One of my favorite hymns is Come, ye sinners, poor and needy. I sometimes get some flak for selecting it because people see it as a “downer,” but I’ll take this hymn over 90% of the praise music we sing. It also ranks up there with some of the great theological hymns of the faith like A mighty fortress and How firm a foundation in terms of my fondness for it. The hymn is a stark reminder we are sinners and must trust in the bounty of God in order to be relieved of our burden. In the refrain worshippers get to declare, “I will arise and go to Jesus, He will embrace me in his arms.” There is something absolutely beautiful about being reminded of sinners running to the savior, instead of away – and also with re-inserting ourselves into the place of “sinner,” which we too easily forget as we become “respectable.”
I often like to look at older versions of my favorite hymns, in order to see what verses have been dropped out, or what language may have been changed over the years or through translation. Oddly enough, I’d never done this for Come, ye sinners, poor and needy until this morning. I found two verses which our hymnal doesn’t contain, the first of which strikes my heart to the core.
View Him prostrate in the garden;
On the ground your Maker lies;
On the bloody tree behold Him;
Sinner, will this not suffice?
In those words I can hear the voice of God. Too often we treat grace like a cheap commodity. We “get saved” like we’re subscribing for a magazine subscription. I think folks who are outside the faith take notice of how cheaply we treat grace, and how quickly we forgive our own sins while condemning others, and come to the conclusion the faith is of little actually worth in our hearts and in the world. In the above verse I hear the voice of God reminding us of how precious the price was which purchased us from sin and death. God speaks, “Sinner, will this not suffice to release you from brokenness, pain, and despair? Will this not suffice to quench your thirst for righteousness and your longing for love?” And in response to that glorious question worshippers are privileged to respond, “I will arise and go to Jesus, He will embrace me in his arms.”
Posted in Pastoring
Tagged Lent, Worship
Lent has come and I’m quite glad for it’s arrival. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate Lent more and more. It’s given me the opportunity to add disciplines to my spiritual life, set aside some good things in order to do other good things, and Journey with Christ on the way to the Cross. Lent has become, for me, a time of growth and renewal in a way no other season in the Christian year quite matches. Don’t get me wrong, I adore the celebration of the Easter season and the awe of Christmas – but as Lent begins I find myself taking permission to breathe. It’s a beautiful time.
I have noticed as I get older my introverted tendencies are becoming more pronounced. Crowds feel more draining, and busyness more oppressive. I still need to be in a crowd, lest I end up imploding on myself and becoming a recluse. I also still need to experience busyness, because it stretches me in ways I wouldn’t naturally tend to bend (figuratively speaking). Lent, though, is like an introvert’s dream season – an entire season which consists of largely holy introspection, and contemplative service. How many times during the year, either inside or outside the Church, do we say, “Hey, let’s do less and instead go deep?” It’s that permission to slow and reflect which makes me embrace the season of Lent so openly.
This year, I wrote a devotional for Central Baptist. This is going to be my added discipline for the season. I will be committing to do pursue this devotional at night before bed, when I’m typically catching up on news or puttering around on social networks (which I’ll be not accessing even the evening during Lent – though I need to explore how to turn off those notifications in Android). I’m also committing to keep the devotional journal in hand-written form (on my iPad – not even Lent will cause me to love writing on paper). Why hand-written? For the simple reason that it takes more time for me to write out my thoughts by hand. I can type out paragraph after paragraph without thinking, but writing my thoughts it is much different experience.
I would also like to add back in some exercise (a discipline I’d like to continue through the year following Lent). I went through Couch to 5k last year, and it went well – but allergy season hit me hard and I couldn’t keep up with running (which, try as I might, I simply don’t enjoy). I’m considering spending lunchtime on Monday, Wednesday, Friday exercising instead of eating a meal (yes, I’ve already missed today, I didn’t plan ahead enough). Either way putting my body to work will make me a better servant, so it’s a good discipline to keep up.
Welcome to Lent, read my blog less.
Update – looks like my comment on TC has be saved from moderation limbo, I’ll leave this up though since people are commenting.
Well, over at Think Christian I came across this post entitled “Five Reasons Not To Give Up Something For Lent.” I posted these responses over in Think Christian – but the ether ate them (I’m thinking that TC’s normally stellar moderation is on the fritz). So, read the post over on TC – then read below to get my responses to the reasons.
#1 – You’ve missed the point. Lent is a season of penance set aside to train our wills to be able to better follow Christ the rest of the year. It’s the same way that Advent is supposed to function. The point isn’t to say, “Yay, I got to the end how awesome am I!” It’s to get to the end and say, “Thank you Jesus for leading me in disciplining my life to more graciously display your glory.”
#2 – Sure, but that’s not the point either. As a Baptist pastor I marvel at the Orthodox fast for Lent of Meat, Cheese, Fish, Oil, and Wine. These are GOOD things, willingly laid down for a time in order to spend more time in spiritual discipline. I agree that giving up chocolate isn’t in the same league as that, but the money you’d spend on chocolate during Lent would traditionally be given to the poor. Again, at the end if you’ve drawn close to God maybe you don’t take a luxury back up and that money remains a gift to those who need it. Again, small steps, but they can be real.
#3 – Yes, which is why your understanding on #4 is wrong too. Sundays are ALWAYS feast days in the Liturgical tradition, Lent is not a time of self-flagellation but of penance so the Joy of the Lord can be experienced with ever greater exuberance. Having said that, the NT is pretty clear that the ABUNDANCE that we experience in the here an now is mixed with some serious suffering for the name of Jesus, that’s not a reality that should be blurred even unintentionally.
#4 – People have already covered this [note to my readers, see the TC comments for why Lent is 40 days]. You’re reason is wrong, sorry.
#5 – This is just a blank stare moment for me dude. Easter has a Sunday, yes, but it’s a SEASON which lasts until Ascension Sunday. The season of Easter corresponds to the time after Jesus’ resurrection when the taught his disciples the meaning of what had happened. Nate, I’m sorry but it really just sounds like you are pre-disposed against this tradition and wanted to justify that disposition. Your reasons really don’t stack up against the actual tradition of Lent.
Two weeks ago we held our third annual retreat for Eastern University’s student chaplains. Today I got a small package in the mail with a gift from my good friend (and Eastern’s Chaplain), Joe Modica. It was a much appreciated (and entirely unecessary) gesture, and Joe does a good job selecting gifts which capture people’s interest. Today I was blesse to recieve a breviary of prayers from the Missio-Dei community in Minneapolis. As I page through the book I know I’ll find it useful, and will probably make it my prayer book for the season of Lent. So far my biggest nit-pick is the use of sans serif fonts for the bulk of the text – I find large blocks of printed sans serif fonts a bit of a chore to read.
On the the other hand, when I opened up the title page of the book I was met with a unexpected treat – The Missio Dei Breviary is licensed under the same Creative Commons license I release all my materials under! This means I could copy the entire book and hand it out to my whole congregation as long as I kept the authorship and publishing pages in the work. Of course, that would cost more than purchasing the book for everyone, but it’s a nice thought. They also use the NET Bible as their translation as they find that the free and open project adheres nicely with their own mission goals – which I appreciate (though the wording on the title page comes off a bit on the “preachy” side, but that might just be me). I’m glad to see other CC licensed material out there for churches!
I’m quite touched by the gift, and if you’d like to see what I’ll be praying this Lent, go to thebreviary.com.