Today is Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent. Here are some posts and thoughts about Ash Wednesday and Lent that caught my attention.
The rise of Lent in non-Roman, Orthodox or Anglican circles is a fascinating phenomenon. I remember being on the campus of Princeton Theological Seminary a few years ago on Ash Wednesday and being greeted by a young man emerging from Miller Chapel with a black smudged cross on his forehead. That the bastion of nineteenth century Old School Presbyterianism had been reduced to this – an eclectic grab-bag of liturgical practices – struck me as sad. Old School Presbyterianism is a rich enough tradition not to need to plunder the Egyptians or even the Anglicans.
No other spiritual practice has impacted us in the same way, and four years later we are still singing a Psalm every day, and discovering new depths of relationship with our covenant God as we do. As Lent approaches, we would like to propose a 40-day challenge: sing a Psalm each day for the season of Lent! We have arranged a selection of psalms specifically for this holy season of the church year that will facilitate contemplation of Christ and His passion.
God of salvation’s joy,
we gather to celebrate and revere you.
We come, realising that we are broken.
Forgive and re-create us.
There is a widely preached theology which tells us that we can somehow identify with Jesus. This lens is all too often used to justify whatever behavior we are interested in spiritualizing. And so we get to be angry because Jesus turned over tables in the temple. We get to invoke righteous indignation at politicians or religious figures because Jesus yelled at the Pharisees and the hypocrites. At Lent, our WWJD theology is allowed to go into overdrive. We must “give up” something in order to identify ourselves with the suffering and self-denial of Jesus in the desert. While all of this sounds earnest and well-intentioned, this theology misses the point–devastatingly so.