By: Joe LaGuardia
We have to change the tone of our bitterly divisive and punitive politics. We can either do nothing or work constructively - together - to bring about the change and transformation we all long to see in the world.
By: Guy Sayles
Our political system suffers from a paralysis that could become permanent. And followers of Jesus, whether conservative or liberal, must place "the least of these" at the center of our politics and economics.
By: Joe LaGuardia
Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent, re-enacts the Jewish tradition of repenting with ashes and can provide rich meaning in one's journey of faith. Here's how.
This free resource sheet provides resources to congregations for observing the seasons of Lent and Easter.
By: Colin Harris
The passion drama draws us into its story each season. And we are all players in that drama in our day-to-day lives. Are we like the judgmental religious leaders, the pass-the-buck politicians or the uninformed crowd?
By: Matt Sapp
Quitting gets a bad rap. We equate quitters with losers. However, it's actually a very Christian thing to do. Consider quitting some of these things, and you'll have more room for something else.
By: Ed Hogan
Foot washing is an intimate act and can be uncomfortable to many participants. For one woman, the act of foot washing became a transformational moment in her life.
By: Jerrod Hugenot
We try our best to pretend that death's sting can be avoided, and we treat Holy Week the same way. We gloss over the pain and loss so we can fast forward to the giddy heights of resurrection morn.
By: Danny Chisholm
Few Southern Baptist churches spend time reflecting on Lent. We prefer to fast-forward to Easter. Lent is a season that allows us to acknowledge our disappointments and pain.
By: James Gordon
In a society fixated on individual self-interest, national economic advantage and tectonic shifts in wealth distribution, the poor rarely have life chances. The rich seemingly bathe their feet in the poor's tears.
By: James Gordon
Many of the late R.S. Thomas' poems are negative about science, ambivalent about technology. His quarrel wasn't with science, but with science as dominance and lust for knowledge unrestrained by humility.
By: Zach Dawes
Fasting is like journaling. It works for some, but not for others. The goal is intentional self-analysis. Fasting is a tool to aid Christian disciples in reflecting on their journey in the way of Jesus.
By: Joe LaGuardia
Lent is a time of preparation and penitence, a time for deep reflection in the depth of winter's cold. Although it is not a common practice in many Baptist churches, Lent can still hold powerful inspiration for a vibrant faith.
By: Agnes Howard
The New Year's barrage of juice-cleanse ads promises atonement for holiday indulgence. Similarly, a Lenten fast helps you reflect on spiritual poisons you need to cleanse from your system.
By: Jerrod Hugenot
Living in a 24/7 communication world, we are able to connect with people on an unprecedented level. However, social media runs the risk of turning us inward and separating from community.
By: Preston Clegg
The cross of ashes on peoples' foreheads on Ash Wednesday is a sign of penitence, humility and mourning. They're virtues for which Christians today seem to have little use.
By: Britt Hester
Lent is about more than the practical benefits of giving up vices and taking up virtues. It's a time to pay attention to your life and determine where you are on your journey.
By: Keith Herron
The season of Lent is a call to spend time in quietness and self-denial, as we escape life's daily cacophony of sounds that drown our inner silence and keep us from hearing God's voice.
By: James Gordon
As we approach Lent, perhaps we should reflect on the power of words. They affirm or diminish, enlighten or deceive, liberate or oppress, heal or hurt. Do we consider how we use them?
Think of it... the resurrected Christ, the Light of the World, has gotten on his knees and made a fire so he can prepare breakfast for his friends![ ]Don’t try to analyze it. Feel it! Feel the early morning dampness. Listen to the water lapping against the shore. Look at the fire with the fish roasting on the makeshift grill. Smell it. Sense the moment, take it all in. The greatest person who ever walked on this earth – the very Son of God, by the testimony of these men in that boat – and he chose to do the smallest and simplest of things; not just to symbolize what he wanted his followers to do and be, but because that was his Spirit, his purpose in life. That’s who he was and who he is... the Giver, the Servant. Now... how could you and I possibly want do otherwise?
Salvation begins, apparently, by telling the truth about the way things are, but also by believing that they can be different, that new life is possible, and being willing to do the work it will take to get you there, but it continues by believing that you do not work alone. “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” Jesus says. “Not you. Me. But the one who believes in me—who puts his faith and trust in me, who loves me and leans on me in times of trouble, that one—even if he die, will live. Even if everything he is trying to hold together falls apart, even if everything he has tried to build comes tumbling down, even if the breath should leave his body and his body turn to dust, I am the Resurrection and the Life,” says the Lord.
A man who has never seen the faces of his friends or family, the smiles of children, a sunset or a brilliant night sky, finally sees! But when he comes back a healed man, no one celebrates with him. [ ]No one believes him and the man is cast out of the synagogue and cut off from the Torah. He’s cut off from his family, the sweet-smelling incense of the Sabbath, and the certitude of the Law. By the end of the tale, he’s victimized one last time … all for looking deeply and directly into the Light.
What makes this story so interesting is that the beggar was not the only person who was blind. The religious leaders who had ignored him for years and who criticized Jesus for healing on the Sabbath were also blind. They could not see what was important to God, where God was at work in the world, and how God could use them to help those who were suffering. [ ]We can have 20/20 vision and be blind. This is because light comes not just from the world around us, but from the faith within us. What does faith help us see which our physical eyes cannot detect?
Those of us who can see often take such a wonderful gift for granted. But have you ever considered that it might be a hindrance as well... when it gives us, as Barbara Brown Taylor says, the “cheap confidence that one quick glance at things” can tell us fully what they are, when it distracts us from the light that God gives us inwardly in our hearts, when it fools us into thinking that we have a clear view of how things really are, of where the road takes us, of who is right and who is wrong.2
What do you think the disciples learned from this experience? Following Jesus meant they would need to go where others feared to tread, talk to people others shunned, dismantle walls of suspicion and hate, build bridges of reconciliation and good will and share goodness and mercy with everyone along their journey. At all times they were to make hope as visible as Jesus did that day in Sychar. Maybe this is why they were speechless! This was no small challenge. [ ] Now it is our turn to learn these lessons.
Does this fascinating story still have something for us?[ ]I think it has, and offer this to you for your consideration. Continuing to drink from the well we call Jesus is to be the presence of Christ to others and to offer them the same water he has given us. And how do we do that? We can’t see in someone else’s heart and know what is there. Not like Jesus can. But we can know that everyone we meet – everyone we meet – is struggling to some degree. And we can accept others as Jesus does, and give him the opportunity to do for them what he did for that unnamed Samaritan woman so long ago. The water is already there. All we have to do is show someone else where to drink.
One of the things I love about my GPS is this button right in the center called “Home.” When I push that button, no matter where I am, Shania starts figuring out how to get me home. And if get tired, or distracted, and miss a turn, she doesn’t say, “You idiot! How could you miss that turn? I’ve been telling you it was coming for the last 10 miles!” Instead she says, in that patient way she has, “Recalculating.” Maybe that’s the most hopeful thing God could say to us when we wander off course, when we miss the mark, when we sin. Maybe God could say in that patient way of his, “Recalculating.”
By: Larry Coleman
Baptists have their own informal liturgical calendar. The more you embed your life in the Christian calendar, the more meaningful the gospel will become. It's an invitation to experience all of Christ repeatedly.
By: Preston Clegg
As we journey through the season of Lent, we have the opportunity to confess our individual and collective sins. What would it look like if the corporate church repented? Here's a start.
There is no shortage of questions in this narrative, which I see as beneficial to faith development. The Christian faith has a leavening influence and is meant to disturb and disrupt. An authentic faith will lead to questions which result in a greater understanding of God, life and self. Ask Nicodemus.
But we’ve already entered into temptation, haven’t we? Why, we’ve invited it in, closed the door behind us, locked it, and thrown away the key. Temptation, you see, is inevitable. Again, it’s in our DNA. But so is the promise of the One who shows us how to overcome it. Trust in him, and regardless of what temptation comes your way, he will have the final word. And Jesus’ final word is always one of redemption and grace.
Being born anew, or from above, is beginning the journey toward such a place and experiencing at least a part of it right here and right now. It is understanding earthly things from a heavenly perspective. It is to live in opposition, counter-intuitively, to the way most of the world operates. Look at Jesus’ life – what he said and what he did – and you’ll find that this is who he was.
[D]amnation was never God’s plan for his creation. He never wanted us to start down the path that leads to our own destruction. But when we did he sent his son to call us back, to turn us around, to set our feet on the path that leads to life. If we do that—if we stop choosing the things that move us further away from God and others and start choosing the things that move us closer, if we heave every thought, word, and deed up on the sin scale to see which way the balance tips, and then find the strength and courage to embrace the good and reject the bad—we will, with God’s help, find our way.
By: Larry Greenfield
The Lenten practice of not eating meat has year-round benefits for the common good. That’s because the amount of water needed to feed the animals we consume far exceeds what's needed to grow veggies.
By: Melissa Hatfield
Lent may seem like a season that's too somber and penitential to be regarded as a favorite. But it's not a time for self-inflicted agony or self-improving therapy. Here's why it should bring you joy.
By: EthicsDaily Staff
More Baptist churches are observing Lent, which begins on March 5 this year. Learn how one Baptist pastor and his church began to recognize Lent in their services.
By: Sam Chaise
Reflecting on the seasons of the liturgical worship calendar brings to mind the different phases of ministry that Jesus had, from popularity to struggle. It's a lot like our own lives.
By: Bridgette Poag
Teaching children about the season of Lent can be difficult, but keeping it simple always helps. Drawing on the Winter Olympics, here are three ways you can teach kids and their families.
By: Preston Clegg
Does your church observe Lent in the songs you sing during worship? In a season that calls us into a deeper reality, we should be intentional about the music we employ in worship.
By: Greg DeLoach
If your church isn't well grounded in an understanding of Lent, you can begin to teach and offer creative ways to worship, observe and serve. Here's how to begin the journey together.
By: Larry Coleman
If it took the ancient church a century to birth Lenten practices, realize you aren't going to make it all happen in your church this March. Here are a few ways to slowly introduce Lenten liturgies.
By: Stephen Cook
Standing as a stark reminder of our mortality, Ash Wednesday affords us the opportunity to remember. The dust of the ashes serves to remind us both of where and from whom we have come.
By: EthicsDaily Staff
Although few Baptists observe Lent, we can learn a great deal from this tradition. EthicsDaily.com has a Lenten Bible study with contributions from international Baptists.
[Jesus]knew the days ahead were filled with risks and challenges. So, what did he need in order to face this struggle? He needed the support and encouragement of his closest friends, and Mary provided them in a way no one else did or was going to do. She saw the worried look on his face and sensed the heavy burden he was bearing. This was not why she was content to pour just a portion of the perfume on his feet, but all of it. Her offering had to match his burden, and it did. There is nothing like the sweet scent of gratitude and encouragement. It fills a heart with all that is good and wholesome and strengthens it for the long and winding road.
The Greek word for “rubbish” is skubala and in common usage referred to street-sweepings or table scraps or even excrement. It is, as you might guess, a term of contempt. At what point do our life’s essentials become rubbish, for the birds, excrement? Maybe when we finally realize what it means to follow the One who gave up everything that we might have the “surpassing value of knowing” him. Perhaps it is time for us to think upon such things.
[W]hat is Christ worth to you? What kind of value do you put on him? I picture Mary pouring out that perfume on Jesus’ feet and I can almost see her face. She is lost in wonder, love, and praise. She isn’t counting the cost. Jesus was her life, and she gave what she had for him gladly just as she knew he would give what he had for her.
That’s just one reason we need the season of Lent. Lent is the time when you and I are encouraged to say goodbye to the past and travel along a new path. The past is past and it is time to move on. The question that comes immediately to mind is, where? The Apostle Paul would probably tell you that the question is not where but what. “A new creation,” he calls us[...]“Today,” God says to the people of Israel, “I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” “Behold, everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
We can sometimes change outward behavior because of a strong will or external forces. But real and lasting change is always internal, and that brings serenity to one's soul.
If our faith is dependent – that is, if it rises and falls – on what happens to us, good or bad, it is an insufficient faith. We do not gain God’s favor by being good, nor do we lose God’s blessing by being bad. But the repentance that leads to faith prepares us for whatever circumstances come our way.
How do we explain true grit when we see it? Commitment to the cause and a refusal to fail are surely part of the equation. Jesus was committed to his cause - the stakes for humanity could not be higher. But there was more. Jesus was possessed by God. He was so intimate with God and trusting of God that he refused to allow fear or discouragement to have the final word. Was Jesus ever afraid or discouraged? Of course. But his way of abiding in God enabled him to keep on keeping on and not be weary in well-doing.
Maybe that’s what you and I need to do... look up, that is. Maybe we’ve been spending too much time of late looking down. As we move from place to place, and the days, the years, the decades just roll on by, we spend too much time staring at our shoes. Do you think that maybe now is the time for us to start looking up? And when was the last time you asked what God would give you? When was the last time you asked God for some reassurance of his devotion to you? Maybe it’s time indeed for you to look up, but if you do, one thing God might just ask of you in response is patience, the patience to wait for his answer.
Many U.S. Christians live with oblivion about their Jewish roots. This Lenten season is a good time to examine our convictions and feelings about the historic people of God.
We all have spiritual meltdowns more often than we care to admit. When your next one arrives, use your oft-neglected imagination to allow God to move in your soul.
[T]he deeper you go with God, the more (not less) you will be tested. But the good news is, the deeper you go with God, the more capacity you have to defeat the devil at his own game and stay on mission for God. I don’t know when your next time of testing will come. What I know is it will be an opportunity to either fall flat on your face… or go further with God than you’ve ever gone before.
Our text today is the mainframe upon which the season of Lent is conceived because it’s based on the 40 days in the wilderness. It’s sometimes called “the Lenten journey,” because it’s a hero’s journey of self-denial willing to go deep within to test what’s there.
Promises and temptation naturally go together. They always have and always will. In light of this, what promises have you made to God and those around you? Who is depending upon you to keep your word? What impact will it have upon them if you don’t? I really think these are good questions to ask during Lent. Carve out time from your busy schedule in the weeks to come and give them a voice; let them speak to you.
Lent is a time of spiritual contemplation, preparation, and renewal when we voluntarily wrestle with the dynamics of living for God. Just as people voluntarily prepare academically before beginning the world of work, Lent is a time for preparing oneself for the work of discipleship. Remember, we always prepare for anything we do that we consider important!
After forty days in the wilderness getting clear about his mission [Jesus} is perfectly clear, and because he is perfectly clear about what his mission is he is also perfectly clear about what it is not: it’s not about serving himself, or lording it over others, or about avoiding the cross. To know exactly who you are and exactly why you are here, so that you can fulfill your life’s purpose with single-minded devotion, never slowing down, never stumbling or falling, never being distracted by the multitude of little temptations that come your way[...] “Paradise!”
During Lent, is your focus on what you're giving up rather than Christ's resurrection? In an effort to truly change this Lenten season, try giving up negativity.
It is often tempting for us to be more devoted to an experience of Jesus than it is to be devoted to Jesus himself. Since that transfiguration, Christians for two thousand years have been trying to recapture and re-create mountaintop experiences of God.
Even in church life, it can be difficult to slow down. Lent allows us to reflect and contemplate, a Georgia minister says in the latest Skype interview from EthicsDaily.com.
Nothing is wrong in celebrating only Christmas, Palm Sunday and Easter, but we still miss a rich and rewarding worship journey when we don't observe Lent.
A Lenten Bible study series from EthicsDaily.com challenges Baptists to reflect on God's history of deliverance and to repent from self-centered and self-sufficient living.
What is it that we do not want to leave in the Lenten season, as in denial, but take with us, as in growth?
Do you really believe that God knit you (literally “crocheted” you) to be as you are today, with a particular plan for your life that matches you and only you, recorded in the Book of Life before you were even born?
The throngs cheered as Jesus entered Jerusalem. But he soon disappointed them by not validating their nationalistic dreams, supporting their claims of exclusivity or endorsing their political exceptionalism.
Are you at that point in your life and journey where a choice needs to be made?
If you ever feel like throwing in the towel during Lent, remember that these days of self-reflection and self-sacrifice help us see the season's larger purpose.
What is it you fear the most? What does it do to you and how does it affect your faith?
As technology advances, we depend on computers to remember things for us. But during Lent, it's important to remember what God in Christ has done for us – without relying on our iPads.
God’s way of wisdom does not only challenge the conventional wisdom of today’s world, but also the conventional wisdom of today’s church.
Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple, but will any Christians today challenge the wealthy and powerful who are corrupting the temple of democracy?
Change our names, Lord, to reflect who we are, created and redeemed through your holy grace.
During this season of Lent, let us hear with open ears and courageous hearts what Jesus told his disciples: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” How will we respond to this challenging invitation?
During this Lenten journey we are called to forty days and nights of remembering, reflecting, and discovering more about being in a covenant relationship with a loving, relational, God.
Denial is something we all do. It short-circuits growth, robs us of joy, and interferes with freedom. This Lent, perhaps it's time to deny denial and come to terms with the truth.
For one Baptist church using ashes as part of an Ash Wednesday service, it was an affirmation of what we all have in common: we are all dust, we are all temporary.
Our theology can move us in one of two directions – toward an ethic of love and justice or toward more rigid legal systems. A level-headed Pharisee shows us the way.
We commonly think of Lent as a time of denial and discipline. While they are part of the Christian faith, Lent is also a call to leave the wilderness and enter God's new realm.
In our journey to be an instrument of the Lord's peace, it's a lot like a walk in a tranquil garden labyrinth. Sometimes we follow the path to reach the center of God's will. Other times, we take our own shortcuts.
FERGUSON, Mo. (RNS) The Rev. Steve Lawler should have just given up chocolate or television for Lent.
Temptation is no stranger to any of us. Someone has written that opportunity only knocks once but temptation bangs on your door for years. How well we know! Oscar Wilde has written, “I can resist anything but temptation.” How well we know!
When we get to the season of Lent, what we don’t expect is to hear a word of good news. So let me frontload this Lenten sermon with good news, really good news: We come to God not by our perfection but by our imperfection.
On this first Sunday in Lent, our attention is drawn to the temptation of Jesus in the desert, which came on the heels of his baptism. What a contrast this must have been for him. One minute he was surrounded by people affirming him with hugs and handshakes and soon after he was alone in the wilderness grappling with what it means to love God and live for Him among people chasing after comfort, wealth, power and fame.
We can take comfort in that Jesus is not so unlike us that he can’t understand what we go through every day. It is precisely because he was tempted as we are that he can walk beside us and encourage us to respond as he did... obediently.
Jesus condemned religious leaders for using their religious power to exclude others from community with God. Are modern followers of Jesus working to create more welcoming communities of faith?
It was a simple infestation of ants, yet it was also a reminder of the human capacity for cruelty. The introspection of Lent allows us to gaze into our souls and reflect upon all of which we might be capable.
When Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was, Peter's answer revealed that he didn't have a clear picture of Jesus' mission. How often do we see Jesus as a source of human power?
Jesus shows no signs of fear or anxiety and plainly tells the Pharisees what his plans are. He’s living out in the open where if anyone wants to threaten him, they’ll have to come out into the open to carry out their threats.
This is the season in which we think about Christ’s sacrifice as we move towards, Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and eventually towards Easter. It is the time when, traditionally, Christians have thought about discipleship, the sacrifice of Christ and, therefore, what it might mean in our own lives.
Should Baptists practice Lent? Isn't that a ritual for Catholics and some other Protestants to observe? Many Baptists spend a lot of time doing more to be better Christians, but they might be better off doing less.
Forty days focused on Lent might be just what we – wealthy and powerful global Baptists – need to reconnect with a more robust faith that remembers those who suffer from poverty, injustice and violence.
For society's extraordinary individuals who ruined our global economy, violated human rights with torture and used politics for personal gain, it seemed that Lent failed. It's up to the ordinary among us to manifest God's love.
Jesus, the person and the place where God is met, is our temple. He taught us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. We are quick to settle for just loving ourselves.
So if the silence of God is the question, what’s the answer? How does the psalmist come around to speak into the darkness with an answer in faith? Again, he calls on sacred memory to answer the question. “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord,” he says. “And all the families of the nations shall worship before him” (Psalm 22:27, NRSV). We speak to the fears of the darkness by calling forth sacred memory and letting the power of the resurrection shine the light of God’s great faithfulness into the darkness of our fears. How is it we practice the spiritual art of re-membering? We do it in faithful re-enactments that take us back to those places where God was with us, active in history bringing about our redemption.
That’s how many of us have come to faith. We were lost and heard the word of God and God’s law came to us as a guide leading us to God. The poet-psalmist is aware of the power of God’s law and has a deep reverence for it. Upon reflection, the psalmist takes it all in and feels as if the law of God is such a deep symbol of God’s love and mercy, it’s as if it’s sweeter than honey. It’s more desired than gold to be loved by God so richly.
It is really very simple, you see. We – you and I – are descendants of the Judaeo-Christian tradition that holds to a basic, central conviction: “Human life is to be lived before God.” That’s the first part... “Human life is to be lived before God.” If you are into outlining, it is Point One. “Human life is to be lived before God.” One A is this: life before God “has an order and structure.”
There are few certain things in life, but what Abraham does know without doubt is that he is old, that Sarah is barren and beyond the natural ability to give birth, and that so far the only thing they have to show for all their efforts is dust in their nostrils and no place to call their own. And though we didn’t read it, we are aware that when God once again tells them Sarah will have a son, Abraham is left with nothing but his laughter. It is not a gleeful sound that comes from joy; it is the laughter that comes when it hurts too much to cry.
The relationship that God wants with each of us is an ongoing, everyday experience. We are content to store this amazing gift in the garages and utility rooms of our lives.
Jesus lived a very vulnerable life and was not immune to or protected from the challenges that the people of his time confronted every day.
In only two verses, Mark raises challenging theological questions by what he does—and does not—say about Jesus’ temptation.
As Christians, we are particularly guilty of assuming that all things should work out for us. And, when we and others encounter life’s struggles and tragedies, instead of asking and struggling with deeper theological questions with sheer honesty, we often voice standard, but hollow expressions about life and its uncertainties.
The journey through these seasons of Lent can help us come to terms with the enemies that haunt us into becoming less than we were meant to be. In the prison created by the power of our enemies, we find ourselves captive. There we can learn something deeper than can be learned under sunnier skies.
In the season of Lent, we honor the proper place for the cry of lament. The acknowledgment of universal disappointment, heartache and suffering experienced by us and all the people of the world is a spiritual necessity.
A photo arrived in this morning’s inbox from last night’s Ash Wednesday service—a picture of me making the sign of the cross in ashes on the forehead of my 17-year-old daughter.
The preparation for Easter became known as Lent, which comes from the Old English word "lencten," meaning "lengthen" as the days do as winter gives way to spring.
Today is Ash Wednesday. It is a time to think of sacrifice. It is a time to think of willing sacrifice. We give something up; usually physical in nature to appreciate the sacrifice of the cross and to sharpen our spiritual vision for Easter, which is just around the corner.
The first Sunday of February is Transfiguration Sunday, followed by Ash Wednesday ringing in Lent. It is a reflective time to wrestle with sin and rediscover our need for salvation.