~New Things in Lent~
“And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan,
and he was with the wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.”
Dear Members and Friends,
The holy season of Lent is upon us once again. Have you ever wondered why Ash Wednesday and Easter can’t just find a spot on the calendar and stick to it? Lent is always forty days long, so with Easter falling on April 17, we get a pleasantly late Ash Wednesday on March 2. I do love a late Easter—when all the wide world around takes part in proclaiming resurrection hope with tender buds and daffodils. Back in Kane, one year, I led the annual Easter “sunrise service” beside a frozen pond in March, when winter had not yet even considered collecting its belongings and shuffling off. It’s the only time in my career that I administered communion standing in the snow and wearing gloves. Easter is a “moveable feast” celebrated on the Sunday after the first full moon of spring, which is also known grandly as “The Paschal Full Moon.” Unlike Christmas, Easter is based on the lunar cycles of the old Jewish calendar so that it always falls near Passover, which is the holiday that Jesus and his disciples were celebrating on the night of his arrest. There’s talk in the ecumenical community of all the churches just observing Easter on the third Sunday in April forevermore. But can you imagine getting everyone to agree to that? And yet, the ideal third Sunday of April is what we get this year. In any case, let’s think about ways to observe a meaningful Lenten season.
ASH WEDNESDAY is the solemn first day of the season, which we observe with a service of Holy Communion and ashes at 7:00 p.m. in the Sanctuary. This is a day dedicated to self-examination, reflection, and introspection. It’s a good time to consider those things in our lives that we’re ready to change or let go. Some people give up on some habitual indulgence, like caffeine, starting on Ash Wednesday. I think it’s a better idea to give up the real stuff like gossip, negativity, judging, or single-use plastics.
LENTFLIX will be our Wednesday evening program this year. Let me give a shout out to Deb Boisvert for coming up with the clever name! Lentflix is a potluck and movie discussion group in Fellowship Hall. Here’s how it will work: Every week in Lent except Holy Week you will be assigned a movie to watch. These will not be religious movies; they will be mainstream or indie films that deal with moral and spiritual themes. At least two of the five films will be kid-friendly. All others will come with a guide for parents, telling them which segments to skip. You will be sent links to places where you can find these films online, sometimes for a rental fee of about $4. In some cases, I will show these movies in the Friendship Room on the Sunday afternoon prior to discussing them. On Wednesday evenings we’ll gather for dinner at 6:30 p.m., and we will have a guided discussion about the film. These dinners will be total potlucks—with emphasis on the “luck” part! We have no one to set up, clean up, or make drinks, so bring simple foods to share, things that can be eaten with eco-friendly disposable tableware. I’m thinking sandwiches, pizzas, salads—no boeuf bourguignon. You might want to bring soft drinks, otherwise there will be lemonade and tap water. If you bring a dish, you will take it home to wash it. We will eat whatever people bring and nothing more. (We did this in Lent 2011, and one evening we got all desserts and one salad, so let’s avoid desserts.) What if you didn’t watch the movie? Come anyway! A brief synopsis will be given. What if you can’t bring a dish? Come anyway! This is as much about getting people together as it is about eating and discussing the film. What if I have small children? Come anyway! They might or might not want to talk about the movies, but they’re welcome to eat and play in Fellowship Hall. I reserve the right to talk about these movies in the sermons on the following Sundays.
INTERFAITH PULPIT EXCHANGE: This is not a Lenten activity, but a heads-up. Rabbi Aaron Meyer suggested that Bower Hill and Temple Emanuel do a pulpit exchange and attend each other’s services. I will be preaching at Temple on Friday, May 6, at 7:00 p.m., and our members are encouraged to attend. Rabbi Meyer will be preaching at Bower Hill on Sunday, May 8, and members of Temple are encouraged to be present. In preparation for this event, we are asking our congregations to read two very short little books on the topic of Sabbath—one by a classic Jewish theologian and the other by the renowned Walter Brueggemann, a Christian theologian and professor at the Presbyterian seminary in Atlanta, whom many of us know from the Living the Questions DVDs. The books are Walter Brueggemann’s Sabbath as Resistance and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s The Sabbath. Again, they’re short, practically pamphlets. I’m almost out of space!
Enjoy a meaningful Lent! Once again, daily devotional guides will be placed in the Narthex.
In Christ’ Peace,