I look forward to continuing the conversation in these other places!
Today is the first Sunday in Lent. Ash Wednesday, only 4 days ago, marked the beginning of my journey. With quiet time for prayers and reflection, as well as a cross smeared on my head in ashes, my season of Lent started.
In general, I look forward to Lent – to the quiet and penitential season which allows us to examine and rest in our relationship with God. “Examine” and “rest” don’t seem like two words that should go together, but reading Psalm 51 (the first Psalm I’m working on memorizing and the Psalm read at the Ash Wednesday service), has helped me to understand Lent in a different light:
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.
5 Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.
6 You desire truth in the inward being;1 therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.
15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
17 The sacrifice acceptable to God1 is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
19 then you will delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
This is a song of penitence – a prayer that God might turn God’s face from the psalmist’s sins, that God, in God’s “steadfast love” and “abundant mercy,” might blot out or erase the psalmist’s transgressions. This is the examining part of Lent, and what Lutherans would call “the law.” We are all sinners. We have all done things we know we should not have. Moreover, we have all committed sins that we may not even recognize as sins. We have also failed to do the things we should have. In short, as Paul writes, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
But this is not, thankfully, the end of the story. There is also the resting part of Lent, or, as Lutherans, would call it, the gospel part of “law and gospel.” This is the good news that God does indeed forgive us – no matter what we have done or failed to do. The good news that God can and will create clean hearts in us and restore the joy of salvation to us. Joy. That’s a word we don’t often hear in Lent, but I believe it is crucial. In examining our sins and noting how we have fallen short of God’s glory, we are driven back to the cross of Christ, forgiven of our sins, and it is there, at the foot of the cross, that we know the joy of God’s salvation – of God’s grace, mercy and love. This is the love and comforting embrace in which we can rest – holding firm to the promises of God.
I am really enjoying reading the Psalms carefully and trying to memorize them. It’s difficult and can be frustrating, especially when I don’t get it right even after many attempts, but once memorized, it’s been amazing to speak Psalm 51 aloud and actually think about the words I’m saying. To recite the psalm not just as a monologue, but as a prayer has made helped me to appreciate the Psalter not just as a thing of the past, but as a collection of prayers and songs to be used in conversation with God.
As for being off of Facebook, what a blessing! Surprisingly, it’s been easy to avoid it and I don’t miss it much, although it is hard to break the habit of compulsively checking it every 5 seconds. Sigh. I think I may limit myself to once a week once Lent is over because I’m enjoying the detachment. Over time, I think I may notice that being disconnected from Facebook will encourage me to connect on a deeper level with family and friends – that it will help me to really be present with them, not thinking about something else or multitasking while we talk. We’ll see, I suppose!
© 2011. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.
Lent. The time which spans from Ash Wednesday until Easter. The 40 days in which Christians are to prepare their hearts for Good Friday and the Crucifixion as well as Easter and the Resurrection. A common practice is to give something up or to adopt a new spiritual discipline in order to reflect upon what Christ has done for us. However, often times, this Lenten practice is reduced to giving up sweets or junk food, something I, too, have done in the past. Thinking about this now, it seems like giving up candy is a silly idea since we’re supposed to be reflecting on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and drawing closer to God – how does not eating something sugary help? Am I really sacrificing anything or drawing closer to my Lord and my God? I don’t think so.
With this in mind, as I am journeying through this Lenten season, I will be giving up Facebook. While it is a wonderful tool for connecting people, staying in touch, and, well, procrastinating, I think I will better be able to focus on the richness of Lent if Facebook is not around as a distraction. In addition to this and in response to my awesome “Psalter and the Life of Faith” course this semester, I am going to dig into the Psalter and work on “writing it upon my heart” (cf. Deuteronomy 11:18, Psalm 119:11). Yes, I am going to try to memorize some of the Psalms. We’ll see how far I go!
While I’m giving up Facebook, I hope to record and keep track of my journey and my experiences here. I’m so excited! I’d love to hear what others are doing this Lent – leave comments below about your past experiences and/or what you’d like to do this year. Can’t wait to hear what you’re up to!
© 2011. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.
That may seem like an odd question, but surprisingly enough, someone has already laid out a possible answer by designing a mock Facebook page for Jesus! This page centers around the events leading up to the Crucifixion.
However, whether or not we agree with this page or find is amusing is not what I’d like to focus on. I’ve been thinking about what Jesus’ Facebook page would look like post-Resurrection and post-Ascension, i.e. today. As I thought about this, I imagined what Jesus’ “friend” box would look like. The numbers would be in the billions, a high number to be sure, but, after all, Jesus would have sent friend invites to all the world’s population. His friend box would be overflowing with people of every skin color and culture – the rich, the poor, people with scruffy clothes or piercings and tattoos, and people who would never be caught dead in sweatpants! What a beautiful array of photos that would be…
And what would Jesus’ status updates look like? I’m imagining that he could update from anywhere (mobile updates?!) and that perhaps the statuses would be along the following lines:
“Jesus is comforting a scared teenage mother.”
“Jesus is going out tonight to help a tired commuter reach home safely.”
“Jesus is heading out for a walk with his father.”
“Jesus has gone to the hills for some alone time.”
“Jesus can’t believe iTunes doesn’t carry the music of the angelic host! Boo 😦 Looks like “The Temptations” will have to do!”
“Jesus has his arm around a man who feels he has lost everything and has nowhere to turn.”
“Jesus is super excited and happy because someone put their neighbor’s needs ahead of their own! :-)”
“Jesus is weeping as he watches the evening news.”
“Jesus wants to encourage his friends to remain hopeful even when things are difficult.”
“Jesus is loving listening to the neighborhood kids play kickball!”
“Jesus wants to remind everyone that there’s going to be a community meal on Sunday – please bring some bread and wine to share! Look forward to seeing you there!”
We could ponder the possibilities all day long, but I really wonder what our comments and responses would look like. What would we have to say to Christ’s status updates? How could we respond to the Lord and Savior who has made himself so available and vulnerable for our sake? Maybe we couldn’t even respond with words. Maybe all we could do is go out and take after Christ – to do the same things he’s doing. Isn’t that our task and vocation (calling) as disciples of Christ?
Would we be reminded more often to follow Christ if he was on Facebook and we saw him on the update roll every day? Who knows? I just think it’s amazing to try to get a handle on all the places Jesus is present and all the things he’s doing right now. All I have to say to that is, “Annabelle Peake likes this.”
© 2010. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.