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Learning to Lent by Tana Clement

The spirits of those very able English teachers of my youth are probably cringing at the title I have chosen for this blog post. You may be of the same mind at first reading. I ask you to resist the urge to pull out your red pen and start grading until you reach the end. Perhaps then you might grant me gracious license.

Have you ever wondered about the origins of the word lent? I did not grow up in a faith tradition in which Lent was observed. In fact, I was well into my adult life before the observance of the Lenten Season was part of my experience. The English word lent is a shortened version of the Old English len(c)ten, a term referring to the spring season.

Many people claim Spring as their favorite time of year. When pressed to describe their preference for the season, lovers of spring are quick to mention the beauty of the colors as the earth wakes up and begins to return from the browns and grays of the long winter. Some cannot wait to begin the therapeutic practice of digging into the earth with both hands and planting tiny things in an effort to urge the season along into full bloom. Their anticipation is palpable. Nearly all yearn for the warmer, brighter days when the biting cold flees and the weight of burdensome coats, hats, and gloves is shed. The transition from winter to spring is a back and forth event as rain and sun, cold and warmth, are engaged in a battle to see which will finally overcome and win the day. The process will begin again when summer vies for supremacy over spring.

During Lent we are challenged toward reflection, confession and repentance. There are things in our lives that bite into us like sharp winter winds.  When we need them, our heavy winter coats provide some shelter, but the work of Lent reveals that there is no comfort to be had in the weight of the burdens we wear. The back and forth transition from winter to spring is part of the spiritual process of this time in the church year. Which will finally overcome and win the day?

How shall we learn to Lent? How shall we learn to Spring Season? How shall we learn to shed what is heavy and burdensome? How shall we embrace the warm wind of the spirit that would blow hard against the bite of the cold in those wintery places in our hearts? The work of reflection, confession, and repentance provides stepping stones to carry us forward into a new season of following Jesus. It is these disciplines that reveal all that keeps us from following in his obedient steps. It is these disciplines that enable us to embrace God’s forgiveness and live into hope as true followers of Christ.


at Friday, March 23, 2018
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Lent, Evolving Through Memories by Carroll Makemson

Lint or Lent? It seems like I’ve always known about lint, but the understanding and appreciation of Lent has come more recently. This season was not part of growing up in my Baptist church, but I recall vivid memories of Good Friday. By 11:00 o’clock on this school holiday, our mother was preparing for her Good Friday vigil. A vigil! Perhaps we children didn’t even know that word, and I am sure we did not want to spend our afternoon in church.

In Quincy, IL, the Council of Churches planned an ecumenical service lasting from noon to three, remembering the hours Jesus was on the cross.  The afternoon was organized in seven segments, one for each of Jesus’ seven words or phrases from the cross. Each “word” was a mini-service in itself:  prayer, hymn, scripture, special music, short homily followed by a brief interlude of organ music for meditation and coming and going before the next “word” began.

Some people came for one “word” to hear a particular vocalist or preacher, but others like our mother stayed and stayed. After a couple of “words,” we wiggled and looked expectantly as the interlude began hoping she would move toward the aisle and we could follow. But, she became attentive as the next “word” began so we would settle in for another 25 minutes.

If I wiggled and wished to leave, why are my feelings about this day so intense? I must have taken in more than I realized experiencing the architecture of the beautiful churches, lovely music, diverse voices reading scripture, various styles of the homily preachers, but yet the sameness…same Jesus, same suffering, same sadness. And most importantly, I learned that we, Christians from across the community, were in this together. Just being present turned out to be powerful!

Later as an adult, I was able to worship on Good Friday with my mother a final time before dementia ended her decades-long vigil tradition. I was now able to appreciate my heritage with this local faith community and understand the richness of the Lenten season. The ecumenical collaboration as people set aside their theological differences and blended their worship styles creating unity in a city for at least three sacred hours was overwhelming. Voices from over 20 churches sang and prayed together. The homilies were rich with truth and illustrations that crossed denominational understandings. The Roman Catholics, Baptists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, Lutherans, and others stood shoulder to shoulder remembering the darkness and sadness of that afternoon before departing in somber preparation for the unknownst of Saturday and anticipation of the joy of resurrection.

The true power of this memory is knowing that in some form this commemoration of Christ’s crucifixion happens around the globe. The journey through Lent culminating in Holy Week calls forth, not only our memories but also timeless Christian traditions reminding us that we are all called to be the church serving together as the body of Christ. May it be so for us! 

at Thursday, March 22, 2018
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The Gift of Just Being Together by Mike Lassiter

My grandparents taught me the value of sitting down together with no agenda other than to just spend time together. In my preteen and early teenage years grandmother would pour us both a cup of coffee (mine was 1/3 coffee and 2/3 milk) and we would sit at the table and talk about anything. In my later teenage years, my grandfather would tell one story after another about people he had known in his career as an educator and principal. The stories were always uplifting, sometimes hilarious but always with a point, even if very subtle. I have often thought how meaningful those times were to me.  I have also noticed how important it is to the Lakota people our church has been visiting for the last 16 years to sit down and eat or have a cup of coffee together with no agenda. Being together without talking about how tough life is on the reservation. A time just to talk about fishing, hunting, the weather, horses, or nothing at all. Sometimes it is just good to sit with people and listen to the crickets or watch the stars or a fire. Many times you don’t have to say anything, just being together is enough. I hope you can recall some of those times in your life.

A verse during the passion of the Christ that stops me every time I read it was during the time between the Last Supper and his arrest in Gethsemane. In Mark 14: 32-36, Jesus asked his disciples to just be with him as he went to pray. He just wanted and needed company, and so he asked them to simply “keep watch with him.” 

To move through Lent and wrestle with the why and then realize the need of one who will remove our sin is deeply meaningful, but maybe we should not leave out Jesus asking his disciples, and us,  to just sit down and keep watch with him because we need that, too.

Posted by Mike Lassiter at Wednesday, March 21, 2018
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