Archives: 1 Lent

With the Wild Beasts

You’re going to croak. And there’s an app for that.

My friend Suzanne told me about this simple smartphone app called “We Croak” that’s a fabulous spiritual tool.

At five random times throughout the day, it sends you a notification on your smartphone reminding you that you will one day die. It gives you a quote on death by an artist or spiritual teacher or public figure.

The point is to help us put the everyday concerns that dominate our minds into perspective.

When you are reminded that your life is short, your time on this earth is limited, and in the end, very little will remain of your daily preoccupations once you’re gone, things lessen in intensity a bit.

You’re reminded of what really matters.

You step back from the everyday grind, the sometimes relentless stress of trying to keep up with your to-do list, and remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

There is a rich tradition of meditating on mortality in both the Christian and the Buddhist traditions.

Human life is fleeting, but we are all too prone to waste our precious time on small, petty concerns. We can’t help it. The urgent takes over the important, and the years fly by.

But we have an entire church season devoted to contemplating our mortality.

It’s a ready-made tool to think about how we’re using the time we’ve been given, and the best part is that we take it on together. Lent is a communal journey.

There’s no better place to wrestle with the great questions of life and death and eternity, of sin and redemption and love, than in our Christian community.

And it turns out that a simple tool on a smartphone could help us keep those deep questions a little closer to the forefront of our minds. Who says technology and spirituality are diametrically opposed?

A line from our gospel today caught my eye.

Mark’s account of Jesus’ time in the wilderness is so sparse that it’s frustrating. We have to use our imaginations to fill in the blanks.

Jesus gets baptized, he goes into the desert, and then he’s back in Galilee, beginning his public ministry and preaching.

And all we get to describe that pivotal wilderness period is two paltry sentences from Mark: “And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.”

The phrase that jumped out at me as I read it this time was “he was with the wild beasts.”

That sounds kind of intimidating.

What was that really like? Continue reading

Springtime in the Desert

Let’s stop for a moment and think about our stereotypes of Lent. What words come to mind for you?

“Dull, dreary, and sad,” some might say.

“Long and boring,” others might say.

“Sin and death and the day of vengeance of our God!” others might crow triumphantly.

I had one parishioner at a former church, a 3-year-old, who told me solemnly on Ash Wednesday, “I don’t like Lent because it makes me sneeze.” As good a characterization as any, I suppose.

Would it surprise you to know that the origin of the word “Lent” is the Old English word for “springtime”?

Yes, we do talk about sin and mortality in Lent, and there is an appropriate solemnity for doing that.

But if you think that’s the whole story of Lent, you’re missing out.

Lent is springtime in the desert.

And we are given an amazing opportunity each year to take part in it.

Let’s think about that strange juxtaposition of terms: springtime in the desert.

Both parts matter. It’s not just springtime—new life and blooming flowers and singing birds.

And it’s not just the desert—emptiness and challenge and wandering in search of sustenance.

It’s springtime in the desert.

What does that mean for us in our spiritual lives? Continue reading

Eden Calls from Forty Days Away

Today we read of how things went profoundly wrong for Adam and Eve.

It’s the first Sunday of Lent, and with our modern discomfort in talking honestly about sin, the language of the Great Litany and Rite I can send us into a rather gloomy mood if we don’t rearrange ourselves theologically.

But the message from today’s scriptures is actually one of profound hope, a signal to us that yes, our journey these forty days does lead directly to the Cross, but the Cross leads directly to the resurrection.

Today we hear Easter Day calling to us from forty days in the future.

We see Easter’s hope like a point of light on the horizon, a beacon that is our direction and our guide through the wilderness.

It all hinges on a concept known as “Christ as the New Adam.” Continue reading

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