Since I’m inclined to occasionally put myself out there and write about politics in this space, why not expand my chances of being misunderstood and write about religion?
I’m not even going to share the standard disclaimer about not holding myself out as an expert and not meaning to offend. I’m not, and I don’t, but I have learned some folks are inclined to believe what they are going to believe, and my trying to exculpate myself in advance is often counter-productive.
Last Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, marked the beginning of the Lenten season, which is observed in liturgical churches (Christian churches that follow the church seasons and calendar) as the solemn 40-day (roughly – Sundays don’t count) period leading up to Easter.
It is a period of introspection in which many Christians choose to periodically fast or give up something in observance of the season. The 40 days are commemorative of the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert before beginning his public ministry, as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
Today, as a former Methodist, I am part of a non-denominational community of faith that does not follow the church calendar. But the Lenten heritage is still with me, and I consider it one of the holiest seasons of the year. I try my best each year to observe it in some way.
In the small-town Methodist church in which I grew up, we were middle of the road on Lent. I don’t remember ever going to church and having ashes applied to my forehead on Ash Wednesday, but we talked about and observed Lent, and usually had some type of Lenten devotional booklet available, sometimes written by church members.
I have still not decided what Lenten practice I will follow this year, whether it’s some form of fasting, giving up something or performing acts of service. I’m still giving that some thought.
I did, however, order a devotional guide, “O Heavy Lightness,” written by Erin Moon from Birmingham, Alabama. It is available on her website, www.erinhmoon.com, for a nominal cost. I downloaded the booklet as a PDF, but I’m also having each daily reading delivered to my email inbox.
Erin, a professional Bible study editor and operations manager for a media company that produces podcasts, grew up Southern Baptist, not having a clue about Lent or a church calendar, but is now Anglican. The name of her devotional booklet is taken from Act 1 of Romeo and Juliet, where Shakespeare cleverly put oxymorons into the mouth of Romeo as he lamented his tumultuous love affair. “O heavy lightness” is one of those, and as Erin explains, it’s comparable to Eastern Orthodoxy’s description of Lent as “Bright Sadness.”
“Lent is an oxymoron: a dark period that culminates in the most joyful part of earth’s history,” she writes in the introduction to “O Heavy Lightness.”
She also explains what Lent is about, beginning with, “Lent is the most unsexy of the church seasons.” Into one of the most solemn of seasons, she injects humor. I guess that’s a bit oxymoronic too.
And it’s her easy, non-judgmental style that makes this Lenten guide unique, with an introductory narrative and daily readings likely to challenge the staunchest of believers, while offering compelling food for thought for the searching.
She also gives an overview of all the church seasons. From my Methodist roots I am familiar with them, but her summary was a good refresher.
For those never having heard of such, you’ll be brought up to speed in a few minutes if you’re interested, and you’ll go into the daily readings with some background knowledge that could enhance your Lenten experience.
The daily installments include Scripture and devotional readings, as well as a song and a piece of art that can be experienced through links that are included. There is also an audio option for listening to Erin read the day’s entry. (Lenten devotional guides have come a long way since my childhood). And, if you’re a social media user, you can share your Lenten experience with others. (For me, maybe next year).
As I write this, I’m only three days in, but I’m already enriched and inspired, and I find myself looking forward to the next day’s reading.
And it’s not too late. Erin is very clear that there are no rules about how to use this guide, and I’m sure she would tell you starting a few days into Lent is perfectly fine. Go to the website and you can have it in a matter of minutes. I would love to have you join me in the journey.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.