could theorize for weeks and years at this point but today isn’t a day for that, it’s simply a day to re-tell the story and ponder the words of Jesus.

In the middle of one of the hardest times in my life, when it seems like my world was imploding, The people I called family had abandoned me, I leaned into the Psalms and found one that lamented with me, that asked the questions I was asking and sought God in a way I was trying seek God.

The Psalms I leaned into begged the question, “what are the right sacrifices?” These Psalms asked for Mercy, deliverance, and vindication as many of the them do. They asked for God to lead as He had in the past even though it seemed like He might not be anywhere to found.

I leaned into these songs and prayers because they echoed what my Soul felt, what I was longing for and they resonated with my circumstances.

In the middle of Jesus’ darkest moment and paradoxically the moment he was glorified or lifted the highest, he to leans into the Psalm, Psalm 22.

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?”

Jesus is asking God, with as honest gasp and familiar prayer from the scriptures, “Father God, Where are you!”

verses 50-53

“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open the bodies of the many holy people who had died were raised to life.

Kinda wild right?!?!

It’s in these cosmic moments that all has gone dark, as if everything, if only for these few moments has disappears and in it’s reemergence all of history has shifted. There is something different… There is a new nexus to all of human history, everything that happen before, we now know, wasn’t just linear history but it was a string of moments leading up to this moment. And everything that happens after this moment is situated in reference to this moment.

Human history no long has a beginning and an end. It has a middle.

History has been reoriented and it’s new center is the cross of Christ.

And as dark as this is, we find our self wanting to call this moment good news, and celebrate this dark day as, good Friday. A tension at best and mystery for sure.

And it’s in this central moment in human history that we find Jesus leaning into the Psalms, wondering where the father is, despairing maybe but hurting for sure!

And it’s also in this central moment in human history that we find our greatest fear and our greatest hope.

Our greatest fear is that God has or will abandoned us. If he was ever there in the first place.

Our greatest hope is that, this isn’t the end of the story for Jesus or for us. That in suffering there is hope, that this is really just a new center, a new beginning of sorts.

So where was God?

Will Willimon says; “It’s on the cross where we see the complexity of the way that this God saves us, the curious way in which God is with us.”

God didn’t save Jesus from the cross but he schemed of a way to make this event one that nobody would ever forget about, God schemed of a way for this horrific event of the cross, this political statement that was being made, he schemed of how he would subvert it’s message and proclaim a different statement, a statement of hope and victory.

It’s in this forth word from Jesus that we realize God is not like us humans and he does things very differently than we would want him to do things. After all, that’s why Jesus is on the Cross in the first place, right.

Willimon also says,
“We ask Jesus to stand up and act like God and he just hangs there.”

God chooses not to use coercion but love, service and self-sacrifice because they are his way.

It’s in our greatest darkness that God schemes of a way to subvert the message of despair that is being proclaimed in our lives and in our circumstances and to proclaim hope. He schemes and dreams of ways to bring light out of our darkness, and hope out of our despair, how to proclaim good news from all the moments of bad news we find ourselves living

And we remember that on all the Fridays of our lives, when with Jesus we want to say, “God where are you” maybe he is just hanging there, present and absent all at the same time, waiting for the sub-version of the story, of your story and ultimately His story to be proclaimed. After all Sunday isn’t far away.

? What is your cross , your Friday —? And have you forgotten that Sunday is coming ?

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