This is a collection of sermons and thoughts about life, faith, Jesus, and the Episcopal Church. Most of this comes out of my work as an Episcopal priest, but some comes from my songwriting and other times of inspiration or wondering.
Whatever you believe, I pray you will be blessed by sharing in these thoughts.
The Lord bless you and keep you.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Let the Holy Smack Down Begin
Wednesday, Year A
March 5, 2014
Bay City, TX
Psalm 103 or 103:8-14
morning, just before setting out our ashes for the service, I printed out my
bracket for Lent Madness. It’s kinda
like March Madness, but with saints pitted head to head against each other instead
of basketball teams in a single elimination, winner take all competition. Each day during Lent, the Lent Madness people
give biographical information about two saints, and people vote on the saint
they want to win the holy smack down. In
addition to the gold crown, the chosen saint gets his or her face immortalized
on coffee mugs which can be purchased from the Lent Madness people. “It’s just kind of fun,” my wife said as I
listened on, dumbfounded last night.
Over 50,000 people participated last year, my wife informed me, and I
thought it was just crazy enough that I’d try it.
does seem a little odd, playing a bracket vote off for the winning saint with a
bunch of dead people, but they aren’t really dead are they. These saints have died, and yet they are
alive with Christ in God. That’s what
we’re really remembering today as we have ashes put on our foreheads and hear
the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” We’re not mourning our mortality. We’re embracing and celebrating our mortality
because through Jesus’ resurrection, God gives us resurrection as well. We embrace our death with hope and faith in
this season of Lent, we’re preparing ourselves for celebrating Jesus’
resurrection at Easter. We may fast. We may take on some new devotion or new way
of living intentionally as Jesus’ disciple.
We may give up some bad habit, some habitual action which keeps us from
fully loving God and people. Lent in a
somber season because we are holding up a mirror and taking a good honest look
at our lives, at our mortal nature, and at our sin. Lent is also a joyful time, for the same
reason. We’re seeking to live more
completely as Jesus’ disciples, and that is a joyful enterprise.
Lent Madness, then, not taking Lent seriously enough, turning it into a
joke? I’m certain some will see it that
way, but taking Lent seriously, whatever action we take is really a matter of
the condition and intention of people’s hearts.
took prayer very seriously. He prayed
often, not making a show of it, but praying because he wanted to connect with
God. He knew he had to connect with God
through prayer. In our Gospel lesson
from Matthew, therefore, Jesus wasn’t just setting up a new set of rules about
how we are allowed to pray, to be followed up later by eat fish on Fridays
(something we don’t have to do by the way).
Jesus was illustrating the condition of our hearts such that we pray in
order to draw near to God, not to elevate ourselves above others.
wondered about Jesus speaking about the hypocrites who pray in public to be
seen and rewarded by others. Do we still
have that nowadays? Then I thought of
several political ads I’ve seen lately with candidates vaulting themselves as
champions of prayer, both person and public prayer. I don’t know that those candidates are trying
to be hypocrites in any way, and my guess is their prayer and faith is
genuine. I’m not sure, however, that Jesus
intended prayer to be used as a tool for political manipulation. Prayer is intended
to be shared, I believe, but more in a one on one kind of setting, human heart reaching
out to human heart.
of our hearts, is what we’re seeking to explore and to heal this Lent. Jesus’ desire for us is to heal our hearts. So the big question this Lent is, “would Jesus
be ok with Lent Madness?” Yes? I think so. Jesus was and joyful soul. He took joy and delight in creation and in God’s
children. If learning about the saints and
having some fun with it helps heal our hearts, then I think Jesus would say, “go
for it.” Jesus desires us to live joyful
living a joyful life means giving up and letting go of those things which keep us
from living joyfully and keep us from allowing others to live joyfully. Through fasting, prayer, self-examination, maybe
even learning about the lives of the saints through Lent Madness, we’re seeking
to heal our heart to live as Jesus would have us live. I encourage you to practice an intentional, holy,
and joyful Lent. Amen.