Lent

  • This Wednesday we began the season of Lent. Numerous things might come to your mind when you think about Lent. You might think about the ashes of Ash Wednesday. You might consider Lenten disciplines such as giving up something like chocolate, coffee, or meat. You might think about the tender moments of the Last Supper or Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. You might ponder the agony of Gethsemane or the cross.

    It is a tradition at First Lutheran (so I am told) that for the Lenten season we switch from our usual order of worship (Divine Service, Setting Two) to Divine Service, Setting Three. If, like me, you grew up with The Lutheran Hymnal (also called TLH or “the red hymnal,”) this is page 15.

    The wording of this order of worship is a bit different. One word that I often hear people complain about is in the confession of sins. Together we confess before our almighty God, our merciful Father, beginning with these words, “I, a poor, miserable sinner…”

    Miserable. There is a word with some baggage. I immediately think of how a person might feel if they had the flu. Miserable, achy, wretched, a person to be pitied.

    Miserable has become almost entirely negative in its usage. Nobody wants to be miserable. Confessing that we are miserable might not be terribly true if we only think of miserable as a wretched, unhappy person that none of us wants to be around.

    At the root of miserable is the Latin word miser. It’s where we get our English word “miser,” as in a stingy person. But it also appears in the Latin version of our historic liturgy in the Agnus Dei (the Lamb of God).

    It’s this phrase: miserere nobis, which means “have mercy upon us.”

    To be miserable in that sense is not to be unhappy or stingy or wretched, but rather to be one who needs mercy. Since that is the case, I think we can all easily confess that we are miserable, for we are truly in need of God’s mercy, and He has given it to us in His Son, Jesus Christ.

    God’s blessings on your week.

    Pastor Andy

  • The sound of ripping cloth communicates grief, but God calls on us to rend our hearts and not our garments.
  • Jesus' weeps at the death of Lazarus. His tears show us that He is human, that crying is not a sin, and that crying is the proper response to death.
  • When I was in college, I sang in various choirs throughout my time there. We always did tours during Holy Week around the country. On one of these tours, I think my sophomore year, our choir director selected the most difficult song I’ve ever had to sing, a song I actually couldn’t sing the entire way through. It was called Song for Athene. If you search for it on YouTube and give a listen, you might be wondering why it was so challenging for me to sing. It’s a hauntingly beautiful song, but it’s pretty slow and standard for a good choir.

    In those days I sang Bass 2, the lowest notes on the page. The Bass 2 part for Song for Athene is one note. One. Note. Now you’re probably really confused. How could one note be the hardest song I’ve ever sung? The one note was an F. It’s the note just below the staff in the bass clef. My fellow Bass 2s and I had to hold that F, staggering our breathing, for about seven minutes. I sang that song nearly 100 times and I never ever made it to the end. About four minutes into the song my voice couldn’t hit that note anymore. I waited for 30 seconds, tried again, and just struggled into the song was over.

    Sometimes the most challenging things in life are the things that don’t require a lot of flash or thought or even talent, but they do require prolonged consistency and steadiness.

    This is how Lent feels to me. Lent requires a level of persistence and steadiness that is hard to maintain. The tasks are no more challenging than in Epiphany or Advent or any other time of the year. But in Lent, I sometimes find myself needing a breath, needing to take extra breaks before I start again.

    And that’s okay. I am, after all, only human. Life continues its symphony around me, even when I need to take a break and breathe.

    As you journey toward the cross this Lenten season, don’t forget to breathe.

    God’s Blessings on your week.

    Pastor Andy

  • Jeremiah comes speaking a word of truth to Judah and Jerusalem, but they prefer to hear polite lies rather than the truth. We are often in danger of the same, but Christ comes with His good news of truth.
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