Archives for posts with tag: Lent

 

Mobile, AL: Springhill Ave Mobile Al.

I grew up in Mobile, Alabama where Mardi Gras was a part of life. Although the celebrations in New Orleans are more well-known, Mardi Gras has its origin in my home town.

 

Mardi Gras arrived in North America as a French Catholic tradition in the 17th Century. King Louis XIV sent Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville to defend territory that included parts of what is now Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and eastern Texas.

Mobile, AL: Conde Charlotte Museum house 1822 Mobile, Alabama

The settlement of Mobile was founded in 1702 as the first capital of French Louisiana by Bienville. In 1703, fifteen years before New Orleans was founded, French settlers in Mobile established the first organized Mardi Gras celebration tradition in what was to become the United States. By 1720, the French capitol had been moved to Biloxi, Mississippi. In 1723, the capital of Louisiana was moved to New Orleans. It was not until 1837 that the first Mardi Gras parade was held in New Orleans.

Mardi Gras Poster

The festival of Mardi Gras that began in Mobile as a French Catholic tradition evolved into a mainstream multi-week celebration across the spectrum of cultures in Mobile (as well as New Orleans). The last couple of days became school holidays  regardless of religious affiliation.

As a boy growing up in Mobile I looked forward to Mardi Gras but I had no understanding of its religious significance marking the beginning of Lent the day after the last parade and Carnival ball. I have come to understand that “Mardi Gras Day” was also known as Fat Tuesday, a day to feast and celebrate before Ash Wednesday which was the start of 40 days of fasting and introspection for devout Catholics and many other Christians.

Mobile had a strong community of Roman Catholics and a variety of other expressions of Christianity. Unlike them, the religious environment in which I grew up did not give much emphasis to the Christian Year and accompanying traditions and liturgy. We celebrated the High Holy Days of Christmas and Easter and acknowledged the events of Palm Sunday. However the liturgical seasons of Advent and Lent were not a part of our tradition or practice.

Lent Concept Watercolor Theme

I have learned to value those periods of time that the Church has observed that have nurtured and enhanced the lives of Jesus’ followers.

A lit candle and the text holy week

The six weeks of Lent are about over. Holy Week began last Sunday with Palm/Passion Sunday when we remembered the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem but with the realization that the week would end sadly.

Today is Holy (Maundy) Thursday when we recall the last meal Jesus had with his disciples just before he would be arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Tomorrow is Good Friday commemorating the day that Jesus was crucified. How could such a tragic event be “good?” Jesus sacrificed himself to show the world the extent of his love for each person. He said, “When I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to me.” This “disaster” was transformed a couple of days later when Jesus arose from the dead.

My celebration of the Resurrection this Easter Sunday will have added meaning because of the period of introspection and the emphasis of sacrifice during Lent. I have consciously reflected on God’s love for humankind that was demonstrated in Jesus. I have the remembered the severity of his sacrifice. I have examined my life as I have prayed, read, and meditated.

Today I feel a tinge of pain thinking about the extent of Jesus’ suffering. The sadness I feel because of the abuse Jesus endured is mixed with a deep sense of gratitude for his extraordinary love for me and all people of the world.

Today I am taking a deep breath allowing the Holy Spirit to enliven me and lead me to a life of devotion to the Suffering Servant. You are invited to do the same.

 

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I am practicing my breathing these days. Conscious of the need to take deep breaths and then slowly exhale. In. Out. Taking in fresh air and breathing out the carbon dioxide. It is good for my body, mind, and spirit.

We are now several days into the Lenten Season. This forty day period, not counting Sundays, leading up to Easter is a time for reflection and introspection. A time to slow down and focus on things that are important and eternal. A time to breathe.

It is a common practice during Lent to intentionally practice spiritual disciplines like prayer, fasting, and self-denial. Focusing on one’s personal and spiritual self leads to a closer relationship with God and a fuller realization of the purpose of one’s existence.

In addition to reading from my church’s devotional book, I have also followed my pastor’s suggestion and have been reading two chapters of the Gospels each day. There are 89 chapters in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John so one can easily read through those four books during Lent.

The Origins of Jesus Christ Matthew 1:1-25 Doing the whole series Lord Willing! Please Read, Like, Follow and Share! Thank you http://whatshotn.wordpress.com/2014/03/30/the-origins-of-jesus-christ-matthew-11-25/:

The first chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew begins with the genealogy of Jesus. The first sixteen verses list 42 generations from Abraham to Jesus. “Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac was the father of Jacob,” and so on down to “Joseph, the husband of Mary of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”

I was tempted to skip those opening verses with all the names but I decided to trudge through them. Those verses trace the lineage of Jesus through 42 fathers with the mention of only one woman by name, Mary, in verse 16. In reading that long list I discovered something interesting in verse 6: “David was the father of Solomon whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.”

The Holy Family, the Holy Trinity, and You! | Get Fed | Catholic ...:

Mary is the only woman named in the genealogy. However one other woman is mentioned but not named. Bathsheba’s name is missing. Instead it says Solomon’s mother “had been Uriah’s wife.”

The biblical story of David is certainly one of success. This young shepherd becomes king. He defeats giants, lions, and bears. He is the envy of every man. Then he reaches a low point in his life.

The story is told in the 2 Samuel 11-12 in the Old Testament. David slept with another man’s wife while her husband was away at war. When he discovered that she was pregnant David devised a scheme to hide the truth. After this effort failed, David had Uriah killed and took Bathsheba to be his wife.

Nathan the prophet came to David and told him a story (II Samuel 12:1-7) that enabled David to see himself and his sin. From that encounter with Nathan, David penned the words of the 51st Psalm. The verses of this poem demonstrate David’s awareness that knowing God’s favor is far more important than everything else.

This Psalm takes on a very personal tone if we believe the Apostle Paul, that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We don’t have to wait for an “emergency session” with God to learn and apply the principles of David’s experience.

When David was confronted with his sinfulness, he:

  • responded by calling on God for mercy and forgiveness (1-2)
  • acknowledged his wrong doing, confessed his “bent to sinning,” and trusted God’s forgiveness (4-9)
  • looked to the future and sought God’s help to be a different person. (10-12)

 

As a result of David’s extra-marital affair with Bathsheba, a child was born but died a week after his birth. Then David and Bathsheba were blessed with the birth of another son, Solomon. He would become one of Israel’s wisest kings. This story clearly illustrates that mistakes can have painful consequences. But it also shows how God can transform a mistake, even a serious one, into something good. All errors are not fatal IF we acknowledge our wrong doing, ask for forgiveness, and change our behavior.

O Lord, help us to know where we have sinned and give us the grace to follow David’s example so that we can be right with You and do right by others.

Jamie Jenkins

Ash Wednesday 4Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. This forty day period (not counting Sundays) ends on Easter Sunday. This year it is from February 10 (Ash Wednesday) to March 27 (Easter), 2016.Lent 1

Lent is practiced by most, but not all, Christian groups. The emphasis is on spiritual purification, meditation and penance. The focus is not supposed to be on one’s self, but one’s relationship with God. Although it is not required, people often give up something during Lent as a means of self-discipline and identifying with the sacrifices that Christ made. Many choose instead to take on something during Lent like reading more of the Bible, diligently observing daily devotional times, or completing some work of charity.

Mardi GrasI grew up in Mobile, Alabama where Mardi Gras was a big part of our culture. However, I did not make the connection of this time of revelry with spirituality. I did not know that Mardi Gras meant “Fat Tuesday.” Since Lent always starts on a Wednesday, the day before is always a Tuesday. And it’s called “Fat” or “Great” because it’s associated with great food and parties. I suspect that most people see Mardi Gras as a big party that has little to do with preparing for the Lenten season of repentance and simplicity.

Fat Tuesday

According to The Upper Room,* “In earlier times, people used Lent as a time of fasting and repentance. Since they didn’t want to be tempted by sweets, meat and other distractions in the house, they cleaned out their cabinets. They used up all the sugar and yeast in sweet breads before the Lent season started, and fixed meals with all the meat available. It was a great feast!”

“Why ashes? In Jewish and Christian history, ashes are a sign of mortality and repentance. Mortality, because when we die, our bodies eventually decompose and we become dust/dirt/ash/whatever. Repentance, because long ago, when people felt remorse for something they did, they would put ashes on their head and wear “sackcloth” (scratchy clothing) to remind them that sin is pretty uncomfortable and leads to a sort of death of the spirit. This was their way of confessing their sins and asking for forgiveness.” (The Upper Room)*

I gathered with others for Ash Wednesday service last night. At the beginning of the service we joined in saying,

O God of endless mercy, we gather on this day to acknowledge our mortality and our complete reliance on you for compassion and forgiveness. If there is any hope for us, O God, our hope rests completely in you. Have mercy, O God, have mercy. You are the source of our mortal life. You are the source of our spiritual life. You are the destiny to whom we return in the hope of Jesus Christ, our risen Lord and Savior. May the mark of mortality remind us of our dust-to-dust existence, and draw us nearer to you.

Ash Wednesday 2

Later we knelt at the altar and one of the ministers applied the sign of the cross on our foreheads and reminded us of our mortality and our need for repentance and forgiveness. Then we united in the Prayer of Confession:

Most Holy God, your Son came into the world to save sinners. We come to this season of repentance, confessing our unworthiness, asking for new and honest hearts, and seeking the healing power of your forgiveness. Almighty and Everlasting God, you hate nothing that you have made, and you forgive the sins of all who are repentant; create and make in us new and contrite hearts, so that we, lamenting our sins and acknowledging our separation from you, may obtain from you perfect remission and forgiveness. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen

Ash Wednesday 1

We have started the Lenten journey which will lead us to the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. During these days with God’s help, I hope to become a better person and follower of Christ. I pray that the days of Lent will do the same for you.

Jamie Jenkins

*The Upper Room is a global ministry dedicated to supporting the spiritual formation of Christians seeking to know and experience God more fully. From its beginning as devotional guide, The Upper Room has grown to include publications, programs, prayer support, and other resources to help believers of all ages and denominations move to a deeper level of faith and service. The Upper Room is a part of Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church.

advent 10

The season of Advent began last Sunday. It is a season that the Church has dedicated to preparing for the celebration of Christmas. The difference between Advent and Christmas is a small but important one. It’s no surprise that right after Thanksgiving we want to ask, “When can we sing Christmas songs?” But the question we must ask is: Are you ready to receive the one and only that God is sending our way?

ADVENT 6

Advent is a time to reflect and prepare for Christmas similarly to how Lent is in preparation for Easter. It is uncertain as to when exactly the celebration of Advent was introduced in the Christian church. It is believed that at some time in the fifth century it began as a six-week fast leading to Christmas. In the sixth century it was reduced to its current length of four Sundays and weeks before Christmas Day and the fasting was no longer observed.

Rev. Mark S. Roberts, a Presbyterian minister, reflected on Advent in the following manner: “In our secular American celebration of Christmas, the Christmas season (or holiday season, ugh) begins in the weeks prior to Christmas Day. Generally, this season starts in early December, though retailers have a bad habit of beginning Christmas in November (or even October)… So Advent overlaps with what is usually thought of in American culture as the Christmas season. But its beginning and ending are well defined, and its themes are quite a bit different from what is commonly associated with secular Christmas celebrations.”

Rev. Roberts goes on to say there are two primary reasons why Advent is important to him. He found “that observing Advent enriched my celebration of Christmas. Taking four weeks to focus on the hope of Christ’s coming made me much more joyful when I finally got to celebrate it. The more I got in touch with my need for a Savior, the more I rejoiced at the Savior’s birth.”

ADVENT 8

In addition he found “in Advent a solution to the age-old problem of secular Christmas vs. spiritual Christmas… We (Christians) recognize that Christmas is, most of all, a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It’s a holiday that focuses on the meaning of the Incarnation. Yet, given the secular traditions of Christmas, we spend most of our time preparing, not for a celebration of the birth of Jesus, but for fulfilling the demands of the season.” Buying and wrapping presents, attending and hosting parties, traveling to visit relatives, sending out Christmas cards, and if you have younger children “spending hours trying to assemble gifts that come with sketchy instructions written by someone for whom English is, at best, a third language.”

The website, http://www.adventconspiracy.org, asks, “Can Christmas still change the world? The Christmas story is a story of love, hope, redemption and  relationship. So what happened? How did it turn into stuff, stress, and debt?” Then it suggests four ways to change the way we celebrate Christmas.

ADVENT 1

Worship Fully

It starts with Jesus. It ends with Jesus. This is the holistic approach God had in mind for Christmas. It’s a season where we are called to put down our burdens and lift a song up to our God. It’s a season where love wins, peace reigns, and a king is celebrated with each breath. It’s the party of the year. Entering the story of advent means entering this season with an overwhelming passion to worship Jesus to the fullest.

ADVENT 2Spend Less

Quick question for you: What was the one gift you remember getting for Christmas last year? Next question: What about the fourth gift? Do you remember that one? Truth is many of us don’t because it wasn’t something we necessarily wanted or needed. Spending Less isn’t a call to stop giving gifts; it’s a call to stop spending money on gifts we won’t remember in less than a year. America spends around $600 billion dollars during the Christmas season, and much of that it joyless and goes right onto a credit card. By spending wisely on gifts we free ourselves from the anxiety associated with debt so we can take in the season with a full heart.ADVENT 3

Give More

I know what you’re thinking. “Wait, didn’t you just say I should spend less, and yet here you are telling me to give more? What gives?” The most powerful, memorable gift you can give to someone else is yourself. And nobody modeled this more than Jesus. So what does this look like for you? Tickets to a ball game or the theater? A movie night? The main point is simple: When it comes to spending time with those you love, it’s all about quality, not quantity.

ADVENT 4

Love All

It all boils down to love. Love from a savior. Love to a neighbor in need. By spending just a little less on gifts we free up our resources to love as Jesus loves by giving to those who really need help. … It’s not that there’s something wrong with the shopping mall—it’s that the better story is about loving all.

It is not enough to say no to the way Christmas is celebrated by many. We need to say yes to a different way of celebrating.

Jamie Jenkins

What are you giving up for Lent? Whether you are a religious person or not, the practice of fasting can help you to become a healthier and happier you.

Fasting is a spiritual discipline that may be practiced at any time and generally means abstaining from food or drink. It is especially associated with special religious observances.  Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, and Taoism all advocate some form of fasting—from short periods to days, and even an entire month.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar (June 17-July 17, 2015), is observed by Muslims as a month of fasting. This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. While fasting from dawn until sunset, Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking, and engaging in sexual intercourse. In some interpretations, Muslims also refrain from other behavior that could be perceived as sinful, such as swearing, engaging in disagreements, backbiting, and procrastination.

fasting 5

Christians observe Lent, forty days before Easter (February 18-April 4, 2015), and it is intended to assist in growing closer to God. The Upper Room says, “Some Christians use the whole forty days to fast from candy, TV, soft drinks, cigarettes, or meat as a way to purify their bodies and their lives.” It is suggested that one might give up one meal a day and use that time to pray instead.

Fasting

 

In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “If there is no element of asceticism in our lives, if we give free rein to the desires of the flesh (taking care of course to keep within the limits of what seems permissible to the world), we shall find it hard to train for the service of Christ.”

Researchers from the University of Florida did a three-year study that concluded that fasting caused the gene related to anti-aging in our cells to increase, which can lead to longevity. The study also indicated that fasting could strengthen the body’s natural preventive processes that protect against future diseases. (read a full report on the study at http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/03/09/fasting-diet-study-lent).

Fasting can, however, refer more broadly to “giving up” anything at any time. Ideas include giving up “some activity like worry or reality TV to spend time outside enjoying God’s creation.” The idea is to “fast” in order to focus on God.

FASTING 2 There are a lot of things that a person might “give up.” Things that clutter the calendar and complicate life. Resentment, anger, and bitterness are destructive emotions that are like cancer that eat away at a person from the inside. Why not give them up?

Pessimism and cynicism prevents one from seeing the bright and beautiful in every day life. Finding fault with others leads one to de-value the worth of persons and gets in the way of seeing the good that God has invested in every individual. Give them up.

Although you might have made mistakes, beating yourself up constantly does no good for you or anyone else. An adversarial posture as one’s usual attitude only works against you. Gossip and criticism may seem harmless but they can do serious damage. These attitudes and actions diminish yourself and others. Give them up.

fasting 3

We are in the middle of the season of Lent but whether you “fast” from negative behaviors such as those mentioned above- and there are many others- for religious purposes or not, you will become a healthier and happier person when you give them up. After all that is God’s intentions for you (John 10:10).

 

Jamie Jenkins