Tag Archives: Lent

Through the Waters of the Flood

Being a faithful person involves some loss. It involves letting the flood of baptism wash some things out of our hands. It involves dying to our desire for domination, dying to our need to always be right and wise in our own minds, dying to our need to have more and do more, dying to our desire to possess the world even at the expense of others. Being a faithful person means letting God rip those things from our hands, just as surely as it means being embraced by God and raised up by God and clothed in righteousness by God.

Risk and Reward

The season’s meager forays into discomfort can only show how very different fasting is from true hunger, let alone hunger imposed and enforced as a policy. Self-imposed penance for the sins of the world is an impossibility; it can even be a perverse delusion. Nothing in that world can be assimilated to our prostrations or hair shirts. “Weep not for me, but for yourselves,” as Jesus says

Hungry Gods

So it happens that skipping one meal on Ash Wednesday, another on Friday, and eating neither meat nor sweets at all, leaves me feeling like Gandhi by Saturday. One of the implicit bargains I’ve made with life is that I do my work and meet my responsibilities, however onerous, and in exchange I eat whatever I feel like, whenever I wish to. And it’s not just me. This is the structure of daily life in the twilight of the middle class: sacrifice sleep, family time, personal interests, and peace of mind, but grant yourself any of a million coruscating indulgences.

Ash Wednesday: Rent Hearts

“Hardness of heart” is a powerful metaphor. Because that’s how we live and make our choices: one at a time, little by little, day by day. We don’t feel the sclerosis of our hearts because it doesn’t happen all at once. We just lose that softness a little bit each day. We lose that responsiveness to God, or to conscience, or to our neighbor. At first it was hard to ignore the voice of God, but it got easier every time. A hard spiritual heart, like a hard physical one, eventually just stops working.

Ash Wednesday: Sorry

(Note: I preached this sermon at Messiah Lutheran Church on Ash Wednesday, 2015) Sisters and brothers, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and […]

Ash Wednesday: What’s the Problem?

(Note: I preached this sermon at Messiah Lutheran Church on Ash Wednesday, 2016) Sisters and brothers grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. After all of that unpleasantness in the garden, God tells Adam about his life: “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, […]

Ash Wednesday: Returning from Dust

(Note: I preached this sermon at Messiah Lutheran Church on Ash Wednesday, 2012) Sisters and brothers, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. When the LORD God chose to make a human being, the story goes, he knelt down in the dust of the earth. The LORD […]

Ash Wednesday: Sleight of Hand

(Note: I preached this sermon at Messiah Lutheran Church on Ash Wednesday, 2014) Sisters and brothers, grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. I have an incurable fascination with illusion. I grew up loving those eye-tricking drawings by M.C. Escher, the ones where the staircase is going […]

Ash Wednesday: Starting Again

(Note: I preached this sermon at Messiah Lutheran Church on Ash Wednesday, 2013) Sisters and brothers, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. About this time twelve years ago, I wandered into Rockefeller Memorial Chapel on the campus of the University of Chicago. I was studying a […]

Ash Wednesday: Create in Me

(Note: I preached this sermon at Wicker Park Lutheran Church on Ash Wednesday, 2011) Sisters and brothers, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. “Human love starts with the object,” Martin Luther wrote in an academic dispute in the year 1518. “The love of God does not […]