Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lenten Reflections 2015: Introductory Post

Lent is a complicated season. It's meant to be a time of spiritual preparation for the great celebration of Easter. As we head ever more into a social media age, it can become a badge of heightened spirituality—"look what I'm doing!!!" In some ways, I think this is contrary to its intent. The point of Lent, as I understand it, is not to prove how spiritual I am. It is, rather, to yearly strip away self in order to more clearly see the Living God, who not only died, but also rose and is out "on the loose," as a man named Donald Juel once put it. So, the point of Lent is not "Look at me," but "Where is Jesus?" The point—as Henri Nouwen and his cowriters, quoting Thomas Merton, put it in the book Compassion— the point is to "disappear from the world as an object of interest in order to be everywhere in it by hiddenness and compassion." [64] The point is to search for Christ, and one of the ways of doing this is by "disappearing" in order to be in solidarity with others, which is where, so often, we see Jesus [see Matthew 25:31-46].

So, why am I posting about Lent, then?

Not to broadcast my spiritualness (an unfortunate side effect of what I'm trying to do). Rather, I'm posting because I want to invite you to join me in disappearing. As I told my wife this morning, I had already been considering two possible practices for this Lent. Some traditions of Lent emphasize fasting—abstaining from something. Others emphasize adding—adding on a particular spiritual practice or discipline. I was debating between these practices. My decision was between 1) fasting from facebook ("disappearing from the world as an object of interest") and 2) as this post from patheos recommends in #3 and #4, reading a work by a black author ("in order to be everywhere in it by hiddenness and compassion"). It wasn't until reading the quote from Nouwen/Merton and seeing the patheos post that I thought to do both—to spend the time I would normally spend on facebook reading and reflecting on the writing of a black theologian. So, I'm going to spend Lent taking the time I would normally spend on facebook (30-60 minutes per day, at least) reading a book by a black author and reflecting upon it, immersing myself in it.

Sometimes it's easier to do this by doing it in community, with others. For instance, I'm going to give my wife the access to my facebook login so that she can change the password to make sure that I don't get in.

To that end, I also want to offer a community for doing this. I'm going to read through James Cone's THE CROSS AND THE LYNCHING TREE — an appropriate book for this season and this moment in time, I think. Also, it's easily divisible into 7 readings, perfect for this first half week and the six weeks that follow. If you are a person of faith, or if you are a person seeking Jesus, or a person even desiring to desire God, join me in either way, or both. Fast from facebook from tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, until April 5, Easter Sunday. Or read a book by a black author during that time. Or do both. If you want to reflect on this book with me, to do this disappearing in community, I invite you to join me here. I'll have a reading schedule up later today and weekly reflection posts from here on out.

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