It feels surreal to think that 2 years ago I gave up blogging for Lent and this year I am taking it up again for Lent. Since moving, I’ve posted far less often than I used to. For the next several weeks, that will change.
I pondered this first post all day yesterday, Ash Wednesday. Sadly, I never actually got the time to write it.
“Lent,” I read somewhere, is an archaic word meaning “spring,” as in the season. It stands to reason, as Lent always overlaps with spring, and certainly at least always occurs during the time of year when the days start getting longer. (I hate to cite wikipedia as a source, but this information is corroborated there)
So, on Ash Wednesday, as I am pondering ashes and burlap and dead branches and crowns of thorns, I realize that I am, that we are, considering all these things, stark, rough, lifeless as they appear, for the sake of life.
Lent is, after all, about preparing for resurrection. While Jesus did say that death precedes life (John 12;24), and that numerous times called any who would follow him to deny themselves (Luke 9:23, for instance), I believe we have sapping the wisdom from these teachings in the interest of legalism and moralism.
As UnChristian pointed out, many people think of Christians first with words like “judgmental” and “hypocritical.” We have earned the reputation because too often we have made following Jesus more about a list of things we don’t do (and you shouldn’t either!) than about the quality of life Jesus offers through his death and resurrection.
So, while Lent may include practices of introspection, somber moods, self-denial, etc., we do well to remember that these are not the point.RESURRECTION IS THE POINT!
Whatever you do during Lent – whether you take on something or give up something, may you do it with the goal of resurrection life in sight, not simply to prove to yourself, others, or God, that you can make a change for 40 days.
Why are we so quick to blame? Yes, I’ve painted that with a broad brush, but as I used the first person, I thought it fair.
Perhaps, actually, the problem as it broke upon me Sunday morning is less about blame than about the way we use our language. Perhaps you can help me decide.
We have recently developed new, updated nametags for our church. We are int he process of replacing the old ones, as well as trying to keep up with all the new ones we need for new attenders and regular guests.
Twice this past Sunday I was approached with this statement: “You misspelled my name on this nametag!” I, of course, quickly clarified that I had not personally done any of the nametags, so I had not misspelled anyone’s name. After this clarification, I asked each of the individuals if they would write a note to our office including their correctly spelled name.
In each case I attempted to make it clear that we do not intentionally misspell anyone’s name, and that we regret the mistake.
It was only later that I realized that the same conversation, reaching the same outcome, could have begun with a declaratory “My name is misspelled” rather than the accusatory, “You misspelled my name.”
I believe I am onto something. I would guess that much of what becomes difficult, even damaging, in relationships, starts with an accusation where a declaration would be at least as appropriate a characterization, and far less damaging.
Unless you are certain that you want to, even need to seek to blame, would you be willing to change your language from accusatory to declaratory?
77 Preachers Can’t be Wrong!
I saw this claim on the bottom of a poster in a shop window. My immediate response was a chuckling, “Yes, they could.” If you look back over the last couple hundred years, you’ll notice we get it wrong sometimes.
This post isn’t really about preachers getting it wrong. Today I am thinking more about the way we try to make numbers work for us.
We like to think and proclaim that success presumes God’s blessing, and we especially like to throw numbers around to support this. For example, who hasn’t heard this kind of claim: ”That church has grown from nothing to 10,000 in five years – God must be in it!”
If you are thinking I am on a rant because your church is bigger than my church, give me a couple of paragraphs, please.
I am not negging numbers; I am concerned that a focus merely on numbers never tells the whole story. Oh, sure, numbers are measureable – and in these MBA days we are all about metrics and measurability.
But can you measure a soul, or the growth thereof? Is the distance of a person from God something that can be expressed in units? Tell me, please, precisely, how much closer you are to Jesus today than one year ago today.
There are more Baptists than United Methodists – does that make them better? There are more Muslims than Baptists…? One of the fastest growing religious demographics in the US is “none of the above” – Does this mean that God’s blessing is most on those choosing no religion at all?
Numbers are a part of the picture of success, but only a part.
I stopped at a Whataburger the other day for lunch. I asked for a Whataburger Jr with mustard, mayo, onions and tomato.
The cashier replied, “Oh, you mean a Whataburger Jr. without catsup and pickles?”
I chuckled as that question kicked my brain into high gear. Then I answered the seemingly straightforward question by repeating my order.
In my more sarcastic days I would have begun to list all the things I didn’t want on my burger. But I realized that the cashier knew some very important information I didn’t know.
She knew exactly which ingredients came standard on a Whataburger Jr. As a reasonably well trained employee, she was able very quickly to convert what I had said into a question that
- said the same thing I had said in a different way and
- established that she, not I, was the authority on Whataburger Jrs.
I remember the same kind of conversation from my days at McDonald’s. When someone would ask for a Quarter Pounder with Cheese without Mayo, I would sometimes point out that they don’t come with mayo.
As I learned more about customer service, though, I would simply receive the order the way the customer spoke it. I outgrew the need to correct the customer’s language.
I believe, in general, customers order burgers more to eat then than to learn the insider language of the restaurant.
If you are inclined to think I am going to hammer on fast food training, or restaurant insider language, well, no; that’s not really why I’m sharing this story.
If fast-food restaurants have insider language, churches wrote the book on insider language! What is even worse is this: I think we clergy (ordained Church professionals) may have an even bigger problem using – and needing other people to use – insider language than our church members do!
Can you explain your religious experience and understandings in terms a non-religious person would understand? Not only understand, but, perhaps, want to know more?
If we expect to communicate the Good News of Jesus Christ, we cannot expect those who don’t yet know this good news to know what they don’t know. Nor ought we expect them to even understand the insider language we use about this Good News.